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Samoan Material Culture

Kava cup titles

Kava cup titles

In olden times in Manua the use of the term ipu was confined to the Tui Manua, the highest chief of the Manua group. In calling the kava of the Tui Manua, the distributor called, "Au maia le ipu o Tui Manua" (Bring the cup of the Tui Manua). For all other chiefs the kava was taumafa (food) and the call was "Aumaia le taumafa a" (Bring the food of). In the other islands of Samoa this monopoly of the term ipu did not exist. Prominent chief's, however, had a special title that was called at kava drinking in place of their personal names. Where such titles had been conferred or inherited, to call the personal name or chief's title was a serious breach page 159of etiquette. The personal title was preceded by the introductory words "Aumaia le ipu" (Bring the cup).

Some titles include a preliminary phrase before the actual call for the cup. The phrases sound well and have interesting meanings as shown by the following examples.

Tala i malo tu. Speak of unshaken authority.

Fa'avae mai le vavau. The foundation, firm from ancient days.

Toto'a mai le vavau. The threshold from olden times.

Ainga ua soso'o. The family united.

The first preliminary phrase, "Tala i malo tu, aumaia le ipu a Laloifi," was used in the cup title given to Mr. Judd (Laloifi); the second phrase, "Fa'avae mai le vavau, aumaia le ipu a Falesau," was used in that of Mr. Cartwright (Falesau). Because of the introductory phrase, the proper names are mentioned with the cup.

Another variant consists in using two phrases and dropping the proper name. At Aoloau, such a title was given to Mr. Judd: "Ainga ua soso'o aumaia malo ua maua," (the family is united, bring authority which is accepted). My first cup title of Malo-le-foua was charged at Vailoa to one of these double phrases: "Toto'a mai le vavau, aumaia fetaia'i ma uso" (The doorway to the past is open, bring the union of brothers). The name was given for reasons described under the 'ava uso ceremony.

Various cup titles run in certain families which have the right to confer them on others. The cup titles given to the Bishop Museum party were conferred by the high chief Tuitele. Some of the chiefs in villages outside his district were inclined to doubt the advisability of conferring them on strangers without first calling a convocation of the Alataua district, but his right to confer them was never questioned. It was a transient, unsought honor, as far as the recipients were concerned, but of value in throwing light on Samoan custom and of interest also in indicating the opinion formed of Bishop Museum by Tuitele and his Councillors. The same titles are used in other parts. In Savaii I heard my Tutuilan cup name of Fetaiai-ma-uso called in two different villages.