Fale Samoa’s Extended Boundaries: Performing Place and Identity

  • A.-Chr. (Tina) Engels-Schwarzpaul
  • Albert L. Refiti


Originating half a century ago in Europe, the critique authenticity and identity were quickly taken up in the USA, and subsequently in countries like New Zealand. Towards the end of the twentieth century, someone using the word ‘authentic’ in New Zealand was immediately under suspicion of essentialism. Māori who did not want to relinquish notions of authenticity and identity often became targets of such criticism. The notion of identity is, of course, further complicated in diasporic situations, where its articulation at the intersection of dwelling and travelling claims continuity within discontinuity. This paper explores notions of identity and authenticity as performance, in the force field of past and present imperialisms and globalisation, through the histories of several ‘travelling houses’ from Samoa and Aotearoa New Zealand. For more than a century, Pacific houses have been displayed in fairs, parks or museums: three Māori wharenui (meeting houses) and a Sāmoan fale tele (council house) were instrumental in performing European and Pasifika identities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Three fale and Te Aroha o Te Iwi Māori, the central and largest whare at the Māori village, were built at the Polynesian Cultural Center (Hawai’i) in 1961–63. In 2004, a fale arrived at the Tropical Islands Resort in Brand, Germany, which had been built on commission by tufuga fau fale and was reassembled at the resort. These houses not only signify but per/form identities, according to inconsistent, even conflicting values. Our paper investigates exchanges between three regions, worlds apart yet with shared histories. We first explore notions of place and identity at exhibitions featuring Māori whare and fale Samoa in the USA, Europe and Aotearoa New Zealand. Then, we address aspects of critical regionalism relevant to (post)colonial contexts and, finally, we discuss exhibitions as performative practices. We deliberately see-saw between diverse geographical, theoretical and political positions, to generate relational spaces that transcend geo-political boundaries, yet remain local and specific.



The authors gratefully acknowledge Ross Jenner and Benita Simati’s support with the drafting of the original paper. This chapter is a significantly revised and expanded version.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A.-Chr. (Tina) Engels-Schwarzpaul
    • 1
  • Albert L. Refiti
    • 1
  1. 1.Auckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand

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