Fa’alupega and the Samoan lauga

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Fa’alupega and the Samoan lauga

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Fa’alupega is often the first building block of a Samoan lauga (speech). When addressing a gathering of people, it is custom for the speaker to acknowledge all the other matai in the room, to greet each of them not just by title name, but with an acknowledgement of their village and recitation of how their village’s titles fit together.

How is a budding matai supposed to know all that stuff about everybody’s village, you wonder?

You ask somebody, or you get yourself a fa’alupega book and then you memorize it.

Ever see the matai in your family walking around muttering to themselves? They’re probably just practicing their lauga skills, reciting the fa’alupega of different villages.

I recently found this fa’alupega book (pictured) while cleaning out a bookshelf at home. It’s going to be very useful on my journey to speak Samoan like a matai.

If you’re on the same journey as me, please leave a comment.

Let’s connect!

If you’re very new to the whole concept of matai and fa’alupega, I wrote this article (below) years ago, when I was first figuring out how all this works. I hope it helps you, too.

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Fa’alupega Explained

The following article was first published in 2008.

Let’s start with a definition.

In a Master’s thesis from the University Canterbury, Lona Laneselota Siauane, describes fa’alupega as:

a universally recognized set of official and web host asp net greetings, it also provides insight to the political and social dynamics within a nu’u (village)

Basically, a fa’alupega is a salutation used to address representatives of a nu’u or family at a formal gathering.

This poetic greeting incorporates the names of major matai (chief) titles from this particular nu’u, in order of rank.

The intention behind using fa’alupega is to formally acknowledge the history and political structure that makes up a village’s unique identity.

Every nu’u will have its own set of acknowledgments, but the composition of all fa’alupega is pretty standard. To give you an idea of how it is put together, let’s draw a mental picture.

Let’s say that Arato village has four main matai titles, the highest of which is Superman. The other titles in this nu’u are Batman, Robin and John.

It is important to note at this point that matai titles fall under two categories: the ali’i and the tulafale.

The (usually) higher ranking ali’i is considered sacred and solemn, often referred to as the ‘sitting chief’. The tulafale, however, is the orator… the ‘talking chief’, who performs executive duties on behalf of the ali’i title he is connected to.

Back to Arato village. Let’s say that John is a tulafale title connected to the ali’i Superman. Likewise, Robin is the tulafale for Batman. The hierarchy of titles in this village would therefore be:

  • Superman (highest Ali’i title)
  • Batman (another Ali’i title) John (tulafale for Superman)
  • Robin (tulafale for Batman)

We can now begin compiling the fa’alupega for Arato village.

First let’s greet the village in general:

Tulouna Arato

The word ‘tulouna’ is a general greeting, but to address an ali’i title directly, we say ‘Afio mai lau afioga’. So the next couple lines in Arato village’s fa’alupega would be:

Afio mai lau afioga Superman
Afio mai lau afioga Batman

Then to greet all the tulafale of the village, we use ‘Susū mai lau susuga’, e.g.

Susū mai lau susuga John
Susū mai lau susuga Robin

And there you have it – the most ridiculously simplistic fa’alupega ever.

The real magic happens when you know a little something about the history of our made-up Arato village.

For example, let’s say back in the day Arato survived a huge flood. And, let’s say someone who held the title Batman was a war hero for the Tuiatua. And, let’s say all those who have held the John title have been highly respected orators in Samoa. The most widely accepted fa’alupega for Arato village now might be:

Tulouna oe Arato
Tulouna oe Legotoilevai
Afio mai lau afioga Superman
Afio mai lau afioga Batman, Tagata o le Tuiatua
Susū mai lau susuga John, le alo Faletolu
Susū mai lau susuga Robin

Our example here is still pretty basic. Our fa’asamoa, especially when it comes to matai titles and village politics, is extremely complex, and much of that will reflect in the fa’alupega of a nu’u.

In future articles on this topic, we’ll dissect a real fa’alupega and talk more about the discrepancies between different documented versions. We’ll also look at the settings where it is appropriate to use fa’alupega.

In the meantime, please leave a comment if you have any questions you’d like to see addressed.

Ma le fa’aaloalo lava.

4 thoughts on “Fa’alupega and the Samoan lauga

  1. So if John and Robin are tulafale, then I think they should be addressed as

    Maliu mai lau tofa John, or Sosopo maia lau tofa John same as Robin.

    Just my 2 sene fesoasoani.. LOL

  2. I’m wondering, you refer to a ‘fa’alupega book’. I’ve seen two of these in my mother-in-law’s home and they are quite old, and treasured. So my question is – when did the fa’alupega become something written as opposed to the traditional oratory? Just curious if you know the time frame? I’m also wondering if you know then of any process, tradition, in the fa’a Samoa where ideas, events were recorded in writing? Like a diary? Thank you very much!

  3. Thank you for your articles and knowledge! I noticed that you said there would be more articles that dissected real faalupegas and discussed the discrepancies between several documented versions. I am curious as to when you’ll post the article(s) and also about the different documented faalupegas. What sources are these multiple faalupegas? And where could I find these versions? Thank you so much!

  4. These books are a rarity, I have been trying to source somewhere to buy new from but they’re all sold out everywhere…

    Anyway…I managed to find an archived online of version “O Le Tusi Faalupega” – it has some rough handwritten editing and looks to be quite old at that but I have confirmed it’s authenticity.

    nla.gov.au/nla.obj-52422940

    As usual please share with everyone, there’s no point in hoarding all the knowledge and information.

    Thanks again for the website HGG!

    Ia maua se fa’amanuiaga mai le Silisili ‘Ese, manuia le su’esu’ega.

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