Category: The Matai Handbook

The Matai Handbook Samoan Culture

How to Serve Tea to a Samoan Chief – and Why it Matters

You may have noticed. Many Samoan families have a preference for arranging their living rooms in a large, inward-facing oblong or oval formation, with the backs of all the couches and armchairs pushed up against the walls. If you know anything about life in Samoa, you might guess that this practice is just a remnant […]

The Matai Handbook Samoan Culture Samoan Language Alagaupu

12 Alagaupu (Samoan Proverbs) about Family

A few years ago I told you about my grandfather’s api (notebook) full of alagaupu that I wanted to study and really understand. I was going to look at twelve of those proverbs, consult with the Samoan cultural experts in my life then share with you what I had learned. At LONG last (island time, […]

The Matai Handbook Samoan Manners Samoan Culture Samoan Language

Fa’alupega and the Samoan lauga

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 […]

The Matai Handbook Samoan Culture Samoan Language

The two Samoan languages

While I was slowly picking up Samoan from my family and friends, I’d hear references to another, mysterious, ‘higher’ version of the language. ‘It’s different from our everyday Samoan,’ …they would say. ‘It’s the language that matais and ministers use’. And I would think, OK, so… what is it? Do they just use bigger words? […]

The Matai Handbook Samoan Culture Samoan Language Alagaupu

Alagaupu ma Muagagana – Samoan Proverbs and Expressions

My grandfather was a diligent note-keeper. He was a faiava, which means he lived with my grandmother in her village (rather than his own), and he kept several notebooks worth of hand-written records on her family’s history and titles. This grandfather was also a gifted orator. He died when I was very young, but I […]

The Matai Handbook Family Samoan Manners Samoan Culture

Matai – The Path to Becoming a Samoan Chief [Part 1]

A while ago I wrote an introduction to the concept of Matai, Samoa’s complicated system of chiefs… …mostly because there’s a lot of confusion these days, especially amongst us who were not raised in “fully Fa’asamoa” families, about the role of the Samoan chief. Some people hear you’re a ‘chief’ and assume you’re the leader […]

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