O lau Malu
‘Talofa lava, malo le soifua ma le lagi e mama. O au o Sonya Van Schaijik. O lou aoga o le aoga tulagalua o Newmarket, i Aukilani, Niu Sila. O lou galuega, o au o le faiaoga mo tamaititi e lua gagana. O lou pito ata mai o le faaogaina o le tekonolo ma tamaiti ma faiaoga.’
E iloa le tagata lona tulaga i upu e tautala ai
My tattoo journey begins with my Grandmother a treasure of our family. She was not blessed with a malu but her mother Simeaneva was. So in my family, the malu skipped two generations. I am conscious that I am the ‘uputi’ of Nana’s ‘laau.’
O au matua o mea sina mai le Atua
When I asked my parents if I could get my malu, my mother’s response was initially why?
My fathers was, are you sure sweetheart. Are you aware of how hard it will be to remove?
I said I am not asking for your permission , but I am asking for your blessing. They both gave their blessing.
O lou tina tausi
My godmother however was totally supportive. She said, ‘Good on you girl. I am so proud of you. If I was young again I would join you.’
Teu le gafa
The why part is interesting. I have huge pride of being Samoan. I am aware that on the outside I do not look Samoan, however on the inside my Samoan blood is thick and pure. I know who I am and where I come from. I know my ancestry thoroughly because I am one of the family genealogists. Through that work, I learnt that my great grandmother Simeaneva Fonoti from the village of Le Pa in Falealii had a malu.
O au mamanu
Before I undertook my malu, I spoke at length with Noel McGrevy who had interviewed Samoan Tufuga and collated their photos and stories. I learnt about the malu patterns and the difference between female and male Mamanu.
Le Mata o le Malu
I specifically asked for some male patterns because of my knowledge and identity. I am a
mother of sons and the atualoa is associated with my two sons. I have a stylized mata o le malu unique to me. In addition, I have the upega as my connections to my aiga, my gafa and in a way the way I connect online.
Tufuga Ta Tatau
When I first approached my tufuga, his response was ‘E ta muamua lou laulaufaiva na ta lea o lou tino.’ Meaning was I committed to my Samoan language and culture? Now when I meet Tuifaasisiga Tuloena Sua, I meet my other father. When I meet any of his other subjects, we are brothers and sisters of his family because together we spilled blood under his tools.
E le o se mea e tau faaalialia
Some Samoans say ‘Show your malu when it needs to be shown’. Only someone with a malu
can really respond to that statement. When I first had mine done, I would flash glimpses of it whenever I could. I was so proud and excited about having being blessed that I wanted to show the world my gift. However with age comes quieter pride. So you might only see it when I think you need to see it.
Process of Tatau
I placed my trust into my tattooist. My body was his canvas. I undertook the pain for 36 hours. six hours per day over six days. My tufuga and I both were both responsible for my tattoo. His is the job and mine is hygiene and taking care of myself during and after the sessions as the skin heals.
A leai se gagana, ua leai se aganu’u. A leai se aganu’u ona po lea o le nu’u.”
-Aione Fanaafi Le Tagaloa
There was a huge responsibility to complete my tattoo because I did not want the shame of a pe’a motu – the unfinished tattoo. With the blessing comes the responsibility to my language and culture. “Without language there is no culture. Without culture, darkness descends’, Aiono Fanaafi Le Tagaloa
O lau Malu o Mea Sina mai Samoa
There are obligations of being a Samoan tattooed female, knowing what it represents and what it means. For me the malu sums up an old Samoan saying. ‘O le ala o le pule o le tautua.’ The path to leadership is through service. In my school of Newmarket I identify stronger with our historic motto: Not self but service.
Uso ma aiga
A malu is something that’s not undertaken on a whim – it takes focus and bravery. While the
tufuga tattoos you, a ‘solo’ wipes off the excess ink and blood. In addition I was surrounded by family and friends singing along to encourage me as I lay half exposed while one third of my body was being tattooed.
As the ‘au’ bit into my skin and the ink forced into the wounds, I could hear and feel the vibration in my bones. The feeling is indescribable. Each ‘Tufuga Ta Tatau’ has a rhythm and I coped with Tui’s rhythm by singing in a monotone to the rhythm of the ‘au’ and had holders grip my head, ankles and wrists.
Le Pea ma le Malu
When I was growing up, I hardly saw anyone with a pea or a malu, However that has recently
changed as more of us take this step of cultural pride. I am Samoan. I have royal blood so yes I have the right to wear a malu. From Simeaneva Fonoto descendents I am one of 5 who has been blessed with a ‘tatau.’
We celebrated the completion of my malu with the gifting of fine mats to the ‘Tufuga’ and special visitors. With this is a connection to my Grandmother Matalaoa as several mats came from her funeral via my parents. My sons were part of this process therefore paving the way forward for who they are.
Taofi mau i au mea sina
There are different kinds of malu and you can usually tell by the spacing between the skin. Mine is ‘gigii’. There is not much space between my patterns. A malu is completed when the hands are blessed. That will be the final stage of my malu. My Malu is a covenant between myself and my culture I hope to do that before ‘Tui Fa’asisina’ becomes too old. ( I give a shout out here to my friend Vaemasenu’u Zita Martel who has also been blessed with a malu. She lives and breathes her covenant. )
So where to next, the next time I share with you I will share my digital tattoo and describe my digital journey. Just as the ‘tatau’ journey ended in Samoa at the village of Falealupo in Savaii, so do I end my personal tattoo story with you . But before I finish –
’Lea la ou te faalele lou
pea malu ma outou e faitau lau tala manatua lou fesili. E ta sou malu?.’
If you want to make contact with Tuifaasisiga Tuloena Sua, here is his contact cell in New Zealand, 021295 6482.