is well known for its tala o le vavau or legends; stories of
events that occurred throughout the 3000 years of Samoan
existence in Samoa. Many of the legends as told by the old
storytellers are still visible in landmarks, some remembered
as origin of Samoan names and proverbs. However, not many
legends are still practised to date.
revival of the I'a Eva legend in Pu'apu'a this year was a
true test of Samoan traditional beliefs and what can be said
as just another myth.
legend has it that chief Lemalu of Pu'apu'a was gifted the
I'a Eva (mullets with the unusual red lips) in return for
his generosity in hosting an old lady named Sau, originally
gift of the I'a Eva originated in Fiji, when chief Tui-Fiti
(King of Fiji) sent for healers from around the Pacific to
cure his daughter Sina's sickness.
and Sau while crossing the island of Savaii (with their son
Mata'ulufotu, a human head that was part demon, carried in a
woven coconut bag) came across the Fijian scouts and
offered to be taken to Fiji.
approaching the harbour to reach the Tui-Fiti residence, all sailing
crafts must detour to the next bay as it was
protected by Sina's fish (the anaeoso or the leaping mullets).
It is believed that the mullets
would jump along-side and into the boats, causing them to sink.
on this journey from Samoa, Fine and Sau (on Mata'ulufotu's
instruction) directed the Fijian crew to steer direct for
the harbour. As the leaping mullets jump into the craft,
Mata'ulufotu would swallow them up, hence allowing the
sailing party to arrive safely to the amazement of the
was now time for Fine and Sau to prove the superiority of
Samoan traditional healing or be killed if they fail. Again
Mata'ulufotu came to the rescue and journeyed to the ninth
cloud (lagi tuaiva) to the abode of the giant lady
Fuluulualematoto. There he found the soul of Sina and
returned it to earth where her lifeless body
was so overjoyed to have his daughter well again that he
made the precious gift of Sina's fish (mullets with red
lips) known as the I'a Eva to the couple Fine and Sau as a
sign of gratitude. In spite of this, Sau killed her husband
and son on the return journey to Samoa.
back in Samoa in the district of Amoa (where the villages of
Lano, Puapua and Asaga lie), Sau tried to head back to her
village of Tufutafoe. As dusk approached, she was in search
of a place to stay overnight, and came across chief Ta'ala,
but he refused to take her in. She continued on her way and
came across chief Lemalu, who invited her to an evening meal
and sleeping quarters for the night.
the early morning, Sau woke Lemalu and instructed to fetch
Ta'ala for a kava ceremony (ava). It is Samoan tradition to
welcome guests with a 'ava ceremony' or for an 'ava ceremony' to be
conducted prior to an important deliberation. So in return
Lemalu Minute Uelese pointing at the direction of
the reef look out for the I'a Eva when its the
fishing season. (Photo: Rosa Puni)
displaying how the underwater nets are weaved with
the natural wood floaters.
displaying the hand held net used to catch the
mullets when leapping into the air. In the
background is the underwater net.
family affair with Lemalu's extended family
practising at home on how the net is put out.
(Photo: Rosa Puni)
for chief Lemalu's generosity, he
was presented the mullets from Fiji with the unusual red
lips known as the I'a Eva. And as punishment for not
welcoming the old lady, Ta'ala will have to stand in the sun
as the look out when it's time to fish for the I'a
www.eventpolynesia.com as well as
chief Mamea Emosi Puni of Pu'apu'a for his input)
at certain times of the year, Lemalu and the people of
Pu'apu'a will go out and catch shoals of fish using nets.
This practise involves a lookout for the fish on the reef.
Once sighted, Ta'ala will signal by waving his canoe paddle
to alert Lemalu. As the Aitu o le I'a (god of the fish),
Lemalu will go out to the reef and guide the fish into the
bay, which is lined with nets in preparation for their
arrival. The fish enter the bay and once they notice the
nets, will start to jump, just as it was told in the legend.
with all the legends of Samoa, the legend of the I'a Eva
involves cultural rituals:
Before going out to fish, Lemalu and the fishermen must
conduct a 'ava' ceremony at dusk.
No one is allowed to visit or leave Lemalu's maota (the
chief's house) during the fishing season.
The fish must be caught only as they leap into the air with
Women are not allowed to wear tops whilst helping the men
fishing (e fai sulu ao'ao poo le fa'aaliali foi o fatafata o
The consumption of fish from the first catch by women is
catching season is a time of festivity in the village of
Pu'apu'a. At the end of the day the fish are divided and
distributed according to Lemalu's instructions.
September and October fishing this year, Lemalu and the
people of Pu'apu'a did manage to catch fish on two
occasions. The last time the legend of the I'a Eva was
practised was over 40 years ago!
wish to acknowledge chief Lemalu Minute Uelese for the
exclusive interview with
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