I’e Toga is a Samoan term for a fine mat. Fine mats in the Samoan culture have been considered in some ways, more valuable then money. An I’e Toga is normally used on special occasions. These occasions include weddings, funerals, building of new houses, church events, tattooing, and appointing of a new chief in a village.
The I’e Toga originated from our neighbouring country, Tonga. The I’e Toga was originally brought to Samoa by a Tongan lady named Fuka. Fuka’s older sister, Lautiovogia (Queen of Samoa) was married to the King Tuiatua. During Fuka’s visit to Samoa, she gave her sister an I’e Toga as a gift. Since that day they have used the name I’e Toga to describe the Fine Mats of Samoa : I’e, meaning cloth or mat and Toga, meaning the country Tonga.
The I’e Toga is very sacred in Samoa. Women from all across Samoa spend many days weaving fine mats for special occasions. They work as a group to make them. The most valued I’e Toga are very large and have extremely fine textures. They can take up to 2-3 years to complete.
In the Fa’a Samoa culture every formal occasion is completed with the exchange of I’e Toga. The more I’e Toga a chief or family can present to the people, the richer they are considered in their village.
In my family here in New Zealand we use them in the same way my family in Samoa would use them. In my house we use the I’e Toga mainly for a faalavelave which is a Samoan term for occasion or a special event. When there is a faalavelave in my family everyone is told to contribute an I’e Toga. My family then gather everyone and display the I’e Toga before taking them to the faalavelave where they are used. This kind of exchange between the families means that different I’e Toga are collected and given away amongst families.
Although I am a New Zealand born Samoan, I have been brought up in the Fa’a Samoa way of life. I’e Toga has been one of the many traditions and customs I have come to understand and learn about. I hope that in my generation we continue the tradition of making the I’e Toga and using them in our everyday life and faalavelave.