"Chief Luteru" otherwise known as Maril, became a Matai, or Chief, in 2006, in his grandfather's small village of Tufutafoe, Samoa, with the traditional Saofa'i Ava* Ceremony. His official title is not Chief Luteru; the village elders gave him the title of Chief Afualo Luteru.
*Ava is the Samoan word for the Tongan word, Kava.
Read the captions accompanying the below pictures for details of this incredible experience in Maril's life.
The village chiefs
The village of Tufutafoe was where Maril's grandfather was born in 1905. All of the people in the village are Afualos. These are some of the distant relatives that serve on the village council who were invited inside the fale, for the ceremony. They were completely comfortable sitting cross-legged on the mats for the lengthy ceremony.
This is an uncle named Nesi, who has lived in the tiny village of Tufutafoe, Samoa, his whole life. Nesi is one of the village high chiefs. He looks just like Maril's Uncle Sone, who used to be the base player for the Islanders band in the 1970's and 80's.!
The 'Ava Stick
The taulealea presents Maril is presented with his kava stick as a guest. Each chief or matai of the village is presented with his kava stick during the ceremony.
The kava bowl
The Tufutafoe village kava bowl was much simpler than the fancy kava bowls which are sold to tourists at the market in Apia, Samoa.
This boy, a tualealea, is scooping the kava drink out with a coconut shell for each of the village elders to take a sip.
Chief Afualo Luteru
The ceremony was a meaningful, humbling experience for Maril as he became one of the village chiefs.
Once in a lifetime
After the Kava stick was presented to Maril, a tea was made of the kava and each of the chief's took a sip of it from a coconut shell. Susiana was sitting next to her son, Maril, feeling great joy that he would now represent her family here in California. (Because of Maril's Faith, he pressed his lips to the cup, but didn't drink it, which was suggested by other men in the village who were of the same Faith.)