Recalling splendor of Samoan oratory

Lauaki Namulau’ulu Mamoe
Portrait of Lauaki Namulau’ulu Mamoe; 1909 [Te Papa]

To celebrate le vaiaso o le gagana Sämoa (Sämoan language week) the Pacific Cultures curators are highlighting stories related to cultural treasures from Sämoa.

This image of Lauaki Namulau’ulu Mamoe (b. 1850s? – d. 1915) taken by photographer Thomas Andrew is dated 1909. This was the same year Lauaki was exiled to Saipan, in the Northern Marianas by the Imperial German government in Samoa.

Lauaki was known throughout Samoa for “his mastery of history and legend, for his talents as a speaker and political negotiator, and for his prowess in war” (Davidson 1970: 267-268). He went on to lead an important political movement, called the Mau of Pule (the Opinion of Pule). The term Pule was the collective name, given to a number of influential orator groups on Savai`i.  The tulafale and tulafale ali`i of Pule spoke for the principal nu`u and district of Savai`i as a whole, and served it’s ranking ali`i.

The aim of the Mau of  Pule was to challenge German rule, and try to secure for Samoans more involvement in their own affairs of government. Under Lauaki’s leadership, the movement was initially successful, but struggled due to factionalism. In 1909 and because of his resistance to the colonial authority, Dr Wilhelm Solf the German Governor at the time took Lauaki into custody. Later Lauaki along with nine other chiefs, and their families were exiled to Saipan in the Mariana Islands, as punishment for refusing to give up their opposition. Six years later in 1915, the New Zealand government sent a ship to bring Lauaki and his supporters home. But tragically Lauaki died during the return voyage from dysentery.


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