Samoa history and life of Ta'isi O.F. Nelson launched

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 20 August 2017, 12:00AM

Samoa’s freedom fighter, successful entrepreneur and a man who did not shy away from defying world leaders he did not feel uncomfortable with during his time, the late Ta’isi Olaf Frederick Nelson was honoured yesterday during the launch of a book dedicated to his life, at his old home at Tuaefu.

Held at the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi convention centre, the launch was well attended by government officials, guests and Ta'isi’s family. 

The Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Va'aleto'a Sualauvi II and the Masiofo, Her Highness Fa’amausili Maposua Leinafo were in attendance. 

Tautai is the story of a man who came from the edge of a mighty empire and then challenged it at its very heart. 

Written and thoroughly researched by historian Dr Patricia O’Brien of the Australian National University, the book tells a deeply compelling account of Ta’isi’s life as he lived through turbulent decades. 

The Tautai book also depicts a history of Samoa’s Mau movement that attracted international attention. 

Dr O’Brien started work on this project in Samoa back in 2012 and she worked closely with the extended Ta’isi family headed by the former Head of State of Samoa, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi – Ta’isi’s eldest grandson.

The launch started with a prayer service led by the Reverend Fa’avevela Gafo and the speeches followed. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi congratulated Dr O’Brien for the well-written life story of Ta’isi O.F Nelson, and the effort put into digging up the goal of the Mau movement “Samoa mo Samoa”. 

He said it is a great book for all the teachers, students of History and Political Science “and I would recommend the book for you all, for your reading." 

“But read it so you can catch everything in it, it is so full and rich in the history of the New Zealand Administration and also the objections by the leaders of Samoa against the tyranny of those who wanted to govern Samoa,” said Tuilaepa.  

Dr Rachel Buchanan a lecturer in Media Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, was one of the special speakers. She spoke about Maui Pomare on 26 July, 1927 when he stood up against the New Zealand government leaders during the debate on the Samoa Act with Ta'isi present at the meeting. 

He was one of a generation of Maori leaders who assumed positions of leadership in both the Maori and Pakeha worlds. 

Maui Pomare supported the move to let Samoa stand on their own two feet. He stood up against the New Zealand government on this matter. Dr Buchanan also congratulated Dr O’Brien for the hard work put into the book and for bringing Ta’isi to life though his story. 

Professor Meleisea Malama Meleisea said, Taisi O.F. Nelson was a great Samoan, who helped Samoa on the journey to Independence. 

He highly recommends the book to be read by every Samoan. 

 “I personally salute the memory of Ta’isi O.F. Nelson who was indeed the navigator who provided wings for our sails to help us on our journey towards Independence,” said Professor Meleisea. 

Dr O’Brien during her special remarks, spoke about the visit to the graves of the Ta’isi family. 

“And this is something I never discussed with Tui Atua or Masiofo because every day I was working on this book. I estimated that it took about 1,700 days." 

“I would imagine myself at Ta’isi’s grave and imagine myself at Tuaefu,” she said. 



“It’s going to sound weird but I will tell you now that I would also try to ask Ta’isi to tell me about his life and the answers were always that I had to figure it out... I travelled, I read, I dug and tried to put pieces of the lines together.” 

“I tried to wake his spirit to make him come alive and walk the earth again,” she said. In conclusion, Dr O’Brien expressed she was overwhelmed with the support from the Ta’isi family and to see firsthand the piles of Ta’isi books. 

“I ask that you read about this great man, this day has come and it has been an extraordinary journey and an extraordinary day,” said Dr O’Brien. 

The biography of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson chronicles the life of a man described as the “arch enemy” of New Zealand and the British Empire. He was Sāmoa’s richest man who used his wealth and unique international access to further the Sāmoan cause and was financially ruined in the process. In the aftermath of the hyper-violence of the First World War, Ta’isi embraced nonviolent resistance as a means to combat a colonial surge in the Pacific that gripped his country for nearly two decades. 

This surge was manned by heroes of New Zealand’s war campaign, who attempted to hold the line against the groundswell of challenges to the imperial order in the former German colony of Sāmoa that became a League of Nations mandate in 1921. 

Sāmoan hopes for greater freedoms under this system, precipitated a crisis of empire. 

It led Ta’isi on global journeys in search of justice taking him to Geneva, the League of Nations headquarters, and into courtrooms in Sāmoa, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Ta’isi ran a global campaign of letter writing, petitions, and a newspaper to get his people’s plight heard. For his efforts he was imprisoned and exiled not once but twice from his homeland of Sāmoa.

Using private papers and interviews, O’Brien tells a deeply compelling account of Ta’isi’s life lived through turbulent decades. By following Ta’isi’s story, readers also learn a history of Sāmoa’s Mau movement that attracted international attention. The author’s attention to detail provides a nuanced interpretation of its history and Ta’isi’s role in the broader context of world history.

The first biography of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson, Tautai is a powerful and passionate story that is both personal and one that encircles the globe. It touches on shared histories and causes that have animated and enraged populations across the world throughout the twentieth century to the present day.

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 20 August 2017, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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