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An Introduction to Samoan Custom

CHAPTER VIII — Ceremonial Presentations of Food

page 88

Ceremonial Presentations of Food

It is perhaps natural enough in a society where so much of ceremony is combined or concludes with feasts that the highest forms of traditional respect should become associated with the ceremonial presentation of food. In communities like the Samoan, it is the simple things of life that become invested with formality and dignity for ceremonial purposes.

Presentations of food fall into two broad categories which are not, however, clear-cut or distinct. The first embraces presentations by a group, either a district or a village, or by a family, for the purpose of showing respect to unrelated visitors; the second covers instances of what may be termed domestic respect, either to highly placed relatives or resident dignitaries, where a family or village habitually acknowledges the status of a particular leading chief either of a village or district by the regular presentation for his personal consumption or distribution of food grown or reared by them or of certain types of fish or other produce of the sea whenever taken. The first comprises a group of observances and a form of courtesy, the non-observance of which could well cause disstisfaction; but it merely involves the goodwill of people who may concede or withhold a courtesy as they wish. The second involves in some cases at least a rather more rigid aspect of custom the and what may be termed traditional rights. To withhold the presentation of certain prescribed things of the sea, for instance, to the individuals or groups whose rank entitles them to such acknowledgment as of right would constitute an insult in Samoan custom. For purposes of convenience we may also include under this second heading the practice of presenting certain first fruits of the land to the chiefs and orators of villages, to the heads of families or to any other individual with whom a special relationship of respect exists, and certain other customary courtesies of a similar nature, although the omission of these latter would not page 89 always constitute the same degree of offence against custom as in the case noted specially above.

We will examine first in detail the general group of food presentations to visitors.

The highest form of ceremonial food presentation under this heading at the present time is that associated with the ta'alolo, in which an entire village or even one or more districts may take part in order to show a special degree of respect to a distinguished visitor or visitors. A ta'alolo is always performed during the hours of daylight and from its nature must always take place in the open, never within a house. The village or district concerned assemble out of sight, the visitors awaiting them either within a house or on one side of the malae. The concourse then approaches, not in a line or procession but in a close crowd, singing the appropriate songs, and led by taupou, manaia or chiefs arrayed in all the dignity of the traditional head-dress or tuiga* of bleached human hair, embellished with the modern addition of small mirrors. The taupou will probably be dressed in a fine mat ('ie toga) and an upper garment of leaves and flowers made especially for the occasion. The arms and legs of the taupou and the torso of the manaia or the chiefs will be agleam with Samoan oil; some or all may be armed with a typical hooked Samoan knife or an axe, and all will advance and retire in front of the slowly approaching village assembly with the queer jerky little hops and steps that are the traditional mode of progression for the leaders of the ta'alolo on these occasions. The leaders are sometimes accompanied by clowns or buffoons, old men or women who inject a light note into the proceedings, and who act as foils to the formality and dignity of the leaders.

The right to wear a tuiga and to lead a ta'alolo are jealously guarded privileges restricted to properly appointed taupou, manaia and certain well-known chiefs of the villages or districts concerned. This is an aspect of custom sufficiently important to warrant a petition to the Native Land and Titles Court if a dispute arises and if satisfaction can be obtained in no other way. that Court has jurisdiction to hear evidence and make pronouncements on all such questions of Samoan custom.

While the ta'alolo is approaching, young men attached to the visiting party lay down coconut fronds for the

* The wearing of the tuiga is a very painful business, the composite parts being tightly bound about the forehead. This accounts for the strained expressions frequently seen on the faces of leaders of a ta'alolo.

page 90 reception of the food, and then sit down on the grass to take charge of any eggs or poultry that may be brought. An orator of the party may also seat himself there to thank and congratulate the village for their generosity. The thanks at this stage are short and informal and other titled members of the party seated behind him may also join in.

The village or district is thus led by taupou and others to a point on the malae opposite the house where the visitors are waiting, frequent pauses being made to allow the leaders to advance and dance with the characteristic twirling movements of knives or axes. With a final acclamation the village then advance and young men will deposit before the visitors on the grass or the terrace of the house the cooked pigs or turtles prepared as a respectful offering. Turtles are especially significant for this purpose but pigs are more usual because they are easily bred and available when they are required. Live fowls may also be presented. A pig that is so big that it must be transported on a litter is particularly well received and will be referred to later by the visitors in special terms of respectful appreciation. The bulk of the village will deposit husked drinking coconuts in a pile alongside the other offerings and while the taupou and chiefs in head-dresses shake hands with the visitors, the people of the village will retire to the opposite side of the malae and seat themselves on the grass or sand.

At a convenient moment later in the proceedings young men attached to the visitors' party will open a supply of the drinking nuts presented and the guests will partake to show their appreciation.

Before the concluding acclamation and presentation of fowls or coconuts, there is generally a final pause for dancing. If an important chief who has taken part in the ta'alolo joins the leaders and himself dances in this final phase, that is a high and unusual compliment to the visitors.

Where a gathering comprises a whole district, they may present one ta'alolo on behalf of all jurisdictions represented, or alternatively, a separate ta'alolo may be decided upon by each village. If the entire function concerns only one village, they may arrange one massed ta'alolo as described, or they may prefer to bring separate offerings from distinct groups in the village. Thus the chiefs and orators, the Ladies' Committee and the schools may all make separate presentations, and in such a case will approach from different directions one after another, led if possible page 91 by at least a taupou. The titled group-would probably present pigs or a turtle if they have been fortunate enough to secure one, and the ladies and the schools, poultry and eggs and perhaps even fans, baskets or other gifts. On special occasions, fine mats and bark cloth are also included.

No ta'alolo is complete without a speech, and the orators either of the village or the district rise and stand forward in a row, usually unclothed above the waist and with bark cloth girdled about them, with their staffs (to'oto'o) in their right hands and their long fly-whisks (fue) over their shoulders, for the purpose of taking part in the ceremony of fa'atau described in an earlier chapter. As this speech is delivered on the malae, the ceremony of fa'atau and the subsequent speeches on both sides are conducted standing. The orators engage in this preliminary discussion in the same way as during a fesilafa'iga, and one by one those who wish to do so drop out of the line and seat themselves with others of the village or district. The orator who remains then stands forward facing the visitors and commences his speech, his feet apart, his fue draped over a shoulder, one hand behind his back and the other clasping his staff, the tip of which is placed firmly on the ground before him. There it must remain during the speaking, although the upper part of the staff may be moved to and fro. It would be highly improper for the orator to raise it from the ground and gesture with it. In the course of his remarks, the generally asks the visitors to excuse the inadequacy of the food that he now formally presents, and makes such other statements of a respectful nature as are most calculated to please the guests, being prompted from time to time by the orators seated behind him if they consider that he is likely to overlook any point of importance. This, of course, is done as unostentatiously as possible. On completion of his speech, he retires and sits down, usually a little in advance of the other orators.

If the visitors are Samoan, an orator must then stand forward and make a speech in reply thanking the hosts for their courtesy and expressions of respect. If the visitors are European, one of their number should speak. Where the visitors are seated in a house and even though they be European, no speaking in reply must be done from within the house or even from the eminence of the terrace. The speaker representing the visitors should step forward on to ground level outside the house and be careful also to stand aside if necessary so that neither food nor people intervene between him and the hosts while he is speaking. He too must page 92 be provided with a staff, and he addresses the orator who has spoken first and the other dignitaries present. If no proper staff is available, a walking-stick will suffice. If speeches are expected to be long and there is no natural shelter from a hot sun, attendants may cut and plant saplings or hold them in position to provide some protection.

A ta'alolo, may be presented by people of either sex or both, and may include titled and untitled people; but in another ceremony, laulautasi, or avataeao, as it is often termed by the orator in charge of the proceedings, the food is presented only by titled males, that is, chiefs and orators, usually on the day before the visitors are due to depart. This is a very important method of demonstrating respect for visitors because every family in good standing in the village must contribute. Baskets of cooked food containing whatever has been decided upon by the chiefs and orators in council are gathered together on the side of the malae opposite to the visitors, the donors seating themselves round about the food. The baskets may contain a cooked chicken, taro, large and small fish or other produce of the sea wrapped in leaves, or tinned meat or fish. On rare occasions the ali'i and faipule may even decide that each basket shall contain a small cooked pig, in which case the form of presentation is known as amo'ulu. The method of presentation is as follows. An orator of the village or district stands forward and baskets are brought to him in succession in order that he may display and announce whatever each one contains. He calls out the name of the family concerned, lifts up the food to display it, and refers to it in ceremonial terms.* The food is replaced in the basket which is then carried forward at a run across the malae by young men of the village and placed before the visitors, who from time to time call thanks across to the donors. If several villages have assembled in order to present a laulautasi, the work of one orator in announcing and displaying would be unduly prolonged, and so perhaps three or four may undertake this duty. In that case they call out together loudly and there

* Fowls (moa) are referred to as ta'a paepae, literally, “to wander about the house pavement.” Packets of fish are termed afi or laui'a, according to the size of the fish, and taro are fuauli, literally, a taro shoot, a term that must be most strictly employed in Falealili, where the title of one of the leading orators is Talo. A cooked pig, presented during a ta'alolo, is always alluded to respectfully by the recipients as manu fata, “an animal on a litter,” suggesting that the offering is of such proportions that it cannot conveniently be transported in any other manner.

page 93 is a constant coming and going of the young men who hurry forward the baskets with an air of goodwill and pleasant bustle. Although a laulautasi has as its serious purpose an intention to convey respect, there is a tradition of humorous licence about this ceremony of which the announcing orators are permitted to take full advantage. This often takes the form of pleasantly derisive comments on the nature of the food contributed. Fowls may be referred to as skinny, or taro as very poor specimens. A cooked pigeon may be held up and described jokingly as a rat, or as something that was found dead under a tree in a bush. Other orators may praise the food effusively and wave it about until laughing thanks are called by the visitors across the malae.

A laulautasi on the malae may be associated with a ta'alolo, in which case it will precede the speeches, and all the food presented will be placed alongside the pigs or other gifts that formed a part of the earlier ceremony. A laulautasi can also be presented during the day or after dark within a house following a welcome ceremony. In that case an orator sits in the back of the house where the visitors are assembled and the baskets are brought to him from the rear of the building. He calls out the names and displays the food before the guests.

Whether the ceremony is conducted on the malae or within a house, young men sort the different kinds of foods into separate baskets; thus all the cooked fish will be placed together and the taro and other foodstuffs will be treated similarly. This is done in order to estimate quantities and to facilitate the distribution.

Before the food is distributed, it must be acknowledged and proclaimed according to custom by the recipients. An orator of the visitors or an untitled member of the malag a party therefore stands forward and announces in loud tones the numbers and kind of all gifts of food received, the language employed being always on these occasions that of ceremony and courtesy. Others of his party who have counted the food will prompt him as required. There is a pleasant tendency also to exaggerate to some extent the numbers of fish, taro and other similar things presented, although the count of important items like pigs is rather more careful. This feature of Samoan custom termed the folafolaga ensures that all people within hearing are duly apprised of the generosity of the hosts. If the presentation is made within a house, the public acknowledgment takes place just in front, whether by day or by night.

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The proceedings close with the distribution of the food presented, a stage in which Samoan custom operates to demonstrate mutual regard and respect. In theory, food presented to the visitors could be retained by them, but it is invariably apportioned by a visiting orator in such a manner that every group present, including both the hosts and the guests, receives a share. Particular attention is always paid on these occasions to allotting a share to pastors of all denominations. As the shares are announced they are carried away by the boys and presented to those entitled to receive them. The distribution of food is a duty that is always discharged by orators.

Without going into details at this stage, it may be mentioned that food like pigs, turtles and certain fish are divided in a very particular manner, the portions of chiefs and orators being different and certain parts having a peculiar value for the purpose of showing respect. Before the distribution can proceed, the correct divisions must be made by the young men, who require to be well versed in this aspect of their work lest ineptitude give offence.

The practice requiring all families in a village to contribute to the entertainment of guests and to provide when called upon to do so a basket of food for a laulautasi or other food presentation is referred to as the monotaga. All families recognized socially in the village are expected to make this contribution, and any failure to do so would bring down on them the dissatisfaction of the chiefs and orators and the imposition of whatever fine was considered proper in the circumstances. Any family which is for the time being excluded from village affairs would not offer such a food contribution, and would not be allowed to do so even if it wished. Indeed, such an offer from a family excluded from village affairs would be regarded as an impertinence. Even if a family has no matai and the family title is for the time being vacant, it is still incumbent on the members of the family to maintain the monotaga and so preserve their right to participate in village affairs. So also if a matai should be absent for any length of time from his home village, he usually arranges for other members of the family to remain in occupation of the family land, and to be most careful to maintain the monotaga in his absence. No rights can be claimed in Samoan society unless proper attention is also given to the corresponding duties that society imposes.

A ta'alolo, whether or not it is followed by a laulautasi, usually concludes with dances contributed by various groups in the village or district, either the schools, the girls or the page 95 young men. A full description of Samoan dances will be found in a later chapter. Where such dances are organised for the entertainment of guests following a ta'alolo, they precede the distribution of the food.

There are certain other food presentations which in some respects at least bear a resemblance to a laulautasi. Baskets of food containing whatever has been prescribed by the village authorities, brought by the young men and girls to guests within a house at night just before the time of the evening meal, constitute what is known as an 'aiava. This is in effect a night laulautasi presented by untitled people. An orator announces the contents of each basket as in the case of a laulautasi, and the food gifts are then counted and proclaimed in front of the house before distribution.

When guests of the village are seated within a house and a meal-time approaches, a line of ladies, bearing woven coconut leaf eating mats (laulau), may enter and place a mat before each guest. This method of serving a meal is termed si'ilaulau. The mats will be heaped with all types of ordinary Samoan foods, together with any of the special delicacies for which the district may be well known. The meal commences without formal announcement or proclaiming of the food. The si'ilaulau, however, is occasionally seen in a more ceremonious form to show a special degree of respect, in circumstances in which it includes some at least of the features of a laulautasi presented by ladies. A food offering brought to the members of United Nations Mission to Western Samoa in 1947 during a week-end stay in the district of Falealili furnishes a good example of this elaboration of a si'ilaulau. One hundred and thirty wives of chiefs and orators and members of the Ladies' Committees of the district assembled on the Sunday morning, dressed uniformly and each bearing a 'laulau on which was placed taro, fish, palusami, fai'ai, tinned fish and meat and husked coconuts. Two ladies in the rear carried a cooked pig suspended from a pole. The long line circumambulated the village to display the food and on return the pig and the platters were deposited on the platform of the house in which the members of the Mission were seated. The food was presented in a few simple, informal words and acknowledged as quietly. It was then counted, proclaimed in a very low voice, and distributed in a decorous manner. It demonstrated a form of laulautasi presentation that is very appropriate for a Sunday with its prohibition of noise and bustle and public joking.

The ladies of the village, either the wives of matai or page 96 younger people of different social status, may combine to present an offering of fowls and taro during the daytime to guests who are seated within a house. Each lady carries a taro, and certain of them will present fowls to the number that has been decided upon. The fowls and taro may be cooked or uncooked as arranged. The food is presented without anything elaborate in the way of formal speeches and then the ladies mingle with the guests within the house. This presentation is termed talotasi and is made by the ladies of the village to the men of the visiting party.

A presentation of a similar nature termed taliga may be made by the boys and untitled men of a village to the ladies of a visiting party.

Both these presentations are rather more characteristic of days when entire villages would decide to visit another village, than of the present day when malaga parties on such a large scale are not so common. But they may still sometime be seen when large groups from one part of the country visit another village, say for the purpose of attending a wedding.

The pig has a general significance for the display of respect even apart from its formal importance in ceremonies like the ta'alolo. The host or a Government official with whom the guest may have a special relationship, may at any period of the stay, but usually on the first day before the evening meal, present a cooked pig without formality beyond a bare announcement. The pig is a most valuable animal for such purposes since it is always available at short notice for use when required.

Brief reference has been made in a previous chapter to the practice of presenting food to departing guests to sustain them as far as their next stop. Considerable quantities of food are usually presented at a laulautasi on the day before departure, and from these gifts sufficient may be reserved to provide the fa'aoso. A Special fa'aoso of raw food is sometimes brought just before the party leaves and this can be taken to the next stop to assist the new hosts or conveyed to the home village if it is not too far away. It would be niggardly, however, to convey it beyond the next stop. These presentations may be made by the entire village or merely by the family with whom a malaga party has been billeted. The term oso is also applied to food taken by a person from his own family or village to help his hosts in the village where he proposes to stay.

A food presentation of very high ceremonial importance, which is not often seen at the present day and which is page 97 difficult to fit satisfactorily into either of the-two principal categories specified at the beginning of this chapter, is known as talo pa'ia. This was characterstics of the times of the ancient Samoan kings and the Samoan Government during the latter period of the last century, and was seen also early in the German regime when the leading chiefs were in residence at Mulinu'u with their bodyguards and retainers. An entire district or districts owing allegiance to such a king or chief would decide to go en masse and present food in ceremonial form to assist in the maintenance of the retainers and to demonstrate their continued support and respect. Large baskets of uncooked taro always figured in this presentation, together with cattle or pigs, possibly one of the latter from each matai, and other foods such as fish, fowls, palusami and fai'ai. These were presented in a form similar to that of a ta'alolo, led by taupou and chiefs in head-dresses and full ceremonial regalia.

Food presentations of the type of the ta'alolo or laulautasi are brought by large groups like villages or districts, or assemblies like schools or a group of pastors of various denominations. There is another type falling into both categories of domestic respect and that accorded to certain visitors, and known as the sua, sua taute or sua ta'i, which is presented by a smaller group or unit such as a family. One form of the sua is a respectful food presentation to a distinguished visitor who is connected by blood to the particular family concerned. It has the double object of showing respect to the recipient and of demonstrating relationship to an important chief. A sua is made more usually to a chief, but occasionally also to an orator chief or the class of orator known as tu'ua, if the latter's social or political status warrants that distinction. It consists of a cooked pig, a cooked fowl, a coconut in which one eye-hole has been pierced, a taro or yam cut in pieces and cooked in banana and breadfruit leaves, and a fine mat or bark cloth (siapo) worn by the girl, possibly a taupou, who leads those carrying the food. Occasionally a boy heads the procession. It is only to a high ranking chief and as a mark of unusual respect that a fine mat is presented. More usually it is a piece of siapo only. The gifts presented are symbolic of the respectful service tendered by the family, that is, food, drink and clothing.

A sua may be presented to the chief seated either inside a house or on the malae during the day, or within a house at night. A girl draped in a fine mat or a siapo, and carrying a husked, pierced nut, leads the procession of those page 98 bearing the food. She halts before the chief, removes the siapo from about her, kneels sideways and hands over both the siapo and the drinking nut. The chief's orator seated nearby will probably take charge of both. The lady then retires. Another girl or boy then brings forward a laulau, or woven food mat, on which are arranged the fowl and taro or yam. This is placed before the chief but not too near. Finally, the pig is brought in by another bearer. The chief and orator give thanks, briefly and not too formally, to the matai of the family making the presentation, who will attend during the proceedings.

The nut is drunk by the orator by the sucking method which is essential if one is to consume the liquid of a nut in which only one hole has been perforated. The empty nut is then cracked open on the stone foundations of the house and the pieces flung outside. This is a noisy advertisement of the dignified ceremony that is proceedings within. The pig is divided by the orator according to custom, and the fowl and taro are set aside for later consumption as required. There are no formal speeches. It is usual for the chief's orator to receive the siapo, and if he is fortunate, he may even receive the fine mat if one has been presented, but that is for the chief to decide.

As in the case of a ta'alolo and a laulautasi, the food presented in a sua is announced loudly from the front of the house in which the presentation has taken place. This duty is usually discharged by the orator, who, if he has been given the siapo, will wear it draped about him. He must then publicly acknowledge the gift of the siapo, which he does by calling loudly three times with a peculiar intonation the name of the donor. This form of acknowledgment is termed ailao.

An important guest visiting a village and accompanied by only a small party would, if he were related to families in the village, receive a sua or various sua rather than a ta'alolo, but if his party should be a large one, the whole village would be likely to combine to present a ta'alolo. Even in this latter case, however, the related families in the village would probably not be content until they had presented a sua to show personal relationship.

A wish to show particular respect or to pay a compliment may be expressed in the presentation of a sua even where there is no actual blood connection. An unrelated chief of high status in a village that is entertaining a distinguished visitor may also bring a sua to show goodwill and to associate himself personally with the arrangements page 99 made to entertain the guest. A Samoan official acting as host to a European official who has come to assist him in his work could correctly present a sua. The large sua pretented at Lepea in August, 1947, to the members of the United Nations Mission was of a special character, for in addition to the three main presentations of pigs and fine mats, it included also extra taisi (cooked chickens, taro and drinking nuts) from the large concourse of chiefs and orators present.

As mentioned above, the sua comes also within the category of a domestic food presentation, and demonstrates the difficulty of drawing precise or exclusive distinctions in explaining some aspects of Samoan custom. It is the question of relationship that is important in this ceremony, whenever or wherever it is performed, although as already explained, there are some exceptions to this rule. It may therefore be presented to important chiefs from time to time by families or individuals connected to him in his own village, and in cases where a chief enjoys unusual social or even political pre-eminence, with relationships to many other families, this may become a regular or even a weekly show of respect. In respectful parlance it is customary to term any meal of a high chief a sua.

A chief who has just assumed an important title will probably in the course of his saofa'i, or election feast, receive a sua from his family as indicative of their acceptance of him as head of the family. If his title is so important that many other matai connected to him have gathered together to take part in the proceedings, it is courteous for him and his family to prepare a sua to the visiting chiefs. A new appointee who omitted that courtesy would deal a blow to his own dignity and give an impression that he was perhaps not the most suitable person to hold the title.

A chief who is obliged to enter either the main hospital at Apia or any of the outstations will be presented with sua by his relatives during the progress of his illness, and if he is to undergo and operation, they will congregate on the day appointed to show their sympathy in a practical manner. The chief and his family must reciprocate by providing good food for those who have come to see him, and for this reason it is a heavy expense for an important person with many connections to enter hospital. The present system, incidentally, requires members of the family to enter hospital with the patient to cook for and attend to him.

Orators or others who enter hospital will be tended page 100 similarly by members of their families, and relatives will visit them from time to time. It is not customary to go empty-handed, whatever the status of the patient may be. Their offering generally takes the form of a taisi, a cooked chicken, taro in banana leaves and a coconut, which is termed on this occasion a tauga if taken by members of the family, or asiga if taken by others. There are various forms of tauga for different purposes. There is tauga o le ma'i, described above, food taken to the sick. Food presented to a doctor or a pastor, either on a visit to him or in receiving him in one's own home, is also tauga, with descriptive words added defining the circumstances. Food presented in such cases as these is not given straight into the hands of the recipient. The donor should send a member of his family to convey the food to its destination. It is not absolutely essential that food be given on such occasions, but if there is sufficient available, one's own store of good things may be shared if desired.

Food taken by a young man just before the time of the evening meal to the family of a girl he is courting is also tauga, but with this difference: he would be badly received if he went with empty hands, and what he does take must be better than ordinary food. If his offering is refused, he judges that his suit is not prospering; if it is accepted, he is encouraged to continue. His gift may include something he has grown or caught himself, but tinned goods purchased at a store, and designed to tickle the palates of the girl's parents, are also correct on such occasions.

Somewhat similar was the tauga taken by young men who visited the aualuma, the daughters of the chiefs and orators who were accustomed in the past to live together in one of the principal guest houses of the village. Here again the food gift was obligatory if the boys hoped to be well received.

Matai visiting a village on business that concerns all the chiefs and orators may meet them duly assembled for the purpose of discussing it, and if the business is prolonged, families are often instructed to prepare a basket of food and send it to the place of meeting. The assembly then takes a meal together and continues the discussion. Even domestic gatherings of the village itself may share a common meal in this fashion. All food prepared for such occasions is tauga.

One other instance is the food taken by chiefs and orators of a village to show respect to a head carpenter constructing a house for one of their number. This will help to keep the artisan in a good humour, a service that page 101 will not be forgotton by the matai most concerned when he entertains the carpenter and the village on completion of the building.

When a chief or orator has been away from his village for some time, or if he has actually been absent from the Territory, custom requires that on his return he should acknowledge the assembling of the village to greet him with a suitable presentation of food. This at the present time frequently takes the form of tinned biscuits, fish or meat, or kegged salt beef. Probably the person concerned will also make such arrangements as his dignity and status dictate for his family to provide either pigs, bread, taro or other foods. The food that he brings with him is termed the fa'aoso or oso and the assembling of the village to welcome him back is the usuga. In the case of an important chief, his return to his own village and district may cost him and his family anything up to £100 or more. Again the purpose of such a lavish distribution of food is two-fold, both to show respect to those awaiting the return, and to demonstrate personal and family chiefly status. A high chief on return to his village after an absence would receive presentations of sua.

It is usual for land lying behind a village and extending as far as the central ridge of the island to be under the control either of the village or of families in the village. Bush land may be recognised as land of a particular family, but if it is not, the village will meet and decide upon how it is to be allotted when this is required. Certain areas may be made available for cultivation by the 'aumaga,* or the untitled men of the village, who work under the direction and control of the head taule'ale'a. When it is decided to plant a new maumaga, or taro patch, the 'aumaga will work together and the setting out of the taro heads will proceed day by day until a sufficient area has been planted. A maumaga that is common property in this sense is termed taloloa. The area decided upon will be determined by expected events in the village during the period of six to nine months hence, since taro is not a crop that can be stored either in the ground or after it has been harvested.

Whenever new land is brought into cultivation in this fashion or land that has been lying fallow is replanted, it is proper in Samoan custom for the first fruits to be taken with some ceremony and presented to the authority in whom

* Note that this word has two meanings, namely, that given here and its significance in the kava ceremony.

page 102 ultimate control of the land is vested. When the taro is ready for lifting, the 'aumaga will notify the chiefs and orators, and on the day appointed, each member will bring the number of taro roots they have agreed to present, together with various imported goods from the local store if possible, in order to provide a feast for the chiefs and orators of the village. The ceremony of bringing first fruits in this instance is termed talomua. Thereafter, each taule'ale'a may take taro from his own section for the use of his own family.

In any case where the matai of the family has apportioned land for the use of its various members, it is proper for such people to present to him with some ceremony the first fruits from the planting of that land, quite apart from the regular offerings of produce which they should later bring as part of their normal service to the matai.

We pass now to the question of the i'a sa, the sacred or forbidden fish, which no fisherman may retain for his own private or family use without risking the grave displeasure of the local ranking chief and of the whole community; such an offender would be punished as custom provides either by a heavy fine of foodstuffs such as pigs and taro, or even by banishment for a time from the village. Such i'a sa are the turtle (laumei), the shark (malie) and the ulua which is the name applied to the malauli when it is full grown.* When the personal catch includes any of the i'a sa, these must be set aside and presented formally to the leading chief for distribution by the orators to the whole village as represented by each family. Where a title of a great chief has status in the whole of a district, any i'a sa caught in that district should be taken formally and presented to him. He or his orators will probably then direct that the fish be apportioned in such a manner as to make suitable acknowledgment to the village to which the successful fisherman belongs. When a ranking chief is absent

* It is Samoan practice to apply different names to fish at various stages of their growth. For instance, the common gray mullet, anae, which when full grown does not usually exceed a foot and a half in length, is known by five different names before it attains its full size. The filoa, perhaps three feet long when full grown, is also known by five names at different stages of its growth, and the ulua, which can attain a length of about six feet, has a similar plurality of designation. There are many other instances of fish being known by three or four different names. In Samoan custom it is important to adopt a nomenclature that defines size, just as it may be useful to us to be able conveniently and intelligibly to refer to an animal as a colt, a yearling or a two-year-old.

page 103 from his village or district, i'a sa must still be presented to the village when caught rather than retained for personal use by the fisherman or his family. Frequently turtle or shark fishing is arranged as a village activity and then the catch is divided amongst all the families concerned.

The ceremonial divisions of food may now briefly be referred to. The portions can be understood satisfactorily only with the assistance of diagrams, or, better still, by seeing the divisions in the actual flesh, but a statement of the method of division and the allocation must suffice here.

Foods which are divided ceremonially and distributed to specified individuals or groups include the pig, fowl, occasionally the pigeon, turtle, shark, bonito, malauli, ulua and generally speaking any other large fish.

The ultimate number of portions into which a pig is divided for respectful distribution depends upon the number of groups of individuals present to whom special deference must be shown. There are, however, certain principles to apply both in cutting up the carcase and in distributing the portions. The cooked animal is turned on its back and the forequarters (alaga lima) and hindquarters (alaga vae) excised with deep cuts that penetrate to the shoulder and hip joints; when the flesh is severed the legs are twisted out. These are then laid aside on coconut leaves or in baskets, as no distribution takes place until the cutting up is complete. The barrel of the carcase is divided with three cuts, one across the neck, another across the rump in front of the clefts from which the hindquarters were removed, and the third which separates the saddle over the shoulders from the portion in the rear of it. These are termed respectively the head (ulu), the saddle (o'o), the prime portion from the back or loins (tuala) and the rump (nofoi or muli). All these cuts are carried straight across the carcase, bones being severed with a chopping action of the heavy knife. In preparation for cooking, the belly flap (alo) has already been removed and it is not included in any public ceremonial presentation.

These are the basic divisions of the carcase which often suffice to permit the display of respect to embrace all present, since in many instances respect shown to a group satisfies all the individuals within that group. It sometimes happens, however, that the distribution must be on a wider basis than the above division provides for, in which case it must be carried to a further stage. The legs, however, are always presented complete. Another narrow cut may be made at the back of the severed head, taking off a portion page 104 termed the 'ivi muli ulu. The o'e and tuala may both be cut in half along the sides, leaving the upper half circle including the vertebrae complete, but neither of these two portions which are termed respectively 'ivi o'o and 'ivi tuala, may be divided further. the other halves that remain, called respectively itu mea tele o le o'o and itu mea pale asu o le tuala, may be presented whole or cut again into as many portions as are required. Finally, the rump or nofoi may also be divided further as circumstances dictate. It has already been explained in the previous chapter that the heart and entrails are usually removed before cooking and presentation, but occasionally in the case of a very large pig, the heart may be cooked in half sections with blood in an 'ofu and termed the 'ofu o le fa'afaleolo.

We may now consider the distribution of the various protions. The most important is the tuala, or where it has been divided further, the 'ivi tuala, which is allotted to the highest chief or chiefs present, or possibly to a pastor or pastors if it is desired to show them special respect. Next comes the o'o or the 'ivi o'o, apportioned similarly. Chiefs or orators may be allotted the alaga, the hindquarters ranking higher than the forelegs, and then the under portions of the o'o and tuala respectively are next in order of importance. These and the rump and the 'ivi muli ulu may be divided and distributed as circumstances may require. The alo, or belly flap, is removed when the animal is being prepared for the oven. That part is cooked and presented earlier, apart from the ceremonial distribution, to the ladies of the village or perhaps the aualuma. The head, if the function concerns only one village, is usually allotted to the cooks, or 'aumaga, for their trouble in preparing the animal. Occasionally, however, if the gathering is a very large one that concerns the whole country, the heads of the two largest pigs may be apportioned to the two important political districts of Aiga-i-le-Tai (The Family in the Sea) and V a'a-o-Fonoti (The Ship of Fonoti), the areas from which the fleets were maintained in the times of the old Samoan wars. Finally, the large heart, prepared inthe form of 'ofu o le fa'afaleolo, is produced at the Sunday morning or another conveniently-timed meal of the important visitors or the chiefs of the village.

It is thus seen that the parts of the pig regarded as important for ceremonial presentation to show respect are the tuala, the o'o, all the alaga, and very occasionally, the head; but any one who is allotted part of a formally presented pig should be satisfied, provided no deliberate affront page 105 or ill-considered distribution has figured in the ceremony. Cutting up of pigs takes place either on the malae or in the back of a house.

Fowls or pigeons are always divided with the hands. They are presented whole in the course of functions and distributed similarly, never in portions. The division is required only when a meal is being preapred. There is only one respectful portion of a fowl or pigeon, that is, a leg with the part that carried the tail feathers (no'o) attached.

As already indicated, the turtle is so imprtant as a food presentation that individuals may not use it personally when it is caught. The major divisions in cutting up are the head (ulu), the forequarters (sagamua), the hindquarters (sagamuli) and the rest of the carcase (tua) that remains. If it is not cooked before being presented, it will be cooked before it is divided and distributed. The important parts are the flippers ('apa'apa) from both the forequarters and hindquarters, presented to the chiefs. The head is allotted to the taupou and the aualuma. The remaining parts of the forequarters and hindquarters, together with the rest of the carcase, are divided and distributed amongst the chiefs and orators. The juice (suapeau) that collects in the shell during cooking is highly prized, being dipped out and consumed by the chiefs and orators or divided amongst all the families of the village.

When the heads of bonito and ulua, the full-grown malauli, are removed, strips of flesh maybe removed along the back and sides, and then divided further if that is necessary. The heads are ulu, the strips along the back io tua and those along the sides io alo. The tail is i'u. The back and side strips are the most important and are allotted to chiefs, the heads to the orators and the remainder as is convenient.

The shark is treated differently. There are two portions which are important for the purpose of showing respect, first, the tail (i'u) and second, the part with the dorsal fin attached (gogo). These could be presented either to individuals or groups to pay a compliment. Both the stomach and the liver are pirzed as delicacies, and may be presented specially in the course of the distribution. A large fish like a shark is divided and distributed before cooking, each family in the village receiving a portion. Smaller fish of substantial proportions are usually presented cooked and whole in plaited wrappings of coconut leaflet.

In the palolo or inaga seasons, and if there have been page 106 good catches, it is the custom to send baskets of cooked 'ofu to friends or relations in other parts of the country where these delicacies are not available. Cooked portions of bonito are often despatched similarly. Such food gifts as these are called gapia, a term that also covers fish brought back by a member of a family returning from a malaga, if he has been fortunate enough to pass through or be staying in a village when good results have attended their fishing. In those circumstances, the term fa'aoso could also be applied to food carried back to the home village.

There are certain other food presentations that have not yet been discussed that are mostly economic rather than social in their significance. It is not proposed to refer to them in detail here since such a discussion belongs more properly to an examination of other features of Samoan custom, but for the sake of completeness they may be briefly referred to. Some of them are feasts rather than food presentations.

A chief desiring to open negotiations with a house or boat builder will either go himself or send an orator to interview him. In either case he must provide a pig, termed tauga, or possibly a fine mat to open the discussions. Certain stages of the buildings are also marked by special food presentations, and when the work is completed there is a final lavish feast, termed an umusaga, which friends and relations are invited to attend. Such guests are expected to contribute either fine mats or cash to help to pay the carpenters.

Election feasts to titles have been discussed in previous chapters, and meals and feasts connected with Church functions will receive attention in a chapter to follow. At a Church opening, or fa'aulufalega, beasts are sometimes presented alive to assist in the entertainment of all how attend. Live presentations of animals, either pigs or cattle, are called ta'iola; in the past a very large living pig was the form it usually assumed. Large groups from one village visiting another could in this manner be presented with something by way of a fa'aoso which would be useful on return to their own village and which did not require to be immediately consumed or shared with the donors.

A brief discussion of property exchanges associated with Samoan weddings will appear in a later chapter. It will suffice to state at this stage that food presented by the bridegroom to the family of the bride at the time of the wedding is called 'ai. A very large wedding malaga will be page 107 received with the show of respect and food presentations appropriate in the particular case, including-probably a laulautasi on the day before departure; but if the wedding is that of a member of the family of an important chief, other matai of the village will bring baskets of food to assist him, somewhat in the manner of a laulautasi. The presentation on such an occasion is termed talifaufau.

It is customary to celebrate the completion of all types of village community fishing nets, either of the string or bag type, in a feast termed avasa. Loloitalo often figures in such a celebration to which the whole of the village contributes, and all participate, the groups of different status, matai, women, or young people eating separately in different houses. An unusual feature of Samoan custom in a feast of this kind is that none of the food left over is held for a later meal or passed on to anyone else. It is collected and thrown into the sea.

Any attempt to draw too rigid a line in regard to some of the principles relating to food presentations and their distribution enunciated in this chapter may possibly lead one into error. Cases and principles sometimes shade into one another, and practices vary occasionally in different parts of the country. Sometimes one finds a conflict of opinion as to the allotting of certain protions when divided. But it is a common feature in most cases that when food is presented ceremonially it is shared at once in such a manner as to include the donors, who have shown adequate respect by relinquising control of valuable food or property. Apart from cases which involve the surrender of i'a sa, obvious exceptions to this rule include live presentatoins or those clearly offered for the purpose of being taken away.

An outstanding fact in regard to what might at first appear to be a very humble tuber is the importance and high significance attaching to taro both as an ordinary and as a ceremonial food. It is correct for so many ceremonial occasions and is also so highly regarded as an habitual article of diet that Samoans who have left their own country often have it sent to them abroad. Many of them claim that they feel weak if deprived of it for any length of time.