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In a dynamic collaboration, two early childhood centers in New Zealand embarked on a journey to explore and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Samoan Fala Pepe and Tokelauan Epaepa traditional artforms. The initiative sought to engage teachers, managers, parents, and the wider community in a profound exploration of these indigenous practices.

The project commenced with an initial planning gathering attended by 20 individuals, representing various roles within the early childhood education sector. The centers successfully bridged the gap for New Zealand-born Pasifika parents, connecting them with their language and culture, fostering a deeper sense of belonging. The use of "talanoa," a traditional form of conversation, emerged as a powerful tool for research and documentation in this project. Lalaga (weaving) retreats were organized to explore traditional weaving techniques and their significance. Unfortunately, the second retreat was postponed due to unforeseen circumstances.

Aoga Amata Transnational Aotearoa (AATA), the organization behind the initiative, presented their findings at an Infant Mental Health conference. Their presentation centred on Fala Pepe piqued the audiences interest with the core values that underpin Fala Pepe and how these values could inform modern educational practices. AATA also actively participated in the Helen Clark Foundation parliamentary symposium, advocating for increased Pasifika representation and perspectives at such gatherings. This participation underscored the importance of diverse voices in policy and decision-making forums

AATA collaborated with Te Whatu Ora, Health Promotion, to tell the story of their journey, sharing updates, pivots, and lessons learned along the way. The project aims to revive ancestral connections and cultural identity, especially for those who haven't had the opportunity to return to their homelands. Participants discovered that there is still much to learn about traditional Pasifika art and practices, with many aspects remaining undocumented.


Adapting to co-design processes and maintaining connections to ancient practices during a pandemic presented unique challenges. The project raised questions about whether this initiative can continue to thrive outside the traditional system, highlighting the need for systemic readiness.

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Weaving is an accumulated revenue of mats which represent importance of different milestones in one’s living for Samoan peoples. Mats are woven through the village women’s group the fale lalaga, or in one’s own home.

These mats are gifted at varied milestones of one’s lifespan. These mats are called ietoga which are woven to ensure a family’s wealth of measina (of which siapo and ietoga are paramount) is ready for these milestones, such as birthdays,
weddings, funerals and common trends of graduation or any celebration within the family.


The fala pepe is primarily and only designated for young infants and toddlers which aligns with the small size of the mat. It has been expressed by expert weavers (matuau’u) that the mat is vital to the child’s wellbeing, as it is responsible for childrenʻs holistic development. That the mat has a nurturing role for children’s mana.


The fala pepe has been reconceptualised as fala ola or fala amata to further amplify its significant role in the lives of Samoan children. Both concepts are influenced by timing where a fala pepe is woven before a baby is born, thus the coining of fala ola. Fala amata, coincides with the beginning phase of a child’s living, where such a mat sets the commencement of a child’s journey in life. As a product of the land, the protocols surrounding the making of fala pepe from planting, harvesting and preparation of the laufala (pandanus) is a result of
communal commitment to the wellbeing of children in the Samoan family.


Fala pepe like all mats in the Samoan culture are for tagata (a human life, whether living or deceased).

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Aoga Amata

Transnational Aotearoa Ltd

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