Fa'amatai - a brief introduction.
  • Fa’amatai is the chiefly system of Samoa, central to the organization of Samoan society.
  • Fa’a (Samoan for ‘in the way of’) + matai (family name or title) = Fa’amatai.

  • There are 2 types of matai’s

(a) Ali’i (Chief or high chief depending on a specific title’s rank)

(b) Tulafale (Orator Chief)

The wife of an Ali’i - Faletua.
The wife of a tulafale - Tausi.


Film SpotlightO Le Tulafale  [The Orator ] (2011)

Director: Tauti Tusi Tamasese

Cast: Fiaula Sagote, Tausili Pushparaj, Salamasina Mataia, Ioata Tanielu

Overview:O Le Tulafale is a contemporary drama about courage, forgiveness and love.  Small in stature and humble, Saili lives a simple life with his beloved wife and daughter in an isolated, traditional village in the islands of Samoa.  Forced to protect his land and family, Saili must face his fears and seek the right to speak up for those he loves.

Watch Trailer 

Here you can see me dressed up as a Tulafale, which is the Samoan word for Orator or “Talking Chief.”  In my right hand is the fue (fly whisk) and the to’oto’o (staff).  The fue is used to get people’s attention (no, not by whipping them with it), and is usually draped over the left shoulder.  Around my neck is the ula-fala (which I got to keep!).  It is a necklace made from the seeds of the laufala plant which is very important in Samoan culture since it is used to make fala and ie koga (mats and fine mats, respectively).  Finally, the cloth I’m wearing about my waist is called an ie lavalava (usually shortened to ie), and is a typical alternative in place of bottoms for both men and women.