It’s about kinship, love, remorse and forgiveness
Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese
Patron of Fa’ataua le Ola
Remarks at Faataua le Ola Walk for Life
I want to share a reflection on suicide by quoting from a speech I made in 2002 because it is relevant and topical.
Rituals also express meaning, nuance and metaphor. During (former) Prime Minister’s Helen Clark’s wreathe presentation at Tamasese’s grave, 4 June 2002, Lufi Falefa and Salani could have chanted the funeral chants, the birth chants, the war chants, the victory chants.
Yet they did not. Instead, they chanted the marriage chants.
Why? In his speech, Faamatuainu Tala Mailei said, ‘Today Prime Minister Helen Clark you hear Lufilufi Falefa and Salani chant the marriage chants. Because we are not here to mourn, we are here to celebrate the marriage of true minds. For many many years Lufilufi waited for this gesture. The words are simple but full of meaning: I am sorry. When we respond in love and forgiveness there is a marriage of true minds which places the message of Tamasese amongst the gods and the angels’.
Faamatuainu concluded by saying: ‘I present this fine mat to seal our marriage. The name of the fine mat is Le Ageagea o Tumua. It was stored in Mulinuu ma Sepolataemo, residence of the Tui Atua.
The ritual is rich in symbolism and history. An explanation of the origin of the name Le Ageagea o Tumua i.e. the substance of Tumua will assist in explaining what I mean.
The Tuitoga had two sons. The elder named Tui Tonga after his father, the younger Lautivunia. Lautivunia had an affair with his older brother’s wife. When the affair became known the older brother was very angry. As is custom, the younger brother made a peace offering which was cooked food wrapped in tolo and fiso leaves. Tolo is sugar cane, fiso is wild sugar cane.
The leaves of the tolo and the fiso underline the message that is, “Please forgive me for we are brothers”. The older brother was not placated and Lautivunia made another peace offering which included the meat of bananas and the meat of the lei banana. The two varieties of bananas underline the message, “We are flesh and blood, surely you can find it in your heart to forgive me”. The older brother was still not placated.
Lautivunia decided that if he did not accept the food offering then he will offer his life. He dug a hole where the catamaran was housed, placed spears at the bottom of the hole face upwards and committed suicide by throwing himself on the spears. The force of this motion pushed the surrounding earth to cover him.
When Lautivunia’s absence was noticed, the father and the brother sent search parties to look for him. A search party reached Tui Atua Leutele in Samoa. Tui Atua Leutele said: ‘You need not have come so far. Lautivunia is in Tonga under his catamaran’. The search party returned to Tonga and located the body of Lautivunia. The Tuitonga felt obligated and instructed the search party to return to Samoa with the finest of his fine mats which he named Le Ageagea o Tumua (the substance of Tumua) to reciprocate Tui Atua Leutele for the favour he had done him. As well, he recognized Tui Atua Leutele’s prophetic powers by naming him Tui Atua Leutele Leiite, that is, Leutele with the prophetic powers.
What is the relevance of this ritual and the name of the fine mat to Prime Minister Helen Clark’s presentation of a wreathe at Tamasese’s grave? The story and the act were about kinship. It was about love, it was about remorse and it was about forgiveness. We are poorer spiritually and intellectually if we are unaware of the meaning, nuance and metaphor in this ritual. Manuia le aso!