Māori woman embraces Samoan tatau

Ngāpuhi woman Vivienne Euini, has taken on the traditional Samoan womens’ tatau.

For Vivienne it is a cross-cultural act of love for her husband and respect for his culture.

“When you are really passionate and committed to your culture, whether it is Maori or Samoan- and for me it’s both- you follow where your heart leads you,” says Euini.

She is the Chief Operating Officer of the Red Cross in Samoa, a disaster-prone nation where a tsunami killed one hundred and forty-three people in 2009.

Euini received her malu from tatau artist Sua Suluape III at the same time as her husband Toelau Abel Euini received the traditional soigaimiti, the men’s’ tatau.

It is a deeply cultural and spiritual act according to Suluape.

“When you wear the tatau you know how to look after your family, make sure you work yourself for the well-being of your family and look after them and the malu is like a shelter.  They are the one who look after the family treasure and values.”

Toelau Euini brought his wife and family back to Samoa after forty years living in New Zealand.

"Bringing my family back here, it is a big step to us especially to my wife and kids, they are not used to my culture.  Trying to teach them and get them to experience it is a little bit harder, the longer we live here the more they accept it."

His return was prompted by his father’s death and he now takes on his role as a village chief of Lalomanu where the whānau have made their home.

Much of Euini’s new life in Samoa involves preparing the nation for natural disasters. 

In 2009 when a tsunami hit, Toelau Euini, says many villagers rushed to the beach to gather stranded fish and realised too late that the sea was about to surge back in.

So his wife’s role is essential for education and to train local people to prepare for and deal with the aftermath of any future natural disasters.