The time came when the completion of the tattooing sessions were near. We went to Samoa for three and a half weeks and we were hoping that it would be done well before then but by the third week we were not so sure we'd be done well before or in time. You see in Samoa there are a lot of unforseeable circumstances that arise. One of those was the tattooist's family from ovearseas showed up for family meetings and all. So there had to be days off while the tufuga dealt with his family duties. On top of that Mother's day followed and then the final week was full on tattooing everyday until it was completed on Saturday.
On this Saturday I dropped the two victims off to the tufuga's house, hung around to serve breakfast and then went back to our host family to help with the preparations for the samaga ceremony. Samaga is the ceremony that formalises the completion of the tufuga's work and where he lifts his taboos and bans and let's the new pe'as out into the world as free responsible tattooed beings. The family along with all of us were all excited about the end of the work.
On the final day when they were tattooing the last bit of Aleki's body I was there to video and take photos of it. We had discussed it the night before the amazing end of his journey and I mentioned some protocol that occur at the end of the pe'a.
Well come the time, they tapped in the final tap and the tufuga said "Ua uma" or "It is done" Aleki slowly sat up. They told him to take his time and not to rush as his legs were freshly tattooed. Apparently some people topple over when they get up too quickly. The next thing took us all by surprise as Aleki stood up and did what a proud, robust Samoan does in moments of triumph, he did the tuliususu
and proceeded to do an aiuli(dance) and hugged the tufuga, his assistants and all the supporters that were in the fale. Not a single eye was dry in the house as I think everyone hadn't expected such a Samoan reaction from New Zealand born, English speaking(with a bit of Samoan) Lealali Aleki. It was a beautiful moment to witness in my eyes, I felt so much pride and love for this man that was my husband. He had broken barriers and overcome this massive test in life and I was proud to be by his side all that way. I couldn't have dreamt of a more beautiful ending to the tatau journey of Lealali Aleki.
The surprises didn't end there. I went back to the main house to assist with the preparation for the ceremony and there I found the neighbouring family old ladies were making leis for the occasion using fresh flowers.
I was so touched by this act of family love. I was so emotional there and then at the realisation that all these people were celebrating with us and were doing what they could to help with the ceremony. As my mother puts it, when one starts the pe'a, the supporting family all hold their breathe as everyone anticipates and prays for the succesful completion of the job.
1. For obvious reasons, so the tattooed man comes away with the full tatau and
2. If unfinished it is the shame of not only the half tattooed(pe'a muku) man himself, his children will be shamed but that of the whole family as well.
So the completion of the tattooing was now celebrated by all. The neighbouring ladies and young men came to help our hosts with preparing the food. My mom arrived in time for the ceremony with things for the sua(presentation). Alex's Mom, Dad and aunty arrived with clothes and a beautiful ie toga(fine mat) from Alex's uncle in Manase that he wanted to give for the sua. Alex hadn't even met this uncle yet.
The ceremony went well and Lealali and Folasa were humbled men at the end of it all. The outpouring of love and support from our families and friends was just humbling. The prayer was conducted by Leilua Keni who's a deacon at his Methodist church in Sataua. Lealali and Folasa danced with pride and joy and for a few minutes pretended they weren't in much pain. We took a lot of photos of everyone there to remember this day by.