Our collections represent stories of Sāmoa and its people. They include the human settlement of the archipelago 3000 years ago, and the early 20th century periods of German and New Zealand colonial administration. There is a focus on the mid-to-late 20th century when Sāmoans established communities in urban centres in New Zealand, Australia, Hawai‘i and California.
Over several decades, a significant transnational population developed into a diaspora. Today Sāmoan communities maintain social and economic connections to their homeland and sustain their language, customs and culture in a range of new contexts.
Explore some of our Sāmoan stories about our collections from Apia to Auckland, tatau to travelling umu boxes, headdresses to hip hop, and more.
Mapping Sāmoa collections project
Our Mapping the Sāmoa Collections project is a collaboration between Te Papa and the Bishop Museum in Hawai‘i and aims to enhance museum catalogue records and develop digital maps to contextualise taonga (treasures). Research Assistant Alex Gordon reflects on the project.
Research Project: Sāmoan Multiplicities: Experiences of Samoanness
The project hypothesizes that experiences of Samoanness are spatially embedded - in landscapes, journeys, and multiple localities. They are also simultaneously, yet temporally, negotiated - through memories, narratives, and genealogies.
The market at Savalalo, Apia – collecting and recollecting
In 2016 there was a large fire in the flea market at Savalalo in Apia, Sāmoa. The entire building was destroyed and with it the livelihood of many vendors and their families. The maketi (market) was a local landmark and an important part of experiencing Sāmoa as a visitor and tourist. It was also a site with a connection to Te Papa.
The tuiga, or Sāmoan ceremonial headdress
The tuiga is a Samoan ceremonial headdress. Wearing the tuiga is a privilege only extended to members of certain families with rank and status, like this photograph of Talolo, who was the son of a matai (chief) in Vaimoso, Upolu in Sāmoa. Find out more about the tuiga headdress on Collections Online.
Thomas Andrew’s photographs on Collections Online
New Zealand photographer Thomas Andrew lived in Sāmoa from 1891 to 1939 – a tumultuous time when Britain, the United States, and Germany wrestled for control over the country – and captured political events, recorded daily life, and shot idyllic scenes for the tourist market.
Improvised sextant made by a prisoner of war
This totally improvised sextant (navigational instrument) was made in 1917 by German merchant marine cadet, Walter von Zatorski, a prisoner of war after he was captured when New Zealand forces took the Pacific Island of German Sāmoa (now the Independent State of Sāmoa) during World War I (1914-1918).
Mark Hunt, UFC and the history of broken hands in the Pacific
On 6 December 2013, Auckland born Sāmoan and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Mark Hunt broke his hand on the head of Antonio Silva during the main event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight night, held in Australia. After the fight, Mark revealed he had fractured his hand in two places.
Blog: A collection of Sāmoan Fa‘alupega (chiefly titles)
Fa‘alupega or the naming of chiefly titles is a fundamental part of Sāmoan culture and custom. This book O le tusi fa‘alupega o Samoa was adapted from the work of Misi Kirifi Le Mamea, Te’o Tuvale, T. E. Faletoese, F. F. A. and Kirisome, F. L. with the first edition published in 1915.