Malo e Lelei! Here’s What You Need to Know about the Country of Tonga
The Kingdom of Tonga has a rich history with a span of over 3,000 years. Its monarchy continued to flourish more than a millennium and perhaps the only kingdom left in the South Pacific.
Did you know that Tonga is also called the Friendly Islands? When Captain James Cook visited the island in 1773, he was welcomed with a hospitable reception by the islanders. That culture of smiles rang true until the very day where Tongans show the same warmth and friendly nature to travelers near and far.
Tonga is known for its friendliness and warm hospitality. What’s more, its rich cultural inheritance has been given importance in today’s modernity. Here’s what you need to know about the country.
The people of Tonga
Tonga has a rich Polynesian ancestry and is more closely related to the Samoans in culture and language, too. Their culture upholds the value of its monarchy and the importance of family.
Tongans value families and communities. They live by four core beliefs that guided their way of life.
Fefaka’apa’apa’aki which means respect
Feveitokai’aki which stands for sharing, cooperation, collaboration, and doing your part in the community
Lototoo which means humility, kindness, and generosity
Tauhi vaha’a which means loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment
Tongans also welcome their extended family networks such as aunts, uncles, cousins, adopted children, and distant relatives. Grandparents and elders are most respected in a family unit.
A man is considered the head of his household and all decision-making matters go by him. Nonetheless, he should also look after his sister and her children also. In Tongan families, there’s a unique ranking and roles of family members. For instance:
Fa'etangata, the maternal uncle, ranks lower in the household because he has obligations to care for his sister and the children.
Mehekitanga or Fahu. The paternal aunt holds the most power and is considered as the highest-ranking relative family member.
Ulumotu'a. The oldest male in the extended family is in charge of holding family events.
Interestingly, the Tongan household considers maternal aunts as mothers and paternal uncles as fathers. Likewise, cousins are considered one’s brothers or sisters as well.
The culture of Tonga
The richness of Tonga culture is shown through their crafts, dance, music, art, events, and food. Its traditional value has been passed down to one generation to the next in preservation.
Tongan literature prided itself with short stories by writer, 'Epeli Hau'ofa, and poetries of Konai Helu Thaman. The emergence of Tongan literature started in the late 1960s and peaked during the 70s.
Tongan women are famous for their koloa (bark cloths and mats) craft making. Mats are considered treasured heirlooms and possessions and are present in every celebration – from birth, wedding, and funerals. Women also do waist mats, which are called taʻovala, and waist girdles or kiekie.
Music and dance
Tonga is known to perform traditional dance performances with drumbeats in ancient times. There’s a prevalent use of the lali and nose flute which are still being used as of this day. Dances such as the meʻetuʻupaki, ʻotuhaka, and ula are still observed in present times.
Tonga’s cuisine is a unique gush and blends of tastes that include taro, sweet potatoes, yams, and some fruits. If you’re on the island, try some local dishes such as Ota’ika, Lu Sipi, and Faikakai Topai!