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The Tiapapata Art Centre has an interesting collection of stone tools including a large number of adzes and adze fragments, a stone anchor, stone axes and wood splitters, and stone scrapers. Galumalemana has also started to make hafted stone adzes, cutting the adzes from dark and dense Oceanic Basalt and carving the handles from suitable hardwoods including teak and Pacific Rosewood known as Milo in Samoan. He lashes the stone with coconut sennit made by Lesā Laufale Fa'anu Motusaga, a highly skilled house and boat builder who makes and uses sennit in his line of work. His research into stone tools is ongoing with the ultimate aim of making these tools using traditional methodologies. He also plans to use the tools to carve wood as the Samoans once had to without the use of metal tools. 

The faceted stone adze below was ground from a smooth seashore or river stone. The stone’s blue colour gives rise to the common name for this oceanic basalt: bluestone. Shaped on a grindstone by hand over three days as a part of research into the making and use of Samoan stone adzes.

Stone adzes known to originate from various quarries throughout the Samoan archipelago are held in private collections and museums  in many countries. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most of the adzes in Samoa are held by families who have found the adzes on their lands, particularly in old settlements or where quarries have been discovered. When asked about stone adzes, many I have spoken with will recall seeing them in their homes but have no knowledge of where they are now. Over 400 adzes found in Samoa are known to have been collected and taken to New Zealand by a former High Commissioner.

Despite the extensive record of Samoan adzes, there are no artisans known to be currently making stone adzes in Samoa, or indeed no craftsmen known to have made them in the past, after steel tools replaced the need for stone tools. The intangible cultural heritage associated with stone tool making and use is no longer available to the current generation of traditional house builders and boat builders.


Having carved wood, bone and shell, I know how much harder it is to shape stone, a technique known as knapping. The adze featured above is the first adze I have made. I used a round hammerstone to help shape this adze and I sharpened it using a rectangular sharpening stone and water. This adze will be lashed to a carved handle and images will be posted when finished. With this adze, research has begun for the purpose of generating greater understanding and appreciation of this ancient but vital technology that has shaped much of the Samoan culture and way of life. Research will also be undertaken to discover what the various adzes were named. Three names are currently known - fa’amalū, sasau, sila. Their differences will be described and how these various adzes were used will also be tested in various carving projects with local artisans. To download this information, click here


Galumalemana Steven Percival 30 August 2016

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