The Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has raised concerns that the traditional fine mats (ie toga) are leaving Samoa’s shores in numbers.
This exodus leaves only a few of the treasures for locals to use for faalavelave.
Tuilaepa made the comments following the Annual Exhibition event held in front of the government building last week.
While he applauded the efforts by mothers to revive the making of fine mats, he pointed out that a taboo was imposed in New Zealand colonial times to maintain and keep the fine mats in the country.
“It’s been brought to my attention this issue of fine mats going overseas,” said Tuilaepa.
“The whole purpose of our treasures is for our fa’alavelave. There used to be a taboo during the time of the New Zealand government to prevent the fine mats from leaving our country.
“I recall that in those days, we mainly used the finest mats and we’d only use one fine mat for presentation (si’i).”
According to the Prime Minister things have changed and “some of the fine mats that we no longer use are being gathered by Tutuila; the kind that the cockroaches eat.”
Tuilaepa said the issue has been raised as to why there was a taboo by the government but treasures are still being sent overseas.
“That is another matter that will be discussed by the (fine mats) committee,” he said.
“The concerns from our people are right and the exhibition this year was a success with many very fine mats (ie tosi tasi).”
Tuilaepa was also pleased with the participation of men in weaving the fine mats, something that is encouraged by Women’s Committees in villages.
He said weaving fine mats is crucial for the Samoan culture because traditional presentations will be around forever.