Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Samoan Material Culture



A chief, seeing his way clear to assemble material, food, and gifts, sought out the services of a skilled house builder (tufuga fai fale). The builder page 87was more than carpenter; he was architect as well. Thus "builder" is a more descriptive term of the functions and status of the tufuga than "carpenter." In selecting a builder, the chief considered his architectural qualifications as well as his manual ability. By accepting a contract directly from the chief, the builder became the head builder (latu) in the construction of the house. He employed the necessary number of skilled assistants from his own guild of builders and his authority was supreme. The homebuilder, or person desirous of a house, was the taufale and such he remained until the completion of, and payment for, the building. As he is constantly referred to in construction and ceremonial, the word taufale will be used for want of an exact expression in English that is free from confusion.

Figure 63.—Mark of Le Malama guild of builders ('aso manga lua):

Figure 63.—Mark of Le Malama guild of builders ('aso manga lua):

a, the forked rafter was seen in the right, rounded end section not far from the junction with the middle section, and was placed above the middle arch (1) between two intermediate purlins (2). The short limb on the right had been cut at a slant and lashed to the full length rafter on the left. The short limb was spaced to the proper distance and then run down parallel with the other to the curb plate as an ordinary rafter, b, Shows the lower ends of the middle thatch rafters finished off with a length in which two rafters were cut out of one piece with wooden connections left between them. The double rafter passed directly over the middle wall post of the right end section. c, Shows details of (b). On the lower solid part, two rectangular pieces had been cut out leaving three cross connections between the two rafters. On the upper and lower cross pieces, stars with four points had been cut out, but they have no significance beyond ornamentation of a modern type.

The taufale, on making his request to the builder, was asked, not whether the house was to be a fale afolau (long house) or a fale tele (round house), but whether it was to have utupoto (tie beams) or so'a (collar beams). Though so'a are used in the long house, in this question it is used in contradistinction to utupoto to indicate a round house which has no utupoto. The taufale having replied, the builder asked, "How many?" The reply indicated the size of the house. The builder made a mental estimation of the labor involved and probably sized up the ability of the taufale to carry out his side of the contract. If his decision was favorable he accepted the gift of a fine mat ('oloa) and the preliminary contract was thus sealed by a deposit. Nowadays its place may be taken by a preliminary deposit often dollars or two pounds sterling. Before building operations commenced, both parties met over the inevitable bowl of kava. The contract was orally recited and agreed page 88to. There are two forms of contract; the ordinary one, and the fale angai contract.

The ordinary contract terms were recited to me by Nua of Tau, a master builder of the Ainga sa Sao.

The taufale and builder agree to become one family (feangainga) and live together in love and harmony during the construction of the house. The builder agrees to do everything he can to meet the desires of the taufale. The taufale agrees on his side to respect the laws and observances of the Sa Tangaloa. The question of material, transport to site, thatch, building the scaffolding, completion of the wall posts, and construction of the floor as part of the taufale's side of the contract has become so established that they are not necessarily enumerated. The taufale must feed all the builders engaged on the work. When the food is cooked in the oven, that for the builders must be put in separate baskets. It must never be mixed with that for the taufale's party attending to the builders and taking an interest in the work. Absence for any time is regarded as neglect and may lead to the builders abandoning the work. The attendant brings water, drinking nuts, and brews kava. In bringing food, the builders must be served first. After the building has commenced the taufale must not give food, bark cloth, or fine mats to anyone other than the builders. If any of the family or friends of the taufale visit him ceremonially, permission must first be obtained from the builders before he can give even food to them. If given without consulting the builders, the action is regarded as a lack of respect, and they abandon the work. In ceremonial drinking of kava between the two parties the head builder is served with the first cup, and his three titles are called. In all speeches he is addressed by the same titles.

On his side, the builder promises to treat the taufale with all respect. He also calls the taufale by three titles in speeches and kava drinking. Ali'i Fai'oa (Chief of the Working Family), Taufale Ali'i (Chief of the House that is Being Built), and Ali'i Autapua'i (Chief of the Village). By mutually observing these titles, they place one another on the highest ceremonial plane. When eating in a house, if the builder's son comes to the outside of the house, the builder may give him a share of food wrapped up in leaves or in a basket. The boy must take the food home without opening the parcel. To open it at once to see what sort of food it contained would be lack of respect to the taufale. A builder must not call from the scaffolding for anything below. He must come down for it himself. He can not use an adz on the framework. All fitting of timbers must be done in the shed or on the ground. All thatch rafters must be joined and lashed on the ground. No piece can be joined onto the thatch rafter once it has been raised to the oblique position on the frame. This does not apply, of course, to the arches. The builders must not eat or drink standing.

When the families of the taufale and builders visit the building ceremonially they bring presents of food such as pigs, talo, and kava. Their offerings (tautunga) are brought alternately. This alternate order is maintained until the house is finished.

The fale angai contract is strict. In the ordinary form of agreement, it will be seen that the taufale is in a fairly helpless position. He has to rely on the chief builder's sense of honor and that of his assistants. If he sees inferior work, he can not complain. To do so would show lack of respect to the builder who would leave the work.

To give the taufale a direct voice in the work, the fale angai agreement can be entered into. The taufale then has the right to directly watch the work and draw attention to any slovenly technique. He can tell the head builder page 89exactly what he wants. If he does not approve of the lashing patterns or the lack of neatness of the turns, he can draw the head builder's attention to them. He can insist on the right timber being used, such as breadfruit wood for the thatch rafters. Any slovenly or poor work he can condemn and have rectified.

The head builder on his side sees that the wishes of the taufale are carried out and any mistakes rectified. But to do this he demands a higher standard of living. The food must be of the best and pork must figure more frequently. The family of a taufale are kept busy procuring fish and other foods. The builders will eat no cold food, so fresh ovens have to be made. They will drink no water, so baskets of drinking nuts must be ever on hand with an alert attendant ready to supply their demands. The prohibition of the taufale giving anything away is rendered doubly strict.

In the strict fale angai contract there is no trusting to honor, and no sentiment. The elimination of the sentiment of relationship is difficult to carry out, but is usually obviated by employing a head builder from some other village or district who has no blood tie with the taufale. The tauale gets a good house if his finances can stand the extra drain. At the finish of the work a higher rate of reward is expected than under the ordinary contract. If the taufale fails during the building to satisfy the demands of the builders, they have no hesitation in leaving the work, for in the fale angai there is no blood tie and no sentiment of forbearance. Each side is out to get the most it can. Before leaving on strike, the builders leave a sign in the house that acts as a warning to the entire guild. The Sa Tangaloa tapu the taufale and no other builders will complete the house. The only chance the taufale has of getting his house completed is to humble himself before the head builder with a substantial present of fine mats, and with the use of much ceremonial speech persuade him to resume work. The position is on a par with a civilized industrial strike for increase of wages. In Samoa, however, the strikers are in a more entrenched position than their trade union compatriots.

In a great number of villages throughout eastern and western Samoa, round houses are to be seen with one end section uncompleted. These are termed fale tala mutu. The open end of the middle section is closed with thatch and the house occupied as a dwelling. These are witnesses to the fact that the taufale's supply of food and material ran short, and that he was unable to have the building completed. He and his family usually wait until they have grown more pigs and planted extra crops. Material is again assembled and the builder reengaged to finish the work. I noticed a few fale tala mutu on Olosenga and asked a master builder if the supply of pigs had run short on the island. He laughed so heartly that it admitted his reply.

Occasionally the end section is completed by a different head builder. In a house at Taputimu, Tutuila, one end section was slightly different to the page 90other. (See fig. 64.) On drawing attention to it, I was informed that this tala end section was completed by a different builder. He used the rod to mark off his work from the rest of the building. His work was much neater; he had used this device to draw attention to it and to thus advertise himself.

Figure 64.—End section tala showing change of builder:

Figure 64.—End section tala showing change of builder:

1, thin rod running parallel with outer edge of end rafters (2).