Historic fine mat presented to Te Papa Museum

A Samoan ‘i’e toga (fine mat) used as a gift in exchanges between Samoa and New Zealand has been finally gifted to the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa.

The mat, known as Le Lau Ta’amu Tafea was presented by Former Head of State His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi to Te Papa in a ceremony on Friday called Bringing Love into Balance.

It was originally gifted to the Governor General of New Zealand, Bernard Fergusson while in Samoa in 1962, by His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II.


In 2009, Mr. Fergusson’s son, George Duncan Raukawa returned the mat to Samoa, presenting it to the then Head of State Tui Atua, while he was the British High Commissioner to New Zealand and Samoa.

Te Papa Senior Curator Pacific Cultures Sean Mallon said the mat is in incredible condition, and is a specimen of the artisanal work of Samoan women’s weaving. 

“Te Papa tells the stories of all New Zealanders, but also New Zealand’s relationship within the Pacific region and the wider world,” Mr. Mallon said.

“I am grateful that representatives from two of Samoa’s leading chiefly families have chosen Te Papa as the repository for this 'ie toga.

“It is amazing that such a humble yet beautiful textile symbolising relationships between New Zealand, Great Britain and Sāmoa will be accessible to future generations of Samoans and New Zealanders. “


Tui Atua said the mat, having close ties to both the Tupua and Malietoa families, is especially significant to the relationship between Samoa, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

“For me, when I accepted the fine mat from the British High Commissioner, the fine mat was a messenger with a message,” he told Te Papa.

“The message was: we pass on this fine mat on the assumption that you will do justice to the history and genealogy of the fine mat. 

“Additionally in Samoan custom and usage, when Sa Malietoa and Sa Tupua (families) meet, they recite to each other the mantra, e le mala 'ese Sa Malietoa, mala 'ese Sa Tupua; meaning that the history, custom and usage of the two families are so intertwined by genealogy that their welfare and interest are one and inseparable. 

“I believe that I give substance and meaning to the mantra cited above by presenting this fine mat for display by Te Papa.”

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