New Book About Samoan Master Builders

Journalist, Fuimaono Lumepa Hald, recently wrote a piece for the Samoa Observer about how author La’auli Dr. Francis P. Higginson is continuing his fascination with the Samoan fale, following the release of his first book The Samoan Fale in 1992, and will release a second book this year.

His second book,  which will also focus on Samoan architecture and the influence of culture, will be released in March next year. His first book is currently being used by the National University of Samoa’s Centre of Samoan Studies as a course book.

La’auli, 83, was the first Director for the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States in Apia. He is married to a Samoan, however, his interest in the fale started way before he met his wife.

“There was a lot of work and research into the current book which is about to be published. The photographer was in France and I am based in Boston. The editor is in Denmark so it took some time, but it is finally done,” he said.

“There is a lot of detail in the new book. It points to how culture informs architecture,” he said. “I had help from a lot of Samoan scholars and experts around the world.

“This is the first also of this kind of detail for the Samoan fale.”

His first book The Samoan Fale is used by heritage workers and professionals such as Dr Brian Alofaituli of the National University of Samoa – it looks at the different types of fales that Samoans have built.

The publication includes the rarely built “fale tele” and “fale afolau” and depicts the material culture of Samoa within the fale building context as well as the ceremonies that accompany the building.

Laauli said his new book extends further from the ceremonies and the types of fales that were there and takes a deeper look into the architectural designs used by the Samoan tufuga (master builders) and its links to the cultural life of a Samoan society.  “It very much informs how culture shaped architectural designs and what the current generation and future can use from it,” he said.

“The fales are ingenious. While I am palagi, I am also very invested in Samoan culture, and have dedicated a lot of time researching this subject,” he said.

“So I hope it becomes useful for academics or just anyone who wants to know do more research, from what I have done.

“Of course, there are a lot of Samoans that I could mention who have helped me through both books, by connecting me to the right sources, and I will always give them credit for that.”


Samoan fales. Photo by ICAS.

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