Showing off the treasures of Samoa

In the third of our interviews with students of Toioho ki Āpiti, Ua’i Manusina weaves her family’s story into a set of Samoan tuiga. 

What is the significance to you of making tuiga in 2022? 

The tuiga represent my Samoan culture and my family as well. My family has been helping me a lot with some of them. I wanted to create a work where I’m able to show off my culture. Being the only Samoan in a Māori space, it’s a good feeling to be here showing off the measina – the treasures of Samoa. 

Did you always envision four designs, or did you start with more and narrow it down? 

I had one design! In semester two I chose feathers as one of my media, and I created a tuiga out of feathers. That’s when I got the idea of four tuiga made with different types of materials, but all including feathers, because that was my kaupapa. 

How did you come up with the other designs? 

That was the hardest part! Underneath everything is straw hats. I bought straw hats and cut them all out. I used the crown for the headpiece of the tuiga, then the brim of the hat was curved to make the front part. I used sewing and superglue to ensure a strong hold. 

This one incorporates a lot of money; what does that signify? 

Tuiga made of money have been around for a long time. It started in American Samoa, and there are a lot of Samoans living in the United States and Hawai’i – I believe they started this trend. It’s to symbolise the achievements of their children who graduated high school or university. You never really see them in a museum! 

The money is Samoan talas. I wanted to make it colourful, different from the others, and bring out the reference to the celebration of culture, and Samoan history as well. 

There’s a lot of weaving in this one. Had you worked with weaving before? 

No. My family has been weaving for a long time, but I never learned, so for me to include them in this process – I learned a lot from them! My parents helped with the weaving and that’s when I got into it. I taught myself to make the flowers, with the help of my lecturer. 

Most of my works draw on the previous years of my degree. Here I bring it all together in the form of a tuiga. I want to display them in a museum, just so people can look at it and feel a sense of longing for culture, and to tell the history and stories behind tuiga – all those myths and legends that are part of Samoan culture as well. 

These four tuiga, they tell a story, not just about Samoa, but the migration of my parents moving to New Zealand 

This one has a family connection. These two sticks represent my parents, and these five flowers are me and my siblings. This one has my hair on it, and my brother’s. Most tuiga have the hair of their ancestors or family members and they pass it on from generation to generation. The high chief’s daughter or the royal family wear the tuiga. It’s mostly for the daughters only, but if they don’t have a daughter, the son wears it 

Will you be making more? 

Yes. I’ve got the ideas all planned out.