17 September 2010
Anga Fakatonga concept
Arts & Craft
Food & Feasting
Conclusion - Poem
Tonga is located in the beautiful waters of the South Pacific. It is set
between New Zealand and Australia.
Like all other cultures, the cultural identity of the Tongan is
constructed and reconstructed. Tradition and culture is invented and
reinvented in response to the different yet continuous encounters
with other cultures. Migrants do not build their own ethnic identity
from scratch; they bring in their own version of it. It then evolves to
fit their new home. As is such the case in the Tongan culture. Many
migrants, coming in and leaving, bring or leave their ideas of culture.
So there is not really a set culture in Tonga, but a variety. There is
still the influence of the old ways or Anga Fakatonga.
“Ko e ‘Otua mo Tonga ko hoku tofi’a”
“For God & Tonga are my inheritance”
Concept of Anga Fakatonga
Anga Fakatonga is a fluid, manipulable, yet
powerful concept. It is translated to mean
culture or tradition. It is said to hold all
that is Tongan in values and behavior. The
main points of Anga Fakatonga that have
stayed strong throughout the generations
• Gender roles(tu’unga fakafamili)
• and the most central point is
Arts & Crafts
tapa products are all different
examples of the Tongan artistry.
Tokelaufeletoa - a kupesi from Vava'u. The woman who
designed this patter was Hulita Tu'ifua and she came from
the northern part of the village of feletoa - hence the name:
Tokelau (north) Feletoa (the village of Feletoa)
Fata 'o Tu'i Tonga - refering to the house of the king, in
particular, the central beam. Representative of the sennit
bindings which holds the support of the central beam,
supporting the thatched roof.
Manulua - probably one of the oldest of Polynesian
designs. It's origins are unknown but similar motifs have
been found throughout Polynesian art and in early Lapita
pottery. I have seen several explanations indicating that it
was either a flower motif or a bird motif.
Food & Feasting
Other important roles of Tongan daily
are feasting, which can consist of up
to thirty different dishes: steamed
pork, suckling pig, fish, crayfish,
beef, octopus, and a variety of
tropical fruits. All of this is spread out
on a long tray called a ‘pola’
A feast would not be complete in the
Tongan culture if singing and dancing
did not follow it. The lakalaka is the
traditional Tongan dance, telling a
new story each time.
Kava is called the official drink of the
Pacific. It is the key cultural phenomenon.
Kava is made from the ground roots of a
native pepper plant. It is a part of the
formal ceremonies. Kava has been around
for over two thousand years. Tongans
have formed the Kava Circle. It is the
setting for conflict resolutions. Instead of
drinking alcohol, which is violence-prone,
Tongans enjoy Kava. Kava is not just a
drink to the Tongans, but the essential
ingredient of social life and culture.
Rank is fundamental to Tongan culture. No two people have equal rank, they
may have to go back a few generations to determine their status. This
determines how they will interact with one and other and is extremely
Rank also determines responsibilities for example the younger son will spend a
lot of time in the plantation, where as the oldest son being of higher rank will
get more opportunities in the Tongan culture.
Here is an overview of the ranking system :
Members of the royalty are the highest ranked ( They have their own
Nobles are the next highest ( Also have their own language)
The commoners are the lowest ranked of the three tiered class system
Men are ranked higher than woman, but within the family the sisters are
ranked higher than the brothers.
The fathers side of the family are ranked higher than the mothers side.
And the older you are the higher you are ranked.
Tongans show respect to the higher ranks in a number of ways, by keeping
there heads lower, differing there eyes, not speaking and commoners never
walk in front of royalty or nobles.
The Christian missionaries in the 1800s introduced Christianity to the
Tongan islands and here it has stayed as the dominant religion. That is
not to say that it took anything away from the Tongan culture, as it was
just tacked on to the culture .
Tongans did of course get rid of there beliefs in the old Tongan gods in
favour of the Christian one God, but still the old superstitions remain
intact. For example if a Tongan is to take land that was not his then bad
things would happen to him spiritually, he may be visited by spirits that
could do him harm, just as a reference any ghost , sprit or dead being
that walks the earth is referred to as the tevolo said divolo.
Now this doesn't mean it’s the devil just that it’s a ghost or sprit. If you
get sick or a volcano erupts and destroys your island it is still because
God is angry and is punishing them for evil deeds.
Christianity freed the Tongan people from human sacrifice made to
appease there old gods and gave commoners the right to go to heaven,
where this right was only able to be had by Kings and high ranking
chiefs before it's introduction.
Sunday law in Tonga is a result of Christianity and has it's own twist. It
is against the law to play, work, swim, garden and do your washing on
a Sunday unless you are a tourist or in a tourist establishment.
This is quite a nice idea as it enforces people to take some time off and
relax. Of course when I say relax I mean go to church, eat, and sleep
as this is about the only three things you are allowed to do in Tonga on
In Tongan language the word for sibling is the same as cousin and rightly
so as immediate family includes up to your third cousin at least. Your
mother is also your mothers sisters and father include your uncles.
So if you were a Tongan your father would not just be the father that
gave birth to you but also his brothers as well. Your mother is not just
your birth mother, but her sisters as well and your mothers brothers are
your uncles and your fathers sisters are your uncles.
In Tonga all mothers and fathers are often called by their first name, and
modern times have introduced the use of mum or dad being used in some
As for who will raise the child usually it is the biological mother and father
although it is not unusual for the child to be raise by the fathers brothers
family or the mothers sisters family either.
Sisters and Brothers
•Sisters are higher ranked than brothers in Tonga.
•There is a Tapu or taboo relationship that exsists between sisters and
brothers where they are not allowed to be together if anything to do
with sex is to be discussed, watched or read. This includes movies with
•Most boys will have there own bed room outside the house, if they have
•Bothers and sisters are not allowed in each others bedrooms
•The highest ranked female of the family is the fathers eldest sister or
the grandfathers sister if she is still alive. Most families go back three
generations to determine the highest ranking female of the families.
A ta’ovala is a Tongan dress, a mat wrapped around the waist,
worn by men and women, at all formal occasions, much like the tie
for men in the European and North American culture. The ta'ovala
is also commonly seen among the Fijian Lau islands, a region once
heavily influenced by Tongan hegemony and cultural diffusion.
According to a Tongan story, a group of Tongans once arrived by
boat at the Tu’i Tonga, but they had had a rough ride and their
clothing, if any remained, was not respectable. They cut the sail of
their boat (Polynesian sails are also mats) in pieces and wrapped
them around. The king was so pleased by the sacrifice they had
made to him of their expensive sail, that he ordered this dress to
be court dress from then on. The Tongan waist-mat probably
shares a common origin or inspiration as the Samoan "valatau" or
"vala" waistband often donned by orators and chiefly sons
("manaia") and daughters ("taupou") on festive occasions and
Different ta’ovala are used for different occasions, i.e. funerals,
birthdays, Sunday services, weddings.
In the case of funerals, one can tell in terms of rank who are the
higher or lower ranked in relation to the deceased from the mat
that they are wearing. ‘Eiki or Tu’a.
Ta’ovala - Funeral
Ta’ovala for other occasions
Tattooing - Tatatau
Pre-contact Tongan males were often heavily tattooed.
In Captain Cook's time only the Tu’i Tonga (king) was
not: because he was too high ranked for anybody to
touch him. Later it became the habit that a young Tu’i
Tonga went to Sāmoa to be tattooed there.
The practice of disappeared under heavy missionary
disapproval, but was never completely suppressed. It is
still very common for men (less so, but still some for
women), to be decorated with some small tattoos.
Nevertheless tattoos shows ones strength. Tattoos also
tell a story.
Tongan Musical Instruments
Although Tongan Music is predominantly vocal, several types of musical
instruments do exist.
– The nafa is a wooden slit drum, approximately cylindrical in cross-
section, beaten singly or in groups of two or three to accompany
– Like the nafa, the lali is a wooden slit drum, beaten with two
drumsticks. There is a tendency in Tonga today to call all wooden
idiophones lali. The term is occasionally used to describe the
Samaon pate and logo slit drums as well as the Tongan nafa.
Tongan Drum - Nafa
Lali - Slit Gongs
I am not an individual because,
I am an integral part of the cosmos
I share divinity with my ancestors, the land, the
seas and the skies
I am not an individual because
I share a tofi with my family, my village, and my
I belong to my family and my family belongs to
I belong to a village and my village belongs to me
I belong to my nation and my nation belongs to
This is the essence of my sense of belonging
His Highness Tupua Tamasese