FA’AFAFINE SAYS SAMOAN TATOO RESERVED FOR WOMEN

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FA’AFAFINE SAYS SAMOAN TATOO RESERVED FOR WOMEN

By Jasmine Netzler

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Dec. 4) - Roger Stanley President of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association strongly opposes fa’afafine wearing the malu.

"This is disrespectful to the traditions of the fa’a Samoa," said Mr. Stanley, himself a fa’afafine.

[PIR editor’s note: The Samoan term Fa’afafine commonly refers to male effeminacy or to the custom of raising a boy as a girl. A Malu is a traditional tattoo worn by a woman.]

He was commenting on a fa’afafine who has recently had a malu done.

Stanley said that this particular fa’afafine has forgotten the value of this treasure which only women should wear.

"The malu is a very sacred treasure of Samoa. We are all aware as Samoans that if a malu or tatau is tattooed without the agreement of the family its results are fatal. No one plays around with this art and treasure of Samoa, it’s too scared."

Stanley said the problem is the fa’afafine with the malu believes strongly that he is a woman. He was raised as a girl by his family.

However, Stanley said no matter how much a fa’afafine thinks he is a woman he is not.

"It’s going overboard. This will encourage other fa’afafine to get a malu done yet it is not right. We all understand the fa’aSamoa and its value and traditions that a man wears a tatau or pe’a while the woman wears a malu."

"The Samoa Fa’afafine Association does not agree with what this fa’afafine has done. Men do not have a malu done - this is for the women only. The SFA strongly believes this but what can be done? This fa’afafine has already broken the foundation of this scared art."

Stanley said the problem is, "most people today are doing it only to show off and as ... fashion."

He said this is all part of modernization and in most cases machines are being used instead of the traditional tools from the past.

Stanley said he believes that the fa’afafine concerned had had his malu done overseas.

"Because if it was done in Samoa the tattooist who did it would have been against the idea as there is no one more understanding of this treasured art of Samoa than a tufuga."

He said that if there is anyone to blame it is the tattooist who did the fa’afafine’s malu.

The rights he said that this fa’afafine should be taking advantage of are his right to equal opportunities in the work force or other areas - not the Malu.

He said the fa’afafine who has had a malu done is not a member of their association. And that if he gets the chance he will speak with him about what he had done. However, the issue will be discussed with members of the Association.

Stanley said one of the problems is his only a president and his voice is only taken seriously by those who are association members.

"But I cannot reach out to those who are not members. They will not accept what I tell them not to do."

Stanley said the right to have a tattoo done or not is not part of what they promote in the Association.

Another problem he said is that fa’afafine’ were raised in different environments and as a result it’s hard to tell them what to do when they are all different people.

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