Iconic house at Lepea to be rebuilt

The iconic home at Lepea that belonged to the first Prime Minister has been pulled down in order for a new building to be erected in its place.

Located at the center of Lepea village, the Maota o Faumuina was an historical landmark for many passersby who travel along the lengthy stretch of Vaitele Street that starts from Malifa to Vaitele.

Home to Samoa’s first Prime Minister, Afioga Faumuina Mataafa Mulinuu II, the building has seen four generations of the Faumuina family, starting from Faumuina Mulinuu I, then Faumuina Mulinuu II, Faumuina Anapapa and most recently Faumuina Opapo Oeti.

The Samoa Observer contacted Faumuina Opapo regarding the works, and he confirmed the rebuild would follow the same design as the old, two-storey Maota, as they want to preserve the memories and beauty of the house from the past.

“We held a church service before Mother’s Day and raised $101,000 for the rebuilding of the house,” said Faumuina.

The Samoa Observer also spoke to Faumuina family members on the building’s significance and future plans for a new Maota.

Reverend Patolo Matalasi Faumuina, of the Lautaimi and Faumuina Misimoa family said the dilapidated building wasn’t safe for habitation.

“The building has been in four generations of Faumuina now, starting from Faumuina Mulinuu I, Mulinuu II, Anapapa and now Faumuina Leilua Opapo. The majority of the building is has deteriorated and it is very old, it’s not safe,” said Rev. Patolo.

“So this is why Faumuina Opapo wanted to pull it down and rebuild it again in the same style, the same picture and same design.

“We found a piece of paper with the names of people who built the house, but there was no year to tell us the exact time the house was built.

“There was a house that Faumuina Pa’ovale lived in, and then his son Faumuina Misimoa, then Faumuina Mulinuu I, and we think that was the time that this house was built.

“The house was designed in the old Samoan style called utupoto, but the top part was shifted up during maintenance work and repaired and it became a two-storey building. The reason was for Faumuina to live in it, but also for the Faumuina family and the village to come together and meet.

“Changes were made to the house when repairs and maintenance work were done, now it’s higher but it was lower before. Because the water flows, sometimes directly inside, that’s why we will build the foundation a little bit higher, but same picture and image.”

The Reverend said he was born in Lepea and lived in the old house when he was 5 years old, and he remembered his father’s family coming over from Savaii to pick him up.

“Right outside this house was where my mother was standing with Mulinuu II while he was a Prime Minister. Now I’m 63 years of age and I became a pastor when I was 27,” he said.

“Every last Sunday of each month we had our Faumuina Family Church Services led by Mulinuu II and this is the usual place we did our services.”

Another member of the Faumuina family and village mayor, Faanuulelei Felise, 68, said the house is the center of the family.

“The house is not safe anymore, so the sa’o of our family, Afioga Faumuina Opapo wants to rebuild it. It will be in the same shape. This is the center of Faumuina’s family, and where ever they stay and live, they always come here to serve and assist with our family occasions. So I’m very grateful to Faumuina Opapo for his wise decision to renew the Maota o Faumuina.”

Tofinuu Misimoa, 70, also told this newspaper that the history of the original home demanded respect for all in the village.

“This is one of the historical houses that lots of Samoans know about, inside the house and its surrounding field. It was the most respected house for the village, the district and the family,” said Tofinuu.  

“One thing I remember when I was young, at 6.30 pm, the bell rang from the laoa (house) of Vaitagutu and a whistle blew from the Maota o Faumuina for the evening services and curfews. The whole village turned off their lights and remained in the dark, and this is the only house that kept the lights on until the second bell rang.

“If a family accidentally turned on their light, they would be penalised by the village. That was beautiful and well respected.

“When Faumuina Mulinuu II was Prime Minister, there was only one way for everyone to come in to this building, just through the front, on foot, no cars. The only cars that came in were the Government cars that came for work things only.

“Another thing I remember well when I was young, this is the most neat and tidy place ever. If one leaf of a tree should fall down, you had to run, pick it up and put it in the rubbish. That’s how much value and how respected this place was.”

Faumuina Opapo said that work to rebuild is expected to start in June once negotiations with contractors have been finalised.

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