One of the things I absolutely love about our language is the use of proverbs, or references to activities that our ancestors were accustomed to, (Alagaupu and muagagana). Much of our formal (oratory) language comes from these references and activities, like pigeon snaring, which was once a sport of chiefs in the past, or fishing or the many games that were played.
Sadly, we as Samoans are not exposed to many of these old samoan games anymore, and this is one of the first steps to losing our language.
Last week in Niue, it was wonderful seeing the schools involved in cultural sports day, because this meant that children had a connection to their history. This was active learning through doing, seeing and competing, much like our ancestors.
Interactive. Lived culture. Still relevant. Valued.
On the night before sports day, my niece and nephew were ripping the tauniu off the broom as they had to make their own sika for the throwing competition. Obviously, mom Lina was not impressed with the missing tuaniu from the broom, but it was fun - and my midgets ended up participating in the event as well. Yay........sau a mai NZ misi le fa'asamoa ae fai le vagahau Niue. Identity crisis much? Non. Embracing everyfang...
It got me thinking:
I am so disconnected from my culture these days and this was very apparent when I stumbled upon the list of alagaupu below. Yet, this was part of our learning, growing up and in everyday life. We learnt by seeing and communicating and doing.
When we as kids had homework for gagana samoa, we had no choice but to go looking for older people to ask for help, and I remember their frustration when they explained things and I was trying to write it down. Because for the elders, our culture is verbal, its not written in books. It's narrated. Chanted. Spoken, Sung, Seen. And there I was with my notebook and pencil. Writing sloooooowly. chooohooo!
All this is making me want to go home right now.....except, it's the faifeau's peleti coming up.....nevermoind.
Here's a list I found online of more alagaupu, but no idea the source:
Ia manuia evaevaga o le vaiaso,
ALAGA’UPU FA’A SAMOA
Fetu’uana’I muniao. To push the cross-piece back and forth (in order to spread the net).
Upu taofiofi: Look before you leap.
Ua leai se manu e olo. Not a pigeon is cooing.
Thus say the hunters when, entering the bush, they notice no sign of the game.
The saying is used of a family or village where perfect peace reigns.
E sa’olele le tuamafa I lou finagalo. Your will is as the flight of an old pigeon.
Tuamafa is an old pigeon, the leader of the flock. It flies where it will and the others follow.
Ua fuifui fa’atasi, ‘ae vao ‘ese’ese. Gathered into a flock from different parts of the forest.
The pigeons are scattered in the bush to look for food, to mate, etc. Then they will gather into a flock to travel to another part of the forest whence they will scatter once more. Used of an assembly whose members have come from different villages and who, later on, will disperse again.
E pipili tia, ‘ae mamao ala. The tia are close together but it is a long way from one to the other.
Two tia (cleared spaces in the bush for pigeon catching) on opposite hills may be so close together that one can be seen from the other, but because of the intervening valley the way between them may be a long one.
Thus, two families or two villages may live in close proximity and yet be far removed one from the other through lack of kinship. This was the original meaning of the proverb. The introduction of Christian ideas has given it a wider meaning: Men are living together on earth, but whether they will ever meet depends on the will of God who may send sickness, storms or other obstacles.
O le fogatia ua malu maunu. The catching place is full od decoy pigeons.
Upu vivi’I referring to a village that boasts of many experienced orators.
Ua numi le fau. The string (to which the decoy pigeon is tied) is entangled
The affair is complicated and difficult.
E atagia taga tafili. The motion of the hunter’s hand is visible.
The hunter sitting in his shelter lets the decoy pigeon fly with a toss into the air. If he is doing this awkwardly, so that the motion of his hand can be seen, the wild pigeons will be suspicious and fly away.
Upu faifai or fa’aulaula: Your designs are too apparent and will fail.
O le a sosopo le manu vale I le fogatia. A worthless bird flies over the tia.By manu vale is meant any bird other than a pigeon. Should such a bird fly over the tia, it will be ignored by the hunters as only pigeons are wanted.
Ua le se’I seu fa’aalo. Why do you handle your net without considering the others.
Pratt translates: "Why do you not steer out of the way?" The word seu has two meanings: to turn the head of a canoe and to catch birds or fish in a net. If it is used in the first sense, Pratt’s translation is correct and the figure is taken from the method of fishing known as alafaga (Nos. 3, 11, 12). If used in the other sense, it refers to pigeon hunting. One of the hunters tries to catch all the pigeons without considering those who have caught few or non. The information I have had from the natives convinces me that the second explanation is the correct one. The translation, then, would be: "Why do you handle your net without considering the others?"
O le lupe o le taeao. The pigeon of the early morning.
To catch the first pigeon of the day is considered a special achievement.
When a chief, with the help of his tulafale, succeeds in obtaining the hand of a noble lady, the latter (as well as the child issued from the marriage) is praised as
O le lupe na fa’ia mai I le fuifui. The pigeon that was detached from the rest of the flock.
The same figure of speech is used when the offspring of a noble family had been adopted by another village and honoured with a matai name.
When the wooing has presented particular difficulties, as through the lack of connections between the families of the bride and the bridegroom, then the young wife and her child are referred to as
O le lupe na seu silasila. A pigeon caught in the sight of all.
This figure of speech presupposes that a single pigeon was spied by a hunting party and that it was artfully enticed and caught in presence of all the hunters.
The tulafale try their utmost to bring about the wedding of their chief and when this is accomplished they are not sparing in flatteries, as they will be well rewarded with the fine mats that constitute the bride'’ dowry.
Va I lupe maua. To catch one pigeon after the other.
A successful hunt. Upu fiafia referring to events that bring joy and contentment. Ua vai I lupe maua le aso nei – this is a happy day, indeed.
A hunter who catches many pigeons rejoices in his shelter. As this is closed on all sides, his companions know another about it.
‘Oa’oa I faleseu. Delight in the hunter’s hut.
The chiefs Lefaoseu of Atua and ‘Ulumu of Tufutafoe were going to have a competition in pigeon snaring. Ulumu politely offered Lefao to take station in the falemua – the front hut. When a flock of pigeons came down, Lefao caught a great number of them before the other was even ready to swing his net. Lefao then cried out:
Ua tau lupe a Lefao. Lefao’s pigeons are counted (i.e., the contest is ended; I am the victor).
The competition had not been conducted according to the rules, but it was a fait accompli. Lefao’s people heard the call and repeated it so that the news of his victory quickly spread through the bush and through the town. The surprised Ulumu could not but recognize Lefao’s dexterity.
Ua malo fai o le faiva Congratulations to the victor
Ua se togi le seu lagatila Quick as a stone the net flew to the left
Ma le fa’apulou I tualima Backhanded it swept to the right
Ua malo fai o le faiva Congratulations to the victor
Nevertheless ‘Ulumu could not help protesting against his opponent’s unsportsmanlike behaviour, but the latter tried to soothe him with the words: Sau ia, ia e fa’amolemole.
Ua pona I vao, ‘ae liai’iina I ala. The fault was committed in the bush, but it is now talked about on the highway.
Applications: (1) The news is not true, but it has spread too far to be retracted. (2) Howsoever cleverly a thing may be concealed, it will come to light at last.
O le faiva ‘ese lo Pepe. Pepe made a strange catch.
On a narrow neck of land near Puipa’a in Faleata there was a tia. One day chief Pepe, a visitor, was catching pigeons there. A man from Faleata tried to net one of the pigeons that had been enticed to the tia, but he failed. The pigeon flew away, just skimming over the water near the place where Pepe was hidden. Pepe tried to catch it. At this very moment a fish (malauli) happened to jump out of the water and, with one swoop of the net, Pepe caught both pigeon and fish. The neck of land is now called Tiapepe. The saying is used when some person meets with some unexpected fortune while his thoughts and actions were directed to something else.
Fa’alupe tupola. Like a pigeon sitting on the pola (plaited coconut leaves used to enclose the sides of a house).
A tame pigeon having strayed or escaped from its master and failed to find its usual resting place, will sit on the pola of the first house it finds.
Fa’alupe tumulifale. Like a pigeon sitting behind the hunter’s hut.
The hunter is interested only in those wild pigeons that appear in front of his hut. Same meaning as No. 106, with particular stress on the fact that the homeless person gets no consideration.
Fa’asega tu launiu. Like a sega sitting on a coconut leaf.
The sega is a tiny parakeet, the only bird of the parrot family found in Samoa. As it feeds mostly on the blossoms of the coconut tree, a cluster of blooms is its usual dinner table. Finding no blossoms it will sit on the leaves. Same meaning as Nos. 106, 107, 109.
Fa’ape’ape’a le tu. Like the swift that never rests.
Same meaning as the three previous ones.
Ua sili mea le seuga. The hunting implements are hung up.
Thus say the hunters when they have returned home from their expedition and hung up the nets, etc. Refer to the conclusion of a speech, a fono, etc. See also the following.
Ia tala mea fa’asolo. Take down the huts and put everything away. Thus says the leader at the termination of the hunt when the tia is not to be used for some time to come.
Aumai le u matatasi e fana a’I le lupe ua I le filifili. Bring the one-pronged arrow to shoot the pigeon in the thicket.The Samoan arrows had one or more prongs. A many-pronged arrow could not be used to shoot pigeons in a thicket, as the leaves and branches would have hindered or deflected its flight.
Ufiufi manu gase. To cover up dead birds.
As a request: Ia e alofa, ia e ufiufi manu gase. Granting the request: O lenei lava le ufiufi manu gase.
The wild manutagi, hearing the call of the decoy bird, approaches gradually by hopping from tree to tree
Sa (matou) tu’u la’au mai nei. We have rested on many trees on our way hither.
Thus says a travelling party when entering a house, after having previously called at some other villages. (A paraphrase for moemoesolo)
When the wild manutagi has entered the cage of the decoy bird, the hunter, crying ‘ae’ae, jumps out of his shelter and covers the cage.
‘Ae’ae lea manu ua ulu. ‘Ae’ae, the bird has entered (the cage). When you see an advantage, turn it to the good account. Don’t throw away a favourable opportunity.
When a decoy bird refuses to call, people say it is to’ia – stricken (with sickness or obstinacy).
Ua fa’atagito’ia. Like the call of a stricken decoy bird.
Upu faifai: applied to an orator whose speech does not meet with approval.
O le manu tafi manu.. A decoy bird that keeps away the wild birds.
Some manutagi have the bad habit of driving the wild birds out of the cage before the hunter has had time to catch them. Upu faifai applied to a repulsive person whom nobody wants to associate with.
O le a gase manu vao, ‘ae ola manu fanua. The wild birds shall die; the tame ones shall live.
This is the order given by the leader when the hunt is to be terminated. The captured birds will be killed; the decoy birds will be given rest. Used at the end of speech, fono, etc.
Ua aliali le va’ava’a o le tava’e. the tropic bird’s breastbone is visible.
The bird’s breast feathers are very sparse.
Ua se tava’e le ausu I le fulu. He is like the tropic bird which is proud of its feathers. Ua maefulu le tava’e. The tropic bird is careful of its long tail feathers.
According to the Samoans the bird is so proud of its long tail that, being approached from the front, it sits immediately and allows itself to be caught, for fear of damaging its feathers by turning round. If it is approached from behind, it will fly off.
O le manu sina e le soa. A white bird that has no friend.
A white tern that is so proud of its glossy plumage that it will not associate with darker birds. In Aana the expression refers to an aitu incorporated in a white tropic bird that lived on Mount Tafua.
Patupatu amo fale. The clumsy, loutish fellow carries the house. This refers to the preparations for the hunt of the manuali’i. The matai orders his men to build a small hunting hut and carry it with the rest of the hunting implements to the swamp which is the bird’s usual habitat. The heaviest object, i.e., the house, is carried by the strongest fellow – the Cinderella – who has to do all the heavy work.
Se’I muamua se fa’asao o manu vao. Before bird-catching an offering should be made.
Refers to the introductory ceremonies to any function, such as the ceremonial greetings introducing a speech, grace before meals, etc.
When the men prepared for the hunt of the manuali’I they first made an offering to the gods, such as a bunch of bananas. The offering was called fa’asao a manu vao. A bunch of bananas also served as bait for the manuali’i.
Ua se u ta’afale. He is like an arrow that lies about in the house.
The hunter watching in his hut lays three arrows in front of him. One is for the birds approaching in front, the other for the birds coming from the right and the third for those from the left. A fourth arrow for emergencies lies behind the hunter and may be shot in any direction. This is the u ta’afale.
Va I fale ve’a. The space between the huts at the ve’a hunt.
The ve’a (swamp hen) was shot with bow and arrow, the hunter hiding in a small hut. As the ve’a is extremely shy, the huts were built close together so that the hunters could take counsel with each other in a low voice.
Ia seu le manu, ‘ae silasila I le galu. Catch the bird, but watch the breakers.
Ua pafuga le a pei o le faiva o seu gogo. They are shouting together as at the tearn hunt.
When the hunter has allured the gogo, he pulls in his decoy bird and imitates the tern’s call-note "a" He will be answered by the tern with another "a".
Applied to people who meet and take counsel together.
Tavai manu uli. Give water to the black birds.
There are two explanations: (1) during the hunt of the tern a pause is made for the purpose of feeding the decoy birds. Coconut milk was usually given to the birds. However, if there were but few nuts available, only the valuable white birds got coconut milk; the common dark or speckled birds had to content themselves with water. (2) In the war between the birds and the fishes, a black tern (gogo uli) was killed and eaten by a fuga fish. At the termination of the war the birds held a fono and drank lava. When the cup was presented to the black tern the gogo sina (white tern) said, "Don’t give him any kava; let him drink water; he has disgraced his family."
Fa’amanu po’ia I le ofaga. Like a bird caught in its nest.
To be taken unawares. The host, for instance, addresses the words to an unexpected visitor to excuse the delay in having things ready for his reception.
O le punapuna a manu fou. The jumping about of a newly caught bird.
A bird that has just been caught jumps about and struggles to escape. After a while it will grow exhausted and surrender to its fate.
Ua sanisani fa’amanuao. The joy of the welcome was like that with which the birds greet the dawn.
Ua savini fa’apunuamanu. To rejoice like a young bird on the return of its parent with food.
The word savini means the beating of the young birds’ wings at their first attempts to fly.