Talofa lava!

Sunday 26 May – Saturday 1 June 2024 is Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa, Samoa Language Week.

Header image: detail from kava strainer, Samoa. AWMM. 4130.

Measina Competition

Measina Competition


To celebrate Samoa Language Week 2024 we hosted a competition to win one of four Museum Store vouchers worth $100!

To go in the draw, visitors to the Pacific Lifeways gallery, chose four of their favourite Samoan measina (treasures) on display in the Samoan section, and scanned the QR code to enter. 

Congratulations to Alicia Henry, Syahiid Rasidi, Karen Bailey and Saarah Salie who each won a $100 Museum Store voucher.

Samoan Language Week Performance

Samoan Language Week Performance

TUE 28 MAY, 6.30PM

Come and listen to the gagana (language) Samoa in action with our trio called LEO (voice) performing all their pese (songs) in the Samoan gagana. A perfect night to enjoy and reminisce with some classic Samoan tunes, new and old, in an unplugged setting. Fa'afetai lava ma ia manuia!

Community drop-in

Community drop-in

THU 30 MAY, 10.30AM - 2.30PM

Te Aho Mutunga Kore warmly invites our Samoan community members to join us to view a selection of textile and fibre treasures at Auckland Museum. Book a session time to visit these precious measina in person, and then share a cuppa and a talanoa afterwards. Sessions are limited to 10 people each and must be booked in advance. 

Email [email protected] to book a session.

Barkcloth; Maker is not yet known. Samoa; Pacific Collections of Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 4136.4.

Talofa Oi

Jasmine Tuiā, artist and Te Aho Mutunga Kore Community Navigator

Talofa Oi

The stitched imagery on tapa is one of the lavalavas gifted to me by relatives when I visited Samoa, early 2020. This tapa piece was stripped from the bark of u’a, a (baby) paper mulberry plant on the side of our fale (house) in Matautu Lefaga, Samoa. The stripped and rinsed inner layer of the bark or lau u’a was then repeatedly scraped, rinsed, and stretched under cold water with asi (trochus shells) until it the lau u’a was wide enough to be beaten with the i’e and tutua (wooden beater and anvil). Once stretched, the lau u’a becomes tapa (undecorated tapa cloth) and is then laid in the sun to be dried. For the tapa piece ‘Talofa Oi’ the tapa was hung on the same washing line the lavalava hangs on as illustrated. 

When I returned to Aotearoa, I brought my tapa with me. Talofa Oi is part of a Lockdown series of works when I began stitching imagery of my Samoa trip from memory as I didn’t have access to Samoan tapa and painting tools here. One of those memories were a line of i’e lavalava on our washing line, a common sight in a Samoan domestic household. Each lavalava had odd but bright combinations of colour, unique prints, and obvious references to Samoa. The stitched i’e lavalava on this tapa had “Talofa” on one side and “Samoa 2020” printed across the other. It was humorous to see how many lavalava were given to me with warm sentiments of Samoa.

Embroidering personal memories onto tapa was a way for me to remember stories and tapa timeline using the resources that were available. Embroidery of tapa became my narrative of Samoan tapa or Siapo practice. Tapa su’i is my personal technique to sustain Siapo practice and be inspired to make, share, and hold Siapo knowledge for my identity as a Samoan woman. 

Coincidentally, this piece was done around election time, where Judith Collin's classic line “My husband is Samoan, so Talofa” came about, which I found hilarious. Thus, the title ‘Talofa Oi’ is a saying that not only references the remark, but is also a comment on how my fellow Samoans (including myself) navigate as diaspora and inherently political people.

Talofa Oi, Jasmine Tuiā, Collection of Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 2023.17.5 

Puipuiga mo meatotino fa'asolopito a aiga ma le tagata lava ia

Caring for family and personal archives

O meatotino fa‘asolopito a aiga o se vaega o lo tatou talafa‘asolopito. E maua mai ai lagona o lo tatou fa‘asinomaga ma iloa ai tatou ma le mea na tatou o mai ai. O meatotino fa‘asolopito e mafai ona aofia ai ata, tusi e teu ai ata, tusi, ma pepa tāua.

O le taulimaina ma le teuina o fa‘aputuga o meatotino a o tatou aiga e fai lea ma ala o le umi ona malu puipuia ai. O nei ta‘iala o le a fesoasoani iā te oe mo le fa‘asaoina o meatotino fa‘asolopito a lou aiga mo augā tupulaga o le lumana‘i.

Family archives are part of our history. We draw a sense of identity from knowing who we are and where we’ve come from. Archives may include photographs, albums, letters, and important documents. Handling and storage of our family collections directly impacts how long they last. These guidelines will help you preserve your family archives for future generations.


Our people

Learn how our Museum whānau celebrate their heritage in their work

Raymond Sagapolutele

Pacific Advisory Group Member

Raymond Sagapolutele

Talofa lava, my name is Raymond Sagapolutele, my parents come from the villages of Fatuvalu in Savai’i and Saoluafata in Upolu. I was born in raised in Aotearoa New Zealand and have been fortunate to have lived from the bottom, Invercargill all the way to near the top here in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. My siblings and I are proud South Aucklanders and we cherish all the lessons that come from being Samoan in our community and the colour this brings to our lives.

My own journey has been one of rediscovering who I am and how I fit into the diasporic Samoan community, where many of our traditions still hold fast. In contrast, there is also a need to understand the influences that bring about change within some of these traditions and what it means to navigate that evolution here in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

As part of this journey, I have attained a Master's in Visual Arts and am currently working on my PhD research as a candidate with AUT.

There is one type of measina in the collection of Auckland Museum that has always drawn my fascination, and that is the Ie Sina or ‘shaggy mat’. It’s such a contrast to the types of ie I have seen in the past and, for me, a tribute to the weavers that have always tied together culture and art as Samoans. Seeing an example up close is the only real way to understand the skill and wonder they hold thanks to the hands that created them. 

As a member of PAG, I get to see the inner workings of the museum and contribute to the discussions around how we can support our people's voices in the wider context of how the Museum serves its community. 

Dejealous Palota-Kopa

Pacific Advisory Group Youth Representative

Dejealous Palota-Kopa

Mālō lava le soifua ma le lagi e mamā. My name is Dejealous and I am a Pacific Youth representative on the Pacific Advisory Group Board. Hailing from the villages of Fasito’o Uta and Falease’elā Lefaga, I am proudly of Sāmoan descent, born and raised in the west of Tāmaki Makaurau. I am currently working in the Advisory Services team for the national body for workplace diversity, equity and inclusion practices in Aotearoa where I work alongside organisations from across the motu. My mahi and its Kaupapa is a strong reflection of my passion to create safe and inclusive spaces for our Pacific people to thrive.

One of my favourite Sāmoan taonga on display at the Museum is the to’oto’o gifted by Tui Ātua Tupua Tamasese Efi. The to’oto’o  is a staff traditionally used by chiefly orators when making speeches in the open and I have always been in awe of the way orators convey messages through alagā’upu (proverbs) and skilful wordplay. Furthermore I have long been inspired by Tui Ātua Tupua Tamasese Efi, his cultural legacy but above all his leadership through service to the people of Sāmoa.

Mevia Lealiifano-Faletoese

Teu Le Vā Coordinator

Mevia Lealiifano-Faletoese

Malo le soifua, my name is Mevia and I’m the newest member of the Teu Le Vā team. I am a second-generation New Zealand born Samoan raised in Ponsonby, Auckland Central. I hail from the villages of Auala and Asau in Savai’i, as well as the villages of Alamagoto, Lefaga, Sataoa and Vaiala in Upolu and Lautoka, Fiji. I'm currently doing postgraduate studies in Museums & Cultural Heritage.

As a daughter of the Moana, I’m inspired by the late Epeli Hau’ofa’s outlook on Oceania, that we should not be defined by the smallness of our islands but by the greatness of our oceans.

A particular measina that is on display in Tāmaki Herenga Waka that resonates with me deeply is the PIC choir gown of choir mistress Epi Phethean. It is a true testament to the diaspora that had to learn to embrace a new language, culture and way of life here in Aotearoa New Zealand. A journey made by many across our great oceans to establish a new life.

The first PIC church on Edinburgh Street in Newton was like a social hub that connected all from across the Moana. A haven for Pacific Island immigrant families in their new adopted home, just like my own Lealiifano aiga (family) and a plethora of other Pacific Island families. I’m in awe of how vast our Pacific communities are and how far our village spans. The lifelong connections that were formed through choir, church and various other church activities, that are now memories fondly embraced today and a rich history that I am proud of.  

Thank you to Sefa Enari and ‘aiga for the loan of their Great Aunt Epi Phethean’s choir gown, on display at Auckland Museum in the Tāmaki Herenga Waka Stories of Auckland galleries.

Pamata Toleafoa

Pacific Advisory Board Youth Representative

Pamata Toleafoa

Talofa lava, my name is Pamata Diaz Toleafoa from the motu of Samoa. I was born in Hastings and raised in Mangere, South Auckland. I come from the villages of Salelesi and Satapuala and currently reside in Mangere.

I am a proud former student of Mangere College and the University of Auckland. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts conjoint with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) with first-class honours. I recently submitted my master’s in fine arts. My research topic examined measina as living entities.

I am passionate about Samoan measina and constantly exploring new ways to re-energize how we ‘look at, ‘look into’ and understand our treasures beyond their visual aesthetics. I explore measina using readily available materials to reflect the diasporic influences and reveal the opportunities presented to me. I draw on the oral histories, narratives, and experiences gifted by my elders, and manifests this through creating my measina.

I serve as a Senior Librarian Pasifika Research under Auckland Libraries.

As one of the Youth Representatives within the Pacific Advisory Group (PAG), I am fortunate to provide my cultural knowledge and creative experience to enhance the conversations around the trajectory of our measina. Being a youth voice for PAG means I can inform and be informed about how we can better connect and serve our treasures.


Celebration of Samoan Language Week

Samoan language week celebrates our ways of knowing and our ways of being. It recognizes the shared culture, values, and beliefs that ground and affirm our place in the wider society. It acknowledges our shared heritage and embraces what it means to be 'Samoan.' Therefore, encapsulated in the Samoan language is an exploration of one's identity, something that is worthy of celebration.

Growing up in South Auckland, I was fortunate to be surrounded by elders, teachers, and knowledge holders who constantly spoke in Samoan. I attended Mangere College, a high school that offered the Samoan language as a subject. Here, I was privileged to get both practical and theoretical insight into the execution of the Samoan language and cultural practices. I am also part of the Onehunga Co-operating Parish (Samoan congregation), with Samoan as the prime communication language. These experiences are a constant reminder of how significant and vast the Samoan language is and how deeply ingrained fa'asamoa is in my everyday life.

During my studies at the University of Auckland, I explored Samoan terminologies in my creative practice. Concepts in Samoan are filled with multiple and complex meanings, many of which are difficult to express in English. I got the opportunity to examine concepts that influence my creative making and discuss the various implications embedded in them. These were reflected in my measina and the material that I used. Such experiences reflect the beauty of the Samoan language and how it is a major driving force in my creative process.

Like many other Pacific languages, I see the Samoan language as a life journey simply because the language in itself is intricate and profound, making the learning stages different for many peoples. Mastering the speaking abilities and understanding capabilities in this modern era comes with complexities, especially with the increase in technology with English at the focal point. For this reason, the celebration of Samoan language week is vital in providing an avenue for Samoan people to connect and reconnect, re-energize, and re-vitalize our unique ways of knowing and being.

Measina - Lave

My favourite measina is the lave. The lave is part of the structure that form the Tuiga (Samoan crown). The lave (like many measina) has undergone profound changes that reflect the opportunities or influences present in each era. The lave is the most adorned part of the Tuiga and it usually draws the audience's attention at first glance. The lave projects towards the sky, signalling a profound connection between the heavens and that of the earthly realm, making this measina special.

Measina in order of appearance:
Lave Salelesi
Lave Sapapali'i
Lave Nofoali'i

Reference: Si‘ilata, E. T. M. (2018). O Le Pale O Laei Samoa (Master’s thesis, University of Auckland).
Olivia Taouma (Poutasi, Faleasiu, Sapapali’i)

Teu Le Vā Manager

Olivia Taouma (Poutasi, Faleasiu, Sapapali’i)

This week is a time for all our Samoan people in Aotearoa to celebrate and share our culture and language with everyone. O le manulauti lea ua fa'asalalau atu mo le Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa, "Tapena sou ōso mo lau malaga" (prepare yourself a gift for your travels).

The theme of the week urges us to prepare for everything we may need as we go on life’s journey. It highlights the need to respect and share the gifts of our life’s journey with others. Ōso (gifts) such as alofa (love) and tatalo (prayers) build, nurture and strengthen our relationships, with both aiga (family) and uo (friends).

We are excited to be working with our community online this year and sharing more about our Samoan measina and stories at Auckland Museum. I am particularly excited about our first Samoan zoom talanoa, on the wooden and tuāniu selu in our collection. This week we are respecting and sharing some of our Museum’s Samoan measina to add to your life journeys and ours.

Find out more about the measina Olivia is holding here. 

Long reads

Have a moment to spare? Take a deep dive into some of our stories

Pepe and Pepe Lelefua: Samoan Butterflies and Moths

Pepe and Pepe Lelefua: Samoan Butterflies and Moths

The insect life of Samoa is relatively understudied, but we do know that the butterflies (pepe) and moths (pepe lelefua) of Samoa are diverse, with some unique to the region.

For Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa, Samoa Language Week, Melissa Kirk (R T Shannon Assistant Curator of Entomology) takes a closer look at some specimens in our collection.

Read more

<i>O le Sulu Samoa</i>

A legacy of light in the archives

O le Sulu Samoa

ʻSulu’ means ʻtorch’ or ‘light’ in Samoan. Published primarily in the Samoan language by the London Missionary Society from 1839, early issues of the Sulu are rare and difficult to access today with holdings largely held in archives outside Samoa.

In this blog, our guest contributors Litara Ieremia-Allan, Wanda Ieremia-Allan and Rev Dr Featunaʻi Liuaʻana reveal myriad ways the Sulu continues to shine its light, and the intellectual inheritance this measina (treasure) continues to bestow upon present and future generations.

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Constructing tradition


For many Samoan families the Tuiga (ceremonial headdress) is an icon of tradition and a priceless family heirloom.

In this blog Talei Tu'inukuafe Collection Manager, Pacific examines the building blocks of Tuiga, and how they come together to form a distinct symbol of cultural and national identity. 

Read more

Tuiga, head ornament. AWMM 1932.445, 18469.
O le Manumea: Samoa's Little Dodo Bird

O le Manumea: Samoa's Little Dodo Bird

The Manumea is the national bird of Samoa and is found nowhere else in the world. One of the closest living relatives of the extinct dodo, the scientific name for the species (Didunculus strigirostris) means little dodo. 

Read More Here

Significant salutations

Significant salutations

In this blog, Associate Curator, Documentary Heritage (Pacific) Leone Samu Tui and Seulupe Dr Falaniko Tominiko (Deputy Chair of Auckland Museum’s Pacific Advisory Group) reflect on the significance of a measina held in Auckland Museum’s manuscript collection: an unpublished tusi fa’alupega, or collection of Samoan chiefly titles and village salutations, compiled in 1902.  

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From the collection

Get to know some of our taonga

'Ie toga

Talei Tu'inukuafe
Collection Manager, Pacific

'Ie toga

“Our history is written, not in books,
but in our mats”

When Queen Sālote made this revelatory statement1, she was speaking of kie hingoa or ‘named mats,’ the most important category of fine mats that exist within Tonga. Worn for specific occasions and handed down over many generations, these fine mats were given personal names and accrued detailed genealogies and histories over time.

In a similar fashion, the ‘ie toga (fine mats) that have historically been prized and fiercely coveted by the people of Samoa, are those that have significant stories and histories associated with them, or that have been connected with people or families of great renown. These qualities give the ‘ie toga immense mana that is recalled each time it is shown or worn.     

History has indeed been written in this particular ‘ie toga (AWMM 1932.193, 17457) which was gifted to the museum in 1932. The donor, Major-General George Richardson had retired from the position of New Zealand Administrator of Western Samoa in 1928. As a parting gift he was presented with this ‘ie toga by the Fono of Faipule, a legislative body of 27 Samoan Faipule (district representatives) who each signed it. While the makers of the ‘ie toga are not yet known its significance and value are evident in the fineness of the weave and in the red sega feathers stitched along the border.  

By 1928, New Zealand’s administration of Western Samoa had already been marred by multiple grievances and characterized by a poor understanding of Samoan culture and customs, and the continued misuse of legislation which undermined the traditional authority of matai (chiefs). Just one year after the gifting of this ‘ie toga, the most heinous incident of colonial brutality, Black Saturday (28 December 1929), would take place as New Zealand military police fired into a parade of Mau demonstrators in Apia, killing 11 Samoans including Mau leader Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III.2

This ‘ie toga represents a crucial moment in time; the Fono of Faipule had only been legally recognized by the New Zealand Administration five years earlier.3 These Faipule were perhaps unaware of the continued struggles they and the Samoan people would face but this ‘ie toga provides a glimpse into the fraught early histories that would shape the nation in decades to come. It speaks to the tautua of these Faipule, some of whom went on to directly take part in the Mau movement for independence. Their names, handwritten on this ‘ie toga, stand not only as a record, but as a marker and witness for how they used their voices to shape Samoan history.


1 Bain, The Friendly Islanders: A Story of Queen Salote and Her People, 77.

2 ''Black Saturday' in Samoa', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/black-saturday-nz-police-open-fire-on-mau-protestors-in-apia-nine-samoans-killed, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 23-Sep-2020.

3 'Colonial administration', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/samoa/colonial-administration, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 28-Jul-2014.

‘ie toga, fine mat (detail and full image). AWMM 1932.193, 17457.
<i>Viriola samoana</i>

A Holotype from Samoa

Viriola samoana

This specimen is called a Holotype – a specimen that is chosen as the standard for a species description. When a scientist wants to decide whether they have a new species or not, they need to look at related species first to determine the differences. They use a holotype – like this one – for this.

This tiny shell was dredged from Apolima Strait, west of Upolu Island, by crew on the H.M.N.Z.S. Lachlan, probably during survey work late in 1973. It was originally thought to be new to science, but it has since been discovered that it belongs to a species called Viriola abbotti, which was discovered as early as 1935. 

The specimen is extremely pretty, but even more so because it was coated with a very thin layer of gold so that it could be imaged at very high magnification with a Scanning Electron Microscope. This was important to show the fine details of the very tip of the shell, which records the shells earliest stages of growth. Originally, the shell would have been white in colour.

There should be a unique holotype for each and every species on Earth, and with hundreds of thousands of species in the world, there are also hundreds of thousands of holotypes lodged in museum and university collections around the globe.

Auckland Museum cares for around 4,000 specimens such as this, and this is the only marine Holotype we have for Samoa. It was described by Walter Cernohorsky, Curator of Malacology at Auckland Museum 1968-1989.


Samoan objects from our collections

Things to watch

Tune in to some of our engaging Samoa Language Week video content

Can you say "hello" in Samoan?

Watch the video below to learn some simple Samoan phrases you can use this week

Zoom Talanoa - Measina Samoa: O le Selu

For 2020's online celebrations, we held an online talanoa session through Zoom. The session was called "Measina Samoa: O Le Selu" and it highlighted a selection of selu (Samoan combs) from the Musem's Pacific collection. 

+Measina Samoa: O le Selu

We were joined by Galumalemana Steven Percival (Tiapapata), Sister Vitolia Mo'a (Apia) and Seulupe Falaniko Tominiko (Apia, Aleisa, Lotofaga, Matatufu, Satitoa, Satapuala, Salailua, Safotu, Samauga, Falealupo and Pava'ia'i). Background information about each selu were shared by Ruby Satele. The panelists and participants engaged in an inspiring discussion that included exploring the origins of the selu, the production work and its role in the identity of tama'ita'i Samoa. Our heartfelt gratitude to our panelists for sharing their knowledge and expertise with us all.