Le vaiaso o le gagana Sāmoa (Sāmoan language week) : the fue – symbol of the Samoan orator

Le vaiaso o le gagana Sāmoa (Sāmoan language week) : the fue – symbol of the Samoan orator

To celebrate le vaiaso o le gagana Sāmoa (Sāmoan language week) 26-31 May 2013, the Pacific Cultures curators are highlighting stories related to cultural treasures from Sāmoa.

This is a fue, an item of regalia important for a Sāmoan tulafale (orator). They use fue when they deliver lauga (oratorical speeches). High chiefs can also carry them but only when appearing as orators.

In Sāmoa, lauga is presented in two main settings, either indoors within a house or fale or outdoors on the malae (village green). There are different conventions for using the fue in these settings. For example, inside a fale, the tulafale delivers his speech sitting with their legs crossed. They will often make several movements with it before starting their speech. This may involve throwing it over the left and right shoulders before placing it on the floor. The speech is then delivered with the left wrist on one knee and the right palm on the floor in line with the buttock.

Fue are usually made from lengths of braided coconut fibre (sennit) attached to a short wooden handle. However, in the 1920s it had become the custom to use horse hair exclusively for high chiefs. The fue you see pictured was once owned by James Baxter Fleck (1869-1939) who served with the New Zealand Army Occupation Force in Western Sāmoa from 1915-1919. The other fue below, are examples from the Te Papa collections.

Fue (fly whisk), 1900s; Sāmoa. Te Papa (FE011563)
Elderly man with fly whisk

Fue (fly whisk) Gift of Dr Alex M Rutherford, 1954

Mata’afa [Iosefo Laiufi] in European dress and carrying a Fue (flywhisk). By photographer Thomas Andrew.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *