Culture of Tonga - history, people, women, beliefs, food, customs, family, social, marriage
The Tongan archipelago has been inhabited for perhaps years, since settlement in late 1 Livelihood; 2 Kinship; 3 Life passages . A Tongan obtains his status from his father (or sometimes uncle, but always through the male line). .. was commonly drunk, and the soft "spoon meat" of young coconuts much relished. Tonga is an archipelago of one hundred fifty islands, thirty-six of which are inhabited. There are four major A third of the population (31,) lives in the capital. The Tongan Ninja is sent by his master to the island of New Zealand to help a See all 3 photos» Two people meet as guinea pigs in a weekend drug trial. . A young child is stranded in Tonga when his plane crashes and his father is.
Kava is prepared by grinding dried roots and mixing the powder with water in a ceremonial bowl. It is nonalcoholic but slightly narcotic. People sit cross-legged in an elliptical pattern whose long axis is headed by the bowl on one side and by the highest-ranked participant on the other. The preparation and serving of the drink are done by a young woman, usually but not always the only female participant, or by male specialists.
The The royal palace in Nukualofa. Tonga is a constitutional monarchy.
Kava clubs are found in the towns, and kava drinking gatherings take place almost daily in the villages. The economy centers on agriculture and fishing. Major exports are vanilla, fish, handicrafts, and pumpkins grown for export to Japan. King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV has modernized the country's economy. Based largely on foreign aid from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and the European Community and on imports, this process has created a widespread presence of Western products.
The agricultural base of the economy remains. The tourist industry is growing, and revenues from Tongans working abroad are one of the largest sources of income. Typical agricultural produce are root crops such as taro, tapioca, sweet potatoes, and yams.
Coconuts, bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, watermelons, peanuts, and vegetables are grown. Pigs and fowl are abundant and free ranging. Cows, sheep, and goats also are present. Intensive shellfishing is conducted along the shores, and there is an abundant fish supply. Royal visits and funerals call for the preparation of large amounts of food. Roasted piglets are laid in the center of a pola tray made of woven palm tree leaves.
Root crops, meats, and shellfish prepared in the 'umu underground oven are added and garnished with fresh fruits, decorative flowers, ribbons, and balloons. In villages, food is consumed while one sits on a mat; in towns, tables are used. Land Tenure and Property.
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All land is owned by the king, the nobles, and the government. Foreigners cannot own land by constitutional decree. Owners have the right to sublet land to people who pay a tribute, traditionally food.
Every citizen above age 16 is entitled to lease eight and a quarter acres of land from the government for a small sum, but the growing population and its concentration in the capital make it increasingly difficult to exercise this right. Social Stratification Classes and Castes. Traditional society had at its top the ha'a tu'i kingsfollowed by the hou'eiki chiefsha'a matapule talking chiefskau mu'a would-be talking chiefsand kau tu'a commoners.
All titles were heritable and followed the male line of descent almost exclusively.
This hierarchical social structure is still essentially in place. Tribute to the chiefs was paid twice a year. Agricultural produce and gifts such as butchered animals, bark cloth, and mats were formally offered to the Tu'i Tonga and, through him, to the gods in an elaborate ceremony called 'inasi.
The king now visits all the major islands at least once a year on the occasion of the Royal Agriculture Show.
The gift giving and formalities at the show closely resemble those of the 'inasi. The constitution eliminated the title of chief and introduced the title of nopele noblewhich was given to thirty-three traditional chiefs.
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Only nobles and the king are now entitled to own and distribute land. An increasingly market-oriented economy and an expanding bureaucracy have recently added a middle class that runs the gamut from commoners to chiefs.
Newly acquired wealth, however, does not easily overcome social barriers rooted in history. Often claims to higher social status are established by claiming kinship to holders of aristocratic titles. The Kingdom of Tonga is a constitutional monarchy.
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The constitution prescribes a legislative assembly with twenty members representing the thirty-three nobles and twenty members elected as people's representatives. Inboth groups were reduced to nine each. Twelve other members are appointed by the king: In the election, six of the people's representatives belonged to the new Pro-Democracy Movement that in became the Democratic Party founded by 'Akilisi Pohiva. The kingdom is divided into districts, each headed by a district officer. Every three years, each village elects a town officer who represents the government and holds village meetings fono where government regulations are made known.
Every villager above 16 years of age is entitled to attend. People do not take part in the decision-making process but show approval or dissent through their implementation of the instructions.
Social Welfare and Change Programs Every citizen is entitled to free primary education, a plot of land at age 16, and free medical care. Hospitals, dispensaries, and pharmacies are distributed over the territory.
Smaller government clinics are present in some villages in the outer islands. To support the modernization of the country, in the Tongan Development Bank was established. Financed by the World Bank and contributions from New Zealand and Australia, it provides low-interest loans for entrepreneurs.
Foreigners who want to invest in the country need a Tongan partner for any economic venture. Peace Corps, the Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, and development organizations connected with the British, New Zealand, and Australian governments are among the active aid agencies. They work in the fields of education, health, agriculture, and entrepreneurship.
The introduction of wage labor in twentieth century privileged men, altering an equilibrium between genders that had lasted for centuries. Cash is now an element of wealth, and wage-earning men have easier access to it. However, the old egalitarian attitude toward the two sexes has not been altered by economic and technological changes. In contemporary offices, shops, and banks, working women are prominent.
In villages, most men take care of the land or tend animals. Women weave mats and make bark cloth. Both women and men actively participate in parenting. Food preparation is shared between the male and female members of a family. The preparation of the 'umu underground ovennow restricted to Sundays and special occasions, is an almost exclusive male activity.
Older children help with activities and household chores. The Relative Status of Women and Men. The hierarchical system's emphasis on the higher status of females guarantees an equal role in society for females and males in spite of the fact that men usually inherit titles and land. Marriage, Family, and Kinship Marriage. There are no explicit rules for marriage, and couples are formed through reciprocal free choice.
Pronounced social stratification discourages marriages between people of vastly different social status. Divorce is legal and not uncommon.
During a wedding, the two kainga involved exchange mats, bark cloth, and food. On the day of the ceremony, the bride and groom "wear their wealth. Tonga has an almost universal rate of literacy. Kinship ties are of paramount importance. The two major kin groups are famili family and kainga extended family. The 'ulumotu'a head of the family presides over this group.
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A kainga consists of relatives living in different households in the same village or in several villages. They are related by bilateral relationships of consanguinity in a cognatic system. Membership in kin groups is restricted to fewer and closer relatives than it was in the past. The parameters in establishing hierarchy at any level of society are gender and age.
A female is always considered higher in rank than a male. Inheritance of land and titles goes through the male line, and primogeniture rule usually is enforced. Because of traditional brother-sister avoidance, year-old boys sleep in a separate house. Though avoidance is less strictly enforced now, it still affects daily life.
Topics such as sex and activities such as watching videos are not shared between brothers and sisters. Socialization Infant Care and Child Rearing. The birth of a child is among the most important events, but the official social introduction of a child to the community is celebrated only at the end of a child's first year. Mothers increasingly give birth in modern hospitals, and infant mortality has decreased.
Infants typically are breast-fed and sleep in their parents' bed until age 5 to 8 years. Parents are the main caretakers, but in an extended family everybody contributes to parenting. This feeling of shared parenting extends as far as the village and even further. Older siblings often care for younger ones, but compulsory education has made this practice less common.
Tongans are proud of their almost percent level of literacy. Government high schools limit enrollment by using a competitive examination and charging fees. Those who are not admitted can attend private religious high schools. There is a branch of the University of the South Pacific on Tongatapu. Sia'atoutai Theological College trains teachers. An older couple whose children have left to form their own families may adopt from a younger couple with many children.
A couple may decide to give a child to a relative of higher social or economic status, and many parents who work abroad leave their children with relatives. Children are present in private or public events and are almost never forbidden to look, observe, and learn. The most important life events are celebrated with elaborate ceremonies that may last weeks in the case of weddings or funerals of royalty or nobles.
These events include a complex pattern of gift exchanges; the preparation, consumption, and distribution of a large quantity of food; and speech giving. Pieces of bark cloth, mats, kava roots, and food are exchanged. Speakers use an elaborate figurative language. Etiquette Formal attire for men includes a tupenu skirt and a ta'ovala mat worn around one's waist and kept in place by a belt of coconut fiber.
Prestigious old belts made of human hair also are used. A shirt with a tie and a jacket complete the attire. Women wear long dresses and ta'ovala as well. The softness, color, and decorations of a ta'ovala indicate status and wealth. People shake hands when they meet, and relatives kiss by pressing each other's noses against their faces and soundly inhaling through the nose. Funeral practices are a mix of introduced Christian rites and customs such as a wake and a Christian burialand older indigenous customs that survive from pre-contact times.
For instance, mourners wear black a Western custom but also wrap mats ta'ovala around their waist. The type and size of the mat proclaim the mourner's relationship to the deceased. Tongan families do not necessarily compete to put on the largest, grandest funeral possible, but they do strive to show respect for the deceased by doing all that is customary.
This can put great strain on the resources of the immediate family and even the extended family. Sometimes the funeral is called a fakamasiva, an occasion that leads to poverty. For an extended discussion, see Tongan funerals Pre-contact Tonga[ edit ] In pre-contact Tonga, female pre-marital chastity was the ideal, if not the norm. Theoretically, a girl received suitors at a faikavaor kava-drinking gathering.
She presided over the bowl, made the kavaand handed out the cups. The suitors sat in a circle around the bowl, chatting, bragging, arguing, and showing off for the demure young lady. All was done under the eye of the elders, thus protecting the maiden from any unseemly advances. In actuality, young men and women who were attracted to each other would often meet privately, in the bush or on the beach.
Sometimes the young women became pregnant as a result of these meetings. Marriage might or might not result. Even if it did not, paternity was generally announced by the mother and accepted by the father.
The child was usually welcomed by all relatives. The mother was not considered a "fallen woman" and could usually find a husband afterwards. There was less tolerance of sexual mistakes on the part of high-born women, who were expected to "demonstrate" their virginity by bleeding heavily on their wedding night. The groom's aunts would display the stained barkcloth or later, sheetafter bathing the bride to inspect her for cuts that might have been inflicted to draw blood.
It is said that grooms might show their love and concern for non-bleeding brides by cutting themselves and smearing their own blood on the barkcloth or sheet. The virginity of the bride was the guarantee for the paternity of a high-ranking child. Another way in which high-society marriages differed from those of commoners is that marriages with close kin were allowed, rather than forbidden.
After marriageinformal divorce seems to have been common and easy. An unhappy wife had only to return to her brother, who was obligated to support her.
Adultery was known, as it is in every human society, but was a perilous venture, especially if the cuckolded husband was a renowned warrior. In common with many other Polynesian societies, Ancient Tonga also made room for the male transgender, fakafefine. These men wore female clothing, took on female roles, and had casual sexual liaisons with other men.
There seems to have been no stigma attached to sex with a fakafefine. Related, yet different was the notion of male beauty.
When a boy at young age turned out to be very handsome, he would be barred from heavy work, instead he would be pampered, his skin rubbed with oilshis hair meticulously taken care of, and so on. The idea was that in this way he would grow up to such a beauty that he would be irresistible to chief's daughters.
Then a child of high rank would be born into the family, elevating the status of all. Post-contact Tonga[ edit ] After the arrival of the Europeansa Christian marriage took place before the traditional rites, or was inserted between them. Fakafefine kept a low profile. Commoners adopted the ideal of pre-marital virginity and the display of bloody bedclothing. Divorce theoretically became formal, and difficult, though this may have only slightly discouraged informal separations and subsequent common-law unions.
With the waning of missionary influence, urban youngsters are now experimenting with dances and datingthe later Western imports. Sex education is discouraged by the church; encouraged with limited success by the Ministry of Health. There are a few cases of AIDS in the kingdom, but Tonga's relative isolation has prevented the disease from becoming the scourge that it has been in other countries.
Rank and status[ edit ] This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. January Learn how and when to remove this template message All Polynesian cultures are strongly stratified, ranging from somewhat less to even more.
Tongan culture is no exception, and despite almost two centuries of western influence, it is, together with Samoa still the most stratified culture. Below them the lower chiefs fototehina. Below them, or maybe more or less on the same level, the slavesprisoners of war popula. In the modern context, the king remains in this position and has the final executive power of government.
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The high chiefs are now limited to 33 titles and called nobles nopelebut some nobles carry more than one title. They are still estate holders, and as such have some influence, but they are not the government although many of them are high ranking civil servants. The lower chiefs have disappeared and the word fototehina now means 'brothers'. And also the royal undertaker, Lauaki.
Tax collection is a task for the central government only. Slavery is abolished, since the emancipation ofand all other people are just the 'commoners'.
The worldly power described above can be called status. A Tongan obtains his status from his father or sometimes uncle, but always through the male line. The crownprince will succeed his father.
Land ownership is only inherited through the father. However, status as such does not place you in society; this is based on rank.