Samoa’s Masiofo (First Lady) Upstaged ...

...in Utah, by Samoans

First, some background information.

Samoa Head of State and First Lady at Royal  'Ava Ceremony,  Utah
Some time in September last year (2011) Samoa’s Head of State Tupua Tamasese and his Masiofo (Good Lady) Filifilia visited Utah on an invitation by the LDS Church. During these such visits - as is normally the case especially where an established Samoan community is found - the dignitaries are extended the respect, love and hospitality of the expatriate community in the form of a welcome ceremony.

In this particular case, the Samoan community in Utah - through members of a couple of matai (chiefs’) councils - planned and implemented the cultural program at one of the local universities to officially welcome the Head of State and his Masiofo. The program was not well attended by the Samoan community due to the party’s short and tight itinerary. As a result, not many - including this blogger - had the opportunity to watch the program.

However, a few days ago, a video of the program was finally released and made available on Comcast’s (cable TV) local offerings.

The program included the usual lauga o le feiloa’iga (welcome speech) followed by a version of the ‘ava faatupu (royal ‘ava ceremony) all done using some modified protocols because of the indoor setting and other limitations. All of that seemed to have met a certain level of acceptance and approval for an average Samoan observer.

But then the blatant anomaly happened, at least as far as I’m concerned. The faux pas happened during the faafiafiaga (entertainment) part of the program, during the taualuga (finale).

As usual, there was a “taupou” (maiden), all dressed in traditional wear consisting of a fine mat trimmed with colorful feathers and the tuiga (traditional headdress). She was escorted by two soga’imiti (tattooed men) to center stage and started to do her siva (dance). Almost immediately, Masiofo Filifilia stood up from their raised seating, and joined the taupou and the rest of the aiuli (backup dancers). Now, at that moment, according to cultural protocols, etiquette and common sense, at the very least, the make believe taupou should immediately yield center stage to the Masiofo, and dance as an aiuli to her. Instead, the taupou kept her center position and assumed role while the Masiofo dances from the back of the stage.  Masiofo Filifilia was therefore upstaged, literally!!  It was weird, offensive and disrespectful to see the Masiofo dancing backup to a mock “taupou”.   I cringe at the sight.

It would have been fine if the Masiofo had remained seated and watched the taualuga, but the moment she gave up her seat to grace the floor, she should have been given front and center stage based on her title, position, role and honor of being Samoa's Masiofo.

Head of State being served  'ava (ceremonial drink)
Now I don’t necessarily blame the “taupou” because she seems to be one of those young girls who was born and raised in America and did not know better other than to fulfill her assigned role as in other routine performances. But the chiefs and adults who were present should have realized the impropriety and corrected it.

Moreover, money should not have been collected as part of this particular taualuga. Yet the floor was strewn with dollar bills and even worse was an old paint bucket - as the proverbial collection plate - conspicuously placed in front of the “taupou”. If the money was intended for a gift, or to supplement a gift to the Head of State and his party, then it should have been arranged beforehand to be collected away from the taualuga. Maintaining the dignity of the whole ceremony should have been the main focus of the chiefs and others who were present, and not to be distracted by the trite and mundane nature of everyday taualugas.

Personally, I feel that the taualuga for this occasion became an untoward scene and gesture.

Sa tatau lava ona taga’i toto’a e sa faafoeina lenei porokalama i tulaga nei. O le lago mate lava e tasi na te faaleaga le suau’u atoa.  E faamoemoe o le a le avevaleina ai le igoa o le Ekalesia i lenei faatamala.  Ae atonu o le a aoga aleu faapea ma mea tutupu e toe liuliu ai le tofa, ma toe afua ai le taeao ma toe sasa’a le fafao.


  1. I fully understand the logic and rationale behind your observations, and it's not that I don't disagree, but it's a little less jarring to know that the young lady performing the taualuga was actually a niece of the Ao o le Malo and the Masiofo and her performance was requested by the royal guests themselves. The Masiofo's concern was contrary to your assertion in that she was the one concerned that her niece who was selected to dance in their honor would be upstaged :) Not saying that cultural faux pas, protocol breaches and overlooked details weren't involved in this situation, but there is some background info that sheds a little more light on circumstance.

    1. Thank you Semisi. Well IF your information is true, that the taupou was a niece and was specifically requested for the role, I stand “corrected” then. However, at the same time, in such a dignified and honorable occasion where traditional veneration was demonstrated and shown with utmost respect and decorum on both sides, I feel the visitors shall not have intruded into the hosts’ part of the program. Such request – even if made in the most amicable way – can undermine the honor and efficacy of the whole ceremony. It may be acceptable but not proper. What may have been appropriate was for the hosts to choose the girl based on her kinship to the HOS and his Masiofo, as well as a favor and goodwill for the relationship, and still be advised to allow and invite the Masiofo (if she dances) to center-stage.

  2. Fa'afetai i lau susuga Letalu mo le fa'amalamalamaina o lea tulaga. E pei e foliga mai sa fa'alilolilo faiga o fuafuaga o le auali'i la ona o ni mafua'aga se lua: 1) o le musu e so'ona auai le mamalu o le atunu'u ina ne'i ta'uvalea i le le atoatoa ona fa'ataunu'uina o le ava fa'atupu po o le iloa fo'i ona fa'atino lea aganu'u mamalu po o le 2) manatu fa'asausili fa'apea na o latou e agava'a ona iai i lea fuafuaga ona o lea gugutu solo ma mimita ma atili ai le fia tagata. O tulaga fo'i e fa'atatau i le "taupou," e pei ona ta'ua, ou te matua lagolagoina lou finagalo. Ailoga fo'i sa talosaga lana afioga ina ia siva fa'apitoa lea tama'ita'i, o le faia o ni fa'afiafiaga e le o se tulaga tatau (given or a must, even) i le fa'atinoina o le ava fa'atupu. Malo finau i mea lelei ina ia tupu ma ola si o ta aganu'u i le TONU ma le SA'O. Tele na'ua faiga fou ua tauau ina avea ma sasi tumau o le aganu'u Samoa.
    Soifua, ae ou ola!

    1. Faafetai Fagatonu i lou finagalo ua avea ma sao i le mata'upu e pei ona folasia. Ia o upu masani, o le tele o sulu e maua ai figota e tele, ia poo manatu. Manuia tele lau susuga.

  3. A prime example of the point made in the blog is displayed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHAqY-8hR1k&feature=youtube_gdata_player . The two women acknowledged as being holders of the taupou title 'Sinaita'aga' are introduced to perform the taualuga for the village's fa'afiafiaga, however the masiofo of the governor, Afioga i le Lupega ia Lutali, is invited to sa'asa'a, at which point she gracefully takes center stage and the two taupou accept their obligation to, then, aiaiuli.

    1. Thank you for the video/link. Always love to see lots of history, tradition, gala, etc., in these national celebrations. Youtube has played the biggest and most important role in preserving these historical moments. Faafetai.