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Samoan Material Culture



The building of an important house is accompanied by a number of set feasts. The food is provided by the taufale and his family. In the most important ones, the village assists with food. To be quite clear on this question, it must be remembered that in a large village there are a number of distinct families. These families may trace descent to a common ancester, but it is so far back that close connection is lost. The smaller groups connected by more recent blood ties are termed ainga. A chief may be senior in the village, exercise influence and have his position recognized in many practical ways. It is, however, to his own immediate family or ainga, consisting of brothers, uncles, sons, nephews and cousins, that he looks for sustained assistance during the building operations. They form the fai'oa (working family) from which the taufale gets the kava cup title of Ali'i Fai'oa. In an important feast the villagers outside of the taufale's immediate ainga recognize his position in the village, and their own kinship with him by bringing food contributions to the feast. They are here termed autapua'i and it is from the relationship of the taufale to them that he gets the kava cup title of Ali'i Autapua'i (Chief of the Villagers). Hence his kava cup titles have a direct bearing on the building operations, and they are used only for that period. The title of Ali'i Taufale (Chief Desiring a House) naturally lapses when his desire is realized. The title of Ali'i Fai'oa ceases when the work for which the family was mobilized is accomplished. The term Ali'i Autapua'i can not be used to express a specific relationship with the villagers after the special need that called it into operation has been satisfied.

The villagers themselves are happy to share in the festivities. Food ceremonies appeal to them especially as they get a share of the food. As far as they are concerned, the feast is like a picnic in which all the food is pooled and then redistributed. They often get better than they brought. It was admitted by my informants that they were not unaware of this. As one expressed it, a page 91man brings a tin of salmon as a bait with which to catch a large piece of pork. The taufale gets little real assistance from the villagers as they practically get back what they bring. The whole thing is a fa'aaloalo (a ceremonial way of exhibiting in public their respect for the chief). It also forms a basis for the ceremonial speeches that add to the importance of the occasion. From this ceremonial observance the taufale gets psychological satisfaction, which balances the material obligations. The burden of supplying the food for the builders must fall upon him and his immediate ainga.