My recollections of childhood seem to me no different
than those of my friends and relatives although my
mother, Felesita Fuga, was married to Joseph Jewett, one
of an early group of American construction workers building the main dock in Pago Pago Harbor. Born in New York
and raised in California, he arrived in Samoa in the late
1800's and never returned to the mainland. Mother,
whose parents were from well-known Pago Pago families,
was handsome, kind and generous.
Samoan was the standard language in our house, filled
with members of my mother's family, brothers, sisters,
aunts, uncles, cousins, and their in-laws. There was the
constant activity and intimate warmth typical of a large
Samoan family. My mother's aunt, old lady Tu'u, and her daughter Tupito, were special. Just before bedtime, all of us children would settle around Tupito in the living room. She told marvelous stories and legends of Samoa, never seeming to repeat them. My last memory on most nights was her story and my first awareness of morning was waking up in my
bed, where someone had placed me. I do not recall Tupito
ever telling us stories about Siapo. In many ways, both Tu'u and Tupito had as much influence on my life as my mother. They were good with
children and always fun to be with, even when disciplining
us. Tupito especially was close and later worked with me in
my Siapo projects. She passed away in 1967 the day after
my granddaughter, her namesake, Tupito Walker, was
I never will forget the many trips with family groups, old
and young together, into the bush and to the mountains
which dominate Tutuila. We might go simply for a picnic,
or to get firewood, to plant and gather food, or collect o'a
bark scrapings to make dye for Siapo. Whatever the reason, I was the first child to want to go. Bush trips always
included older women and it was not until I was much
older, an adult, that I realized these women were both
protecting and educating us, introducing us slowly and in a
spirit of fun to Fa'a-Samoa, the Samoan way of life. Listening to the women, watching them, following their instructions for the things we were allowed to do, was a simple and effective teaching method. For us children, of
course, one of the favorite times was when we found
papayas just turning ripe and ate them on the spot.
One of the pleasures of going to the bush was making a
garland, 'u/a, from vines, ferns or blossoms found along
the way. Whenever you saw people with such 'u/a, you
knew they were going to or returning from the bush.
(Going to the bush remains a personal enjoyment for
me, up to today. The pleasures of childhood continue with
the added interest of an amateur botanist, as I am endlessly
curious about flowers, plants and trees wherever I am.) My father was general foreman with the Navy's Public
Works Department. He spoke Samoan fluently and had a
great understanding of Samoan culture and sincere respect for the Samoan people, who returned this feeling.
A vivid memory of my father, starting from earliest
childhood, relates to breadfruit season. On our property,
we had many breadfruit trees which bore fruit twice a year.
Before picking the fruit for use, mother automatically
would arrange for the Catechist and the London Missionary Society minister to come to give a blessing. It was a
kind of thanksgiving for the gift of food, not a ritual but a family affair for which, in Samoan style, an umu (food
cooked in a stone oven) was prepared for all participating
family and friends. I last saw the event in 1922.
Siapo was a normal part of everyday life for me just as it
was for all of us youngsters then growing up in Samoa,
whether or not it was a regular household activity. I remember that mother had a wooden upeti, a carved pattern
board for Siapo. Its dominant feature, not traditional but
one which could date from the arrival of Europeans and
the introduction of playing cards, was a heart motif.
Mother and her friends decided to have dresses made with
cotton cloth decorated from her upeti using natural dye. I
clearly remember that, but I cannot recall the board ever
being used for Siapo. Strangely, it was similar to what I
would be doing many years later. But at the time, I was less
interested in art and dressmaking than in playing games
My first formal schooling was at the Catholic Sisters
School, where I completed the fifth grade, the highest
offered to girls in Samoa at that time. Then, I was sent to
Honolulu in 1919 to attend Kawaiaha'o Seminary (now
Mid-Pacific Institute). For the first time in my life, I had to speak and write English on a daily basis. Father asked me to come home for Christmas in 1922. It was planned that I would return to Honolulu and continue my education. His request was prophetic in wanting me at home, as shortly
after the holidays he passed away. My formal education
was ended. I was eighteen and faced with the problem of helping my widowed mother provide for a family that
included my younger brother and three sisters.
To help our family situation, the Governor, Capt. E.S.
Kellogg, asked the Public Works Department to give me an
office job. But there was no vacancy in the office and the
only opening in the Department was for a joiner, a man's
job. So I was hired not as Mary Jewett but as "M. Jewett,
Joiner," the first female in Samoa to be hired by the U.S.
Navy, although the fact was not explained to officials in
Washington, D.C. Of course, I worked as a clerk, taking
much ribbing from the other workers about my job description. My salary was $13.44 a week to start, in those
days enough for my family. Although I was the sole support for the family, I was not allowed to go out in the evenings without permission of my mother or without a chaperone. Mother was being caring and loving, not just protective. It did not prevent my young
life from being busy, with family and many friends. One
friend became special and in 1925, Ron Pritchard, of
Leone, and I were married.
I resigned from my job at Public Works in 1927, in
anticipation of my first child. Shortly after quitting my job, I
started my own business, shipping Siapo, floor mats, table
mats, and hula skirts to dealers in Honolulu. The purpose
of my little enterprise was to earn money to be used for the
future education of my daughters. My husband would take
care of our sons. My business grew quickly and soon I had
twenty women on my payroll, each at $30 a month. I also
gave them breakfast and lunch.
Ron managed a Fagatogo store of his brother-in-law,
B.F. Kneubuhl. Many of our customers were people from
distant villages who would deliver orders I had placed with
them for Siapo and mats. Often these people would stay
for a day or two in fale we had behind the store. With the
money they received from what I bought from them, they
bought goods from the store before returning home. It was
a mutually satisfactory cash transaction.
I ordered from the various villages the items in which
they specialized. Large orders might involve more money
than I had available. Since I had purchase orders from
overseas and also had to prepare shipping invoices in
advance, I was able to work out a system with the bank for
what I called a "quick loan." As soon as the order was
completed and on board ship, I received payment and
immediately paid off the bank and my suppliers.
My regular work area was under the store, which we
now owned. With my helpers, we dyed the hula skirts,
bundled up the mats and Siapo for shipment, rubbed and
painted designs on fabric. Many local and mainland orders, especially for shirts, required hand-painting on the
material. My designs always were in brown. Personal
names were frequently requested, or names, words and
drawings of some kind, such as breadfruit leaves, banana
plant designs, and simplified versions of a tuiga (ceremonial headdress) or fale. Also popular were current slang
phrases, "fai-fai easy/' or perhaps 'Jai-fai /emu/' the
general meaning of which, "take it easy," could be applied
to a variety of situations.
In the evening, I could work leisurely at home on my
own Siapo pieces but from time to time I would have to
work late to complete orders promised for the next day.
Shirts, skirts, dresses, curtains, all were popular and might
be needed quickly by a customer for a special event. Quite
often I had to rub Siapo designs on forty yards of cotton
cloth a day. Some customers ordered an entire bolt.
When I would be working at home, on the hillside at
Malaloa, working late into the night (a habit I still have),
mother would see my light and make her way up the rough
stone steps from her house below, slowly because of her
arthritic knees, and sit silently outside. I knew she was there without looking when the smell of her Samoan tobacco
drifted in. When I had finished and gone to bed, she went
back down. Her presence gave me a warm, secure feeling,
one that was unnecessary to talk about.
Mary Pritchard 1965 Mamanu.
Night was the time for spirits (aitu), including those of
relatives buried up behind our house, to come out. To
make their presence known, they would come and
"touch" one's arm, for example, leaving a painless but
obvious "bruise" mark. From my mother's point of view,
this was reason enough not to stay up late. But in fact she
disapproved of my business, feeling it was unnecessary
and even degrading since I had a husband to support me
and my children. Yet, in her quiet ways, she never failed to
indicate her concern for me.After a while, when I knew I would be working quite late, I made a black-out screen to shield my light so that mother would not be bothered.
It was not long after I began my export business that I
made the first of many trips to the Manu'a Islands, taking
the old vessel LEONE. At the time, the LEONE was the
only inter-island vessel for American Samoa except for the
Navy's station ship. Special permission was required to
travel on the station ship. The Manu'a trip took overnight. I had planned to stay in Manu'a for two weeks, so I returned
on the station ship. My trip on the LEONE was its last voyage and soon it was retired and broken up. I had to depend on the station ship until the Steffaney Shipping Company put the M.V. PEPE in service, and then added the M.V. SAMOA. After receiving my dealer orders, I would contact the various villages. I could send radio messages to the Manu'a Islands through the dispensary.
Within a few weeks the villages on Ofu, Olosega and
Ta'u would have the goods ready. When I arrived on the
boat, the villagers would be waiting in their canoes. I
passed the money over the railing and they passed up their
bundles, exchanging lively greetings and the latest news
about family and friends. I also was handed packages of
freshly prepared food (for which I always gave something
in return). The food was shared with the crew of the boat.
Orders increased to the point where I needed a steady
supply of material, particularly mats and Siapo, so that I
could prepare my shipments before the steamer arrived.
Between receiving the material and shipping it, each item
had to be inspected and, if necessary (which was often),
repaired or patched. So it was not simply a matter of
getting the items and wrapping them for shipment. My
"quality control" process was time-consuming and even
expensive, but I believe it was the reason for steady,
In 1929, I made a major buying trip to Savai'i, going
from Apia with five friends from O.F. Nelson & Company
on a stock-taking trip for their Savai'i stores. Their inter-island vessel, GAUNATA'U, called first at Faga, where we spent the night, and in the morning we went on to Safune. I
walked the two miles to Sasina, bought Siapo and hired a
bearer to carry it back, to be picked up later. After another
day at Safune, the six of us walked to Asau, using guides
and bearers, taking us on an inland trail.
It was my first trip to Savai'i and I was fortunate to be
traveling with friends. I still was learning and wanted to
learn. This first trip to Savai'i was an opportunity to observe and learn directly about Samoan life generally and
ways of doings things specifically. Despite the sometimes
difficult walking, I was impressed with the beauty of the island and was fascinated by the birds, plants and trees (no
less so now than then).
Village meetings, ways of speaking, women visiting,
prayer services ... all provided learning experiences. Of
special importance was the formality of doing things, such
as the formal presentation of food, always accompanied
by the lafo, gifts by visitors to hosts.
We spent a few days in the Asau area, then proceeded
on foot across the western end of Savai'i to Falelima, then
east along the south coast, passing through a dozen villages to reach Sala'ilua, buying Siapo along the way. At
Falelima I saw for the first time a leaf upeti in use but never
since have seen one in regular use in Samoa. At Sala'ilua there were friends and members of my
husband's family, most of whom I was meeting for the first
time. Ron's mother was from Sala'ilua. Nothing could
have been more remote in my mind that later Ron would
become holder of one of the highest matai titles of
Sala'ilua, Lealaitafea Rone, and that I would become involved with the affairs of the village. (Since my husband's
death, I have been considered the ranking member of the
family group. This will continue until the title again is
When I finished my buying at Sala'ilua, I had bought
over 2,000 pieces of Siapo on Savai'i. Small pieces of
Siapo, called vala, sold at that time for two shillings, or
about fifty cents. During the two-week trip I also had
completely worn out two pairs of new tennis shoes.
Subsequently, I made many trips, going directly to
Sala'ilua. These trips worried my friend Aggie Grey, with
whom I always stayed, because she knew the dangers of
inter-island travel on small boats. The sea could be rough,
and the boats usually left at night in order to arrive in the
Once when I was returning from Sala'ilua, the boat's
engine quit. We drifted for some time until it was late
evening. Suddenly, I realized I could hear the sound of the
surf and that we were perilously close to Apolima. Somehow, the crew started the old engine and it was well after
one o'clock in the morning when we arrived in Apia. It was
raining hard but Aggie was on the dock waiting to take me
home with her. After a while, unless I wanted to go to Sala'ilua, I would
buy material in Apia, sent there by Siapo makers I knew
and ordered from.
Mats, including large floor mats, were part of my exports. Aggie at the time was just getting her hotel started
and she would collect things for me to sell for her, baskets,
fans, mats, Siapo, to raise money. Everyone involved,
maker or seller, simply was trying to survive.
In all of the material I was exporting, I found that Siapo
was becoming an increasingly important part of my life.
And it was from close to home that the most important
influence was made on my artistic future. Leone was my husband's village and immediately after
our marriage we began visiting there often, spending the
weekend with his family. We drove the store's old Ford
truck, not much more than a chassis with a wooden box on
it. The trip from Pago Pago on the dusty, winding one-lane
road took over two hours. Frequently, we intended just an
evening's visit but would be too tired to return at night. The
truck had no lights, so if we did return at night I had to hold
two flashlights so we could see the road.
Routinely we planned to go to Leone on weekends but
sometimes at the last minute I might decide to stay home to
work in the yard. Almost as soon as Ron left I wished I had
gone. Bus service was once a day and at times, nonexistent. When no bus was available, I rode my bicycle or
walked. I liked to walk and sometimes would take off for
Leone on the spur of the moment, hiding in the bushes
when a car came along so I would not have to explain
where I was going. It did not take long to get from Fagatogo
to Nu'uuli, and from there I could use a short route,
walking through the lagoon at low tide to Tafuna (site of
the present airport), then to Ili'ili and on through Futiga to
Leone. By bike or on foot took four hours or more.
Getting away to Leone was one of the great pleasures
in my early married life and even after our first child arrived
I would find opportunity to spend a day or a week away
from the bustle and business of town.
The atmosphere of Leone always was informal but
underneath the informality was a subtle sense of formal
recognition and mutual respect. Samoan people are congenial and there always is a friendly inquiry as to one's
health and one's destination. For a person walking alone in
the village there is an invitation to share food or to rest in a
fale from the heat of the sun. One always felt wanted.
I used to visit Leone often before I was married and
remember watching Siapo being made but at that time I
had no special interest in it.
The Siapo group in Leone already was working together in the 1920's and their distinctive pieces were admired and valued. It was about that time when Leafaitulagi, daughter of Afioga Seumanutafa, Apia, was to
marry a Tongan noble. The chief was holder of the highest Apia title and for the importance of the wedding, a special
multi-colored Siapo was made for the bride's dowry. Despite the political division of Samoa, the extended Samoan
families remain intact culturally and socially.
Any child growing up in Samoa when I did was unconsciously aware of the making of Siapo. It was part of
Samoan life. Through our business and out of my own
curiosity, I realized that my interest in Siapo, culturally and
artistically, was growing. During numerous visits to Leone,
I would walk around visiting and chatting with friends and
sometimes simply enjoying the lovely, quiet village. As
often as not, I would end up in the fale of Tui'uli Leoso,
where her daughter-in-law, Kolone Fai'lvae Leoso, would
be working with a group of ladies making Siapo. They all
knew me. Kolone had been one of my teachers (then
Kolone Hunkin, a teacher's assistant) at the Sisters School
in Atu'u , and she taught me embroidery. They expected
me to visit with them and share their breakfast, customarily
eaten about mid-morning. Soon, my daughter would be
off in the playful care of young girls of the household or
under the affectionate watch of a grandmother. I would be
absorbed in the talk and the Siapo work of the women. Surrounded by adult women, Kolone sat designing
one Siapo after another. Some of these were her own
pieces, to be completed by young girls who would learn
about Siapo between having to scurry off to bring food,
matches or other requested items. Some designs were for
women who would complete them for their own use, or to
give as gifts or to sell. It was fascinating to watch and, ultimately, to realize
that in the course of the apparent atmosphere of joking,
gossiping and singing, masterpieces of Siapo were being
produced under the direction of Kolone.
She was a stately woman, seldom speaking unnecessarily except to direct those working with her. She would sit
in the fale, designing her Siapo, showing what she wanted
by placing small marks on the material. With just a dot here
and there, she could indicate what she wanted through
brief, simple directions . . . "start from there . . . hold that
line . . . now close it... continue the line to here. . . bring
it around to there.". Her instructions flowed effortlessly and
the women followed them explicitly.
At times, Kolone herself would outline the finer designs
she wished placed on the Siapo and then leave the coloring
to the young girls working with her. She worked quickly. A
large pupuni (curtain, or room divider) of six by eight feet
would be designed and ready for coloring in half a day.
My memories of the Leone Siapo sessions are as pleasant as they are vivid. About nine in the morning, the
women would start coming from their homes to gather at
the house of Tui'uli. I would be one of the first to arrive,
and watched as Tamala came up the road, then Pa'i would
come from Sogi way, then old Gatia Fai'ivae would appear
from her house. Soon there would be twelve or fourteen
women gathered for the daily session.
Tui'uli greeted each of the women and presented each
with a faasolo, a flower garland. There was a new one
every day. They might be made of clusters of tiny
copper-brown seeds from the lagaali tree (Ag/aia sp.)
next to her house, combined with small waxy green leaves
ofgau laulili'i (Cassytha sp.). She would send the little girls
of her household out early in the morning to collect flowers
and leaves. Whatever might be available that particular day was artfully formed by Tui'uli into a garland making
the best use of the colors and fragrances.
Tall, striking and regal, it was evident in her speech, her
bearing and her movements that Tui'uli was of high rank.
The women would arrive with much gaiety, exchanging warm greetings while finding a place for themselves on
comfortable mats over the fale floor, made with small
waterworn pebbles and crushed coral. Sitting cross-legged, the ladies had before them their papa, wooden
boards, on which bark cloth was stretched and temporarily
adhered. The boards, made by the women's husbands to
fit their needs, were about twenty inches in diameter with
short legs so they could easily be turned for working on the
Siapo. A coconut shell containing black dye would be
steadied in the loose flooring as each lady prepared to
All my life, I never have been able to sit cross-legged,
Samoan style. Normally, it is considered rude to sit with
one's legs stretched out. My handicap was understood and
special permission was granted for me to work at a low
table, with a small box beside it on which to place my
supplies. It did prove handy as I could store my things in
Everyone in the fale had their task. That of Kolone was
to design and, from time to time, correct the work. That of
Tui'uli was to encourage, tease and criticize the workers,
direct the preparation of food for the umu and food contributed by members of the group to serve at lunch. She
made sure that the needs of everyone were met.
In the afternoon, a great favorite was suamasi. Hard
tack biscuits or crackers were put in boiling water with
sugar and coconut milk. Fresh orange leaves were added
for flavor, resulting in a delicious pudding-like snack.
My nickname in the group was taliga papae, white
ears. Although Kolone was only five years older than me, I
was looked on, the youngest of the group, as a favorite
daughter, one they always could call on for little favors,
such as their tobacco or chewing gum. Kolone and some of
the other women enjoyed smoking Samoan tobacco and
often I would bring some. They would peel off a leaf, hold
it over a lit match to toast it, then roll it in a dried banana leaf cut to the proper size, thus producing a cigarette.
One reason I enjoyed being part of the Leone group
was the relaxed atmosphere of their sessions. There never
was any tenseness or hard feelings. Nor was there
jealousy. The women, living the Samoan way, Fa'a Samoa, were secure in their positions in the community.
The Leone Siapo makers did not look on their work
merely as a job or a duty, even though the Siapo they
created was of considerable economic importance to their
families and, consequently, to the village. They came together and combined social with economic purposes, enjoying both. In their friendship, their work, there was a
graciousness and style, unaffected and innocent. It was
beautiful watching them and falling into their chatter and
banter, everything from the latest gossip to the old stories
and legends they had known all their lives. Each day
seemed filled with productive work, made easy by the fun.
One of the ladies working on her Siapo might begin a song,
usually with some rather pointed but good-natured teasing from the others about the quality of the singer's voice. Before long, another woman would put aside her work
and be up on her feet doing a dance, stimulated with
enthusiasm by the rest of the group.
While working, no attention was paid to rank or status.
Only at meal time were the traditions of Fa'a Samoa
followed and the women, then sitting in their respective
positions in the fale according to rank, were served accordingly, with the lauhu (plate of food) going first to the
wife of the highest ranking chief.
From the fale, Ie afolau o Leoso (guest house of
Leoso), we could see the beautiful London Missionary
Society Church (now the Congregational Christian
Church). The striking thing about the church, in addition to
its twin bell towers, was its stained glass windows, with
bright reds, blues, purples, yellows, oranges and greens.
These windows, some of which were visible through the
open front doors, radiated their colors throughout the
church. The tower windows (now missing) especially inspired Kolone.
The patterns and colors of the glass windows directly
influenced the Siapo creations of Kolone. I can remember
watching her, lost in thought, staring at the church windows. Turning to her blank bark cloth, she would divide
the space into sections similar to those in the windows and
then start to place her symbols within these spaces. It is my opinion that the church windows also were the
source for Kolone originating the use, all in the same Siapo,
of multiple colors, that is, brown, black, yellow and red
used together at the same time. As simple as it seems, it
was a creative break with tradition. Previously, most
freehand Siapo was painted with two colors, brown and
black, with yellow used infrequently.
Some of the church windows no longer exist. Those
which remain continue to brighten the church and every
time I see them, they remind me of Kolone. Through my export business, I developed a market in
Honolulu for Leone Siapo. First, I sent samples because
the Leone pieces were different than the brown Siapo I
had been shipping. Orders came in right away and I
bought pieces from the ladies, at the going price of fifty
cents each for a thirty-inch piece, round or square.
The pace in the fale normally was unhurried. The
exception was just before boat day. Every three weeks the
steamer from Hawaii would come in and the women
would go down to the Fagatogo parade ground where
they would sell their work to the passengers and crew members. There always was heightened activity as the
ladies finished up as much Siapo as possible to sell.
Things were even more hectic if I had to ship a large
order to Hawaii. At times like this, the women would take
their Siapo home to work on in the quiet of evening.
Each village had special handicrafts that they offered
for sale. Some villages devoted their efforts to woven
baskets, mats or grass skirts. Leone was famous for
freehand Siapo and it was popular with visitors. Selling
their Siapo was the principal way the women of Leone had
of making money on their own. At Leone one day in 1929, watching the Siapo work, I
realized I ought to make a Siapo of my own. Since I was
going to be in town for a few days, the women provided
materials with which I could try my hand at home. One
thing they didn't give me was soga, the bark glue used to
attach the u’a to the wooden board. This glue forms a
tacky bond between the board and the bark cloth but
makes it easy to remove the cloth from the board.
I pasted my material to a counter in the store so I could
work on it between customers. Unfortunately, I used
starch adhesive, used to adhere permanently the sheets of
u’a to each other, rather than soga. The use of soga had
eluded me because the Leone women prepared their
boards at home. My first effort does not exist today because when I tried
to remove the Siapo from the counter, it came up in shreds.
I also had not learned that I could easily have soaked it off
with just clear water! The women in Leone laughed and
joked for days about my stupidity when I joined them next.
They patiently showed me how to prepare the soga and
adhere the u'a properly.
My first successful Siapo was my second. I proudly gave
it away as a gift. Many years later, I realized I had forgotten
to whom I had given it. Just a few years ago, during a trip to
Honolulu to present a workshop, I was invited by an old
friend, Henry Zuberano (who once lived in Samoa), for
drinks. After showing me his extensive art collection, he
remarked that he had a gift for me. It was my "first" Siapo! I
was indeed happy to have it again after fifty years.
1929 Mamanu. Mary's first piece.
Neither my family nor I grew our own u'a so I did not
have my own supply of materials. Each of the ladies in
Leone, however, had her own patch of paper mulberry
plants. One of them might remark at the fale that they
would not be with the group tomorrow as they had to
weed their u’a. I would volunteer to go along, watching,
learning and helping with the gardening. Then, when it
came time to harvest the u 'a, I would help again and would
be given u'a in return.
People constantly requested of Kolone Siapo and designs and since there was a steady flow of supplies in
payment it was unnecessary for her to grow or gather
materials. An indication of her recognition is that some
people brought fine mats as payment for work requested.
The talents of Kolone were in demand for decorating
bed linens. People would bring her sheets and pillowcases
on which she would print designs from her own stencils.
She would line out flowers and names on the pillowcases
which the owners then would embroider.
There were several other talented designers in the
Leone group but none of them could match the constant
output of Kolone. One designer was a man. Vailu'u never
joined the group, but he would design pieces in the evening at home and his wife, Pa'i, brought them in the next
day to color. It was the first and only time I had seen a
complete design drawn out. The other ladies would tease
her when each day she brought a new design, saying
"Why don't you bring Vailu'u to make our designs?".
The Leone group continued to work together until
World War II began. Government regulations were imposed, there was no transportation, no lights. Siapo making came to an abrupt halt. New ways of making money
became possible, if only by fermenting and selling home
brew and taking in washing from the troops. After the war,
and with the planting of u'a stopped, new work such as
cleaning up the island and other jobs became available.
When the war started, I was unable to ship orders out
so I had supplies on hand. Siapo that Kolone and I made
during the war years were used locally. Kolone had trouble getting her supplies in later days
when making of Siapo declined and she remained one of
the few practicing the art. With so few people in American
Samoa working with Siapo at that time, supplies became
hard to obtain. She often came to my house to ask if I had
any u’a or dyes. As I was traveling back and forth between
Savai'i, where they still were making Siapo, I managed to
obtain enough materials for both our needs.
Kolone reduced her output in her last years, but continued to create Siapo, one of the last Leone women to do
so. One of her proudest moments was the presentation of
a unique piece she made for Lady Bird Johnson during her
visit with President Johnson to American Samoa in 1966.
Tui'uli was a strong influence on my early Siapo work,
as much so as Kolone, from whom I learned techniques.
Tui'uli was poetic in the way she expressed herself. Soft
spoken, she was clear and precise with every word. Even
when angry at someone and scolding them, she did it
graciously. But you could feel the impact of her voice. Her
words always right, her expressions beautiful.
Tui'uli passed on just before the start of the war.
Kolone died in 1970. The fale in which we worked has
been replaced and breadfruit trees have grown up to block
the view of the church.
Kolone cut hundreds of stencils for herself and for
others to use with contemporary materials, and made
probably as many designs for embroidery work. In her
designs for the freehand method of Siapo, she evoked the
essence of Samoan life through her imaginative use of the
traditional symbols used by generations of Samoan artists
The colorful Siapo of Leone lives on, as they are the
basis for much of the creative work that I and my students
carry on today.