O le ala ile pule o le tautua
Service is one of the key values found in the Pasifika Values within the Pasifika Education Plan 2013–2017. In Samoan culture, this value of service is reflected in the very well known proverbial expression — o le ala ile pule o le tautua — the pathway to leadership/authority is through service.
Samoans believe that if they are taught from an early age to serve their home communities and extended families, then they will be awarded leadership opportunities when they come of age. This can be seen in chiefly titles that are often bestowed on individuals on behalf of their home communities and extended families in elaborate title investiture ceremonies on the Samoan mainland. These titles are then registered with the Land and Titles Court, and titles are specifically tied to land that families have lived on for generations that they are entitled to inherit.
What is tautua?
As a concept of leadership, tautua is more than an attitude amongst Samoans; it is a value that is highly prized, and brings prestige to a family because it is a duty and obligation carried out to honour one’s family or aiga.
What can we learn about service and its pathway to leadership? Can Samoans transfer this concept of tautua, or service, into other leadership contexts? Are other Pasifika cultures and non-Pasifika communities able to transfer a Samoan view of leadership into their working contexts? I believe they can.
This blog post is an attempt to analyse the construction of the pathways to leadership by observing three stages that must be practised. It is based on:
- my own upbringing as a Samoan New Zealander
- my observations of fa’aSamoa in extended family situations in New Zealand, Australia, and Samoa
- my participation in the Ekalesia Fa’apotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa (EFKS) church in Grey Lynn, Auckland, the first Samoan church established in Aotearoa in 1963, where I currently serve and lead as a Sunday School teacher, musician, choral leader and deacon.
Sphere 1: Serve to serve — (0 years to 24 years)
As young children, Samoans are taught to honour, respect, and uphold the values of the family. They serve by completing chores that are assigned to them by older siblings and other older individuals who are afforded respect and who also hold senior positions of responsibility in the family. In traditional contexts in Samoa, children would be expected to serve senior family members and guests at all meals, keep the house clean, act as messenger and courier for correspondence between houses in the village, ensure that they are on call for anything that needs to be completed before the sun sets.
In diasporic contexts (contexts where pockets of people of the same ethnicity are scattered about in other host countries), Samoans can still practise and maintain these customs associated with service in their extended family, church community, and in social club gatherings such as sports clubs or hobby groups. So, despite the contexts changing, the values provide the foundation that moves with these modern times.
Children learn the value of service; how we serve and why it is important to serve.
Being able to serve in this way means that children learn how to contribute and become part of a working system of society.