Vini and Tapaga Revisited

Again, these two seascape features in my village have inspired the expression "Ua feagai Vini ma Tapaga" (Vini and Tapaga face - or are opposite - each other) and is often used in traditional oratory (re: Motuga'afa page). This expression has been around for as long as I can remember while growing up in Samoa; it was also used in many simulations of traditional oratory during my Samoan Culture classes at Samoa College.

But in recent years, a newer contravening version of the expression emerged - "E le feagai Vini ma Tapaga." with emphasis on "le" meaning "not" (Vini and Tapaga do NOT face each other).  As a result, the two expressions contradict, negate and nullify each other. It may not be a matter of right and wrong as much as the flagrant ambiguity and confusion created by the "newer" opposing version. Though the two expressions may and can still be used intelligibly by seasoned orators, with the contexts as the main discerning references, to most people they can still be confusing and ambiguous, if not blatantly adversarial.

Apparently, it's the nuance of the word "feagai" that is being juggled and equivocated.
First, "feagai" as in "face to face", denoting the context of relativeness in socio-political rank and status, and second, "feagai/faafeagai" in the context of opposite physical location and proximity.

I've seen the explanation of the contravening version by a Samoan orator in which he claims that an aerial view of the two - especially Vini - confirms that Vini "faces" away from Cape Tapaga, hence "E le feagai Vini ma Tapaga."  This interpretation and syntax may be correct based on a literal and physical configuration, however, they can also be viewed as mere speculation and imposed guesswork. Who determines which side is the front/face and which is the back side of Vini? Therefore, the forced interpretation of a literal "face to face" is subjective and is a relative proposition. The more absolute reference, on the other hand, is that the landforms lie across and opposite (feagai/faafeagai) from each other and not necessarily face each other. It is this opposite positioning of the two - if not not face to face - that should have precedence.

Ground level view of Vini and Tapaga both "facing" - and across from - each other.
This is more the view upon which the expression is based.
But the ground level view, as in this picture, which places Tapaga and Vini directly opposite (feagai) and "facing" each other that is more immediate and intuitive than the detached and subjective aerial view.

Lastly, the newer expression has a negative, provocative and vitriolic tone compared to the more civil and gracious feel of the original one (Ua/E feagai Vini ma Tapaga); which is also indicative of the respectful nature of the Faa-Samoa.

So use "Ua feagai Vini ma Tapaga" - and not "E le feagai Vini ma Tapaga." ‘cause if you do use the latter and not quite know how, when and where to use it, you can get in trouble; e uma ifo ua pepe le ‘ie o ka'ua.


  1. Anonymous29 May, 2013

    You don't know how valuable these helps are for people like me who have a profound interest in the culture and who greatly benefit from interpretations by our elders and experienced orators yet would also appreciate a thorough explanation in English. Fa'afetai tele mo nei tusitusiga matagofie ua avea lea ma fesoasoani mo tupulaga lalovaoa o le atunu'u o lo o aumau i nu'u mamao. Fa'atasi pea le agaga o le Ali'i mo oe i galuega matagofie o lo'o e fa'atinoina nei.
    "O le uta a le poto o le fetala'i!"

    1. Thank you uso! I am especially passionate about this expression because of its origin and connection to my village. May God bless you and yours too!