Exploring Fonua – the Tongan concept of humans being one with the environment

'Oku 'i ai 'a e fakamatala 'i he 'osi 'a e fakamatala 'i he lea 'Ingilisi ni pea 'i he konga taupotu taha ki lalo 'o e 'atikolo ni 'i he lea faka-Tonga

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By Sione Tu’itahi

(Educator, writer and Executive Director of the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand)

Building a nation begins with the kāinga or extended family. As mentioned in my second column, the kāinga is the smallest unit, but the most important building block of society. The kāinga is the foundation. Expand the family and you will have the village. Expand the village and you will have the nation. Expand the nation and you will have the world.

From a Tongan Indigenous perspective, the kainga is the first house of learning, the first house of worship and the first house of healing. Through their words and actions, the parents are the first teachers, the first priests and the first healers. They are the first leaders who should lead by example. Great Tongan nation builders of past centuries and decades came from kainga where good governance and leadership have become inter-generational strengths and wisdom.

Tufunga Fonua is a Tongan term that refers to nation building, the focus of this third column. Tufunga means to build, while fonua means people and their environment. Fonua is a Tongan socio-ecological theory that articulates the oneness and  inseparability of humans and their environment. It is a Tongan Indigenous philosophy that can offer solutions to the global challenges that we face as a global community, such as climate crisis and sustainable development.

Fonua encompasses the physical, mental, spiritual, cultural, socio-economic and ecological dimensions of life and wellbeing. It is the framework through which Tongans view the full cycle of life – from birth to death, and from maintaining relationship, tauhi va, to sustaining community, tauhi fonua.

Certain processes in the Tongan culture and elements in the Tongan Language illustrate the significant influence of the fonua construct in Tongan thinking and socio-political and economic organisation. For example, as part of the natural cycle of human life, in the world of the womb, the baby is sustained by her fonua, the placenta. The baby is later born into the fonua (land), where she experiences life and builds relationships with the fonua – the entire ecology, including its human inhabitants. As part of the birth process, the remains of the fonua (placenta) that sustained the baby are returned by burial to the fonua (physical land).

Once the pito (umbilical cord that connects the baby to the fonua, placenta) falls off, it is also returned to the fonua (physical land) through a similar burying ritual. Upon her death, she is returned to her fonualoto, (land within the land), or her grave. Meanwhile, when she dies, her spirit ascends to the fonua kaha’u  or langi – the spiritual abode.

In short, there are four  fonua that are of great significance to the Tongan cycle of life – fonua in the womb, fonua on this plane of existence, fonua for our earthly remains and fonua for the soul.

Fonua also provides four phases as a framework for Tongans for understanding social evolution and  social action. These four are Fekumi Fonua, Langa Fonua, Tauhi Fonua, and Tufunga Fonua.

When existing values, institutions and practices no longer cater adequately for their needs and aspirations, Tongans begin to look for new principles and new physical and social environments that can meet their needs. This is the phase of Kumi Fonua or seeking a new life. Migrating to other nations  in the 1960s is an example of Kumi Fonua.

Once they arrive, they set out to build their new environment. This is the Langa Fonua  or community building phase. As they begin to settle and life in the new home becomes normal, they continue to maintain and sustain their new environment. This is the Tauhi Fonua or community sustaining phase.

In time the community grows and new social realities came into existence, which require a re-thinking of the existing order. This is the fourth stage, Tufunga Fonua or re-thinking, of the existing order and the cyclic framework of Fonua.

In general, Tonga is going through a Tufunga Fonua phase as it passes through  the mid-term point of the first quarter of the 21st century. Transformational changes can be observed in all spheres of life, from governance and leadership in all sectors to its economy and cultural values and practices, while it is increasingly  nested within our globalised society.

Transformational changes call for transformational leadership in all aspects of Tongan society. Transformational leadership is visionary leadership that unequivocally disregards self-interest for the collective good. It is ethical leadership where justice, love, unity in diversity and the material and spiritual prosperity of all is the ultimate goal. It is effective leadership where leaders walk their talk and lead with humility and by example. Re-thinking Tongan leadership – its many forms and levels – can be a timely new year resolution for all.

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  1. Talanoa Tufunga Fonua – Konga Tolu

    Ko e Ngaahi ‘Uhinga Mahu’inga mo Loloto ‘o e Fa’unga Faka-Tonga ko e Fonua

    Fa’u ‘e Sione Tu’itahi
    (Faiako, fa’u tohi mo faiongoongo pea kaungā taki he mala’e ‘o e mo’ui mo e langa fonua ‘i Aoteroa Nu’usila)

    Tau fakamālō kotoa pē ‘i he taulama hao ‘a e ‘Otua ‘o tau tu’uta lelei ki he ta’u fo’ou ni mo hono ngaahi ‘alunga. Ko e tolu eni e konga ‘etau talanoa tufunga fonua. Ngali hoa mo taau ai he ta’u fo’ou ni ke hoko atu ‘etau ‘auliliki ‘a e ngaahi ‘uhinga loloto ‘o e lea ko e fonua. He ko ’ene mahu’inga mālie mo mahino ange, ko e fakaholoange ia ‘a ‘etau talanoa mo ‘etau fakamahu’inga’i hono ngaahi kaveinga.
    Hangē ko ia na’a ku lave ki ai he Talanoa Tufunga – Konga 2, na’a ku fokotu’u atu ‘i he 2007 ki he mala’e ‘o e ako mo e mo’ui ‘i Nu’usila ni ‘a e sīpinga pe fa’unga tu’ufonua faka-Tonga ke faka-fōtunga’aki ‘a e anga ‘o e feinga ke tokoni’i e kāinga Tonga mo e kāinga Pasifiki kehe. Na’a ku ui e fa’unga ko ia ko e Fonua. Kuo lahi hono ngāue’aki ki he fekumi fakaako ‘a e fanauako he ngaahi ‘univesiti, pehe ki he kau ngāue he mala’e ‘o e ako mo e mo’ui lelei. Na’a ku toe fakalelei kimui ni mai ‘o ui ko e Fonua Ola, pea ‘i ai mo hono ngaahi kupu mahu’inga ‘e ono.
    Na’a ku ‘osi ‘auliliki e lea fonua he’eku tohi ko “Tōkanga Ko e Mo’ui’anga” (2016). Ko ia ‘oku ou to’o ha konga mei he vahe fakamuimui ‘o e tohi ko ia, ke fakatefito ai ‘etau talafili mo ‘etau tālanga:
    ‘Oku tau ui ‘a e kakai ngāue ‘aufuatō ma’a e kāinga, lotu mo e fonua…ko e kau langa fonua mo e kau tauhi fonua. Ko e kakai ‘oku nau taumu’a’aki ‘a e lelei fakalukufua ‘a e fonua he tapa kotoa ‘o e mo’ui pea ‘i he tu’unga kotoa – mei he nofo ‘a e kāinga, kolo mo e fonua pea na’a mo māmani lahi foki. ‘Ikai ngata pē he’enau kaveinga’aki ka nau toe ngāue’i foki kae ‘oua kuo taufonua ‘a e kāinga mo e fonua ‘i he ako, lotu mo e mo’ui he ngāue. Ka ko e kau fakaanga-he-tefito’iniu, fakata’eta’ekuhā mo talatalakehe ‘oku tau fakahingoa ko e kau holoki fonua.
    Ko e lea mohu koloa mo ‘uhinga loloto foki ‘a e fonua. ‘Oku ‘ikai ‘uhinga pē ki he kelekele mo e ‘akau pe motu, ka ‘oku toe ‘uhinga ki he kakai mo e ‘ātakai kakato ‘oku nau mo’ui ai. Ko e lea fonua ‘oku ne fālute, mo katoi pea aoniu ‘a e tapa kotoa ‘o e mo’ui he vakai faka-Tonga. ‘O hangē ko e lea ‘oku fa’a taku ‘o pehē, ‘ko e fonua mo’ui fakapotopoto ‘a Ha’apai.’ ‘Oku ‘ikai ‘uhinga ki he tukui motu ‘o Ha’apai, ka ‘oku ‘uhinga ia ki he fakapotopoto ‘a e hotau kāinga mei tahi tu’unga he’enau ako he faingata’a ‘o e mo’ui ‘i honau tukui motu maomaonganoa mo iiki, pea toe fepalekaki ‘e he tahi mo e matangi. He ‘oku ‘i ai ‘enau lea tonu ki ai, ‘ko si’emau nofo ni ko e tahi mei hē pea vai mei hē.’ Pea ‘oku ‘ikai ha afā ia ‘e loto ke tukunoa’i si’i kāinga mei he fo’i ‘one’one. Nau poto aipē he mo’ui pea ko ‘enau hiki mai ki Tonga’eiki ‘oku nau tukuingata mo ‘osikiavelenga ‘i ha tapa pē ‘oku ma’u ai ha faingamālie, tautefito ki he ako, kae’oua kuo ola ma’a honau kāinga pea mo e fonua kotoa.

    Kaekehe, ne hoko atu e talafili mo hoku ngaahi kaungā ngāue he mala’e ‘o e ako ki he ‘uhinga loloto ‘o e fonua pea mahino mai ‘a e fa’ahinga fonua lalahi mo mahu’inga ‘e fā ‘i he mo’ui ‘a e Tonga. ‘Uluaki, ko e fonua ‘o e ki’i valevale he manava ‘o e fa’ee. Ko e mo’ui’anga mo e kamata’anga. Ka tauhi lelei ki manava mo e kamata’anga ‘e lelei e toenga ‘o e fononga. Ua, ko e fonua ‘i maama ‘oku fanau’i mai ki ai ‘a e tokotaha kotoa. ‘Oku hoko atu ai pe ‘a e mo’ui ‘a e tokotaha kotoa he founga fetokoni’aki mo hotau ‘ātakai. Ko ‘etau fetauhi’aki mo hotau ‘ātakai ‘oku tau mo’ui mo tolonga ai, ‘o hangē pe ko e mahu’inga ke tau fetauhi’aki mo fetokoni’aki ‘i hotau fa’ahinga ko e fa’ahinga ‘o e tangata ‘i he nofo ‘a kāinga, kolo, fonua mo mamani kotoa. ‘Oku ‘ikai ha to’a ‘e tu’u tokotaha. ‘Oku tau kāinga ‘oku tau fehokotaki mo fefalala’aki kotoa, ‘a kitautolu fa’ahinga ‘o e tangata mo e fefine pea mo hotau ‘ātakai mo hotau ‘Otua foki. Tolu, ko e fonua he loto fonua, pea ko e fonualoto ‘oku tuku ki ai hotau sino matelie ‘i he ‘aho ‘o e mate. Fā, ko e fonua he maama kaha’u ‘oku fononga ki ai hotau laumālie, hili ‘etau atu hūatu he matapā ‘o e mate.

    Fakatātā Fika 1: Faa’i Fonua
    ©S Tu’itahi 2017

    ‘Oku fakahaa’i mahino mai ‘e he ngaahi fonua lalahi ‘e fā kuo u lave ki ai ‘a e loloto ‘o e lea fonua, pea mo hono mahu’inga he mo’ui ‘a e Tonga. Fielau hono fakahuafa ‘e Kuini Salote ‘ene maa’imoa langa fakalakalaka ma’a e kakai fefine ko e Langa Fonua ‘a Fafine Tonga. Ko ‘etau founga tukufakaholo ko ia ko hono tanu e fonua mo e pito e fanau valevale ki he kelekele ‘oku ne fakasino mai e mahu’inga ki he Tonga hono fonua pe ‘ātakai mo e mahu’inga ke tau fetauhi’aki. Ko e founga foki eni ‘oku fai ‘e he ngaahi matakali kehe ‘oku tau kāinga he potu tahi ni, hangē ko e kāinga Mauli. Ko hono mo’oni ko e lea ‘fonua’ ‘oku mahu’inga pea ‘uhinga mālie kiate kinautolu ‘o hangē pe ko ia kiate kitautolu Tonga. ‘Oku tau taha pe mo hotau ‘ātakai pe ko e fonua. Ko e kakai ‘a e fonua, pea ko e fonua ‘a e kakai.

    Ko e tapa mahu’inga foki ‘e taha he talafili mo e fakatotolo fakaako kuo mau fai ki he fonua, ko e kupu mahu’inga ‘o ‘etau ngaahi ‘ilo tu’ufonua, ‘a ‘eni. Ko e fonua, ko ha me’angāue mahu’inga mo e fa’unga fisifisimu’a mo mālie ke tau vakai’aki ki he’etau langa fakalakalaka. Pea ‘oku ‘i ai ‘a hono ngaahi kupu mahu’inga ‘e fā. ‘Uluaki, ko e Kumi Fonua. Ua, ko e Langa Fonua. Tolu, ko e Tauhi Fonua. Fā, ko e Tufunga Fonua.

    Tau kamata fakaikiiki mei he Kumi Fonua. Ko e tūkunga pe lākanga eni ‘oku tau fifili mo fekumi ai ki he tūkunga mo’ui fo’ou pe hiki ki ha fonua fo’ou koe’uhi ke laka kimu’a ‘a e nofo. ‘O hangē ko ‘etau ‘aukau fakatokolahi mai ki muli ‘o kamata mei he ngaahi ta’u ‘o e 1960 tupu. Ko e hiki fonua ‘o kumi mo’ui mo kumi ha lelei fo’ou ke fakalahi ‘a Tonga mo kau atu ki māmani lahi foki.

    ‘I he’etau kumi ‘o ma’u ‘a e fonua fo’ou, ‘oku tau hoko atu ki he lākanga hono ua ‘o e Langa Fonua. ‘O hangē ko e hiki mai ki Nu’usila ni ko e kumi ngāue, hoko atu mo e nofo ‘ova mo kumi faingamālie. Hiki mai mo e toenga hotau kāinga pea tau langa e ‘api mo e kāinga, langa e ako, langa falelotu, falemahaki pea fatu e mo’ui he fonua fo’ou. ‘Oku tau hoko atu ai ki he lākanga hono tolu ko e Tauhi Fonua. Ko ‘etau feinga ke maau, melino mo ma’uma’ulutua e nofo he tapa kotoa ‘i he mo’ui fo’ou mo e fonua fo’ou. Ko e lākanga kuo kamata ke māopo pea malu mo faingamālie ange ‘a e nofo. Kuo lau hotau fala kimu’a pea tau fiemālie ange he ngaahi kupu lahi ‘o e mo’ui, tautefito ki he ngaahi to’utangata mo fafine ‘oku tutupu hake he fonua fo’ou. Ka ‘e hoko mai e feitu’u la’aa mo e ‘aho pe kuonga kuo liliu e mo’ui, pea pau ai ke tau laka ki he lākanga hono fā, ko e Tufunga Fonua. Ko ‘etau toe vakai’i fo’ou eni mo e toe filio’i fo’ou hotau fonua ke tau kei lava ‘o nofo malu mo melino neongo ‘a e ake mai ‘a e liliu. Ko e vaa’ihala ‘oku fa’a hoko ai e liuanga mo e liukava he tapa kotoa ‘o e mo’ui. Neongo ko e hala fononga faingata’a, ka kapau ‘e fakapotopoto e kau tufunga, ‘e si’i e femahulunaki mo e fekolo’aki, pea ‘e hao mo kei malu pe ‘a e fonua ‘o tu’uta ki he mo’ui fo’ou mo e fonua fo’ou. ‘Oku toumoliliu mo takamilo ‘a e mo’ui kotoa – mei he kāinga ki he fonua, na’a mo mamani – he ngaahi vaa’i hala fononga pe lākanga ko ‘eni ‘e fā. He ko e mo’ui ko e liliu, pea ko e liliu ko e mo’ui ia. Ko e tu’uma’u ko e mate ia.

    Fakatātā fika 2: Faa’i Vaa’i Fononga ‘o e Tufunga Fonua
    © S Tu’itahi 2017

    Ko Tonga ‘i he kamata’anga ‘o e senituli 21 ‘oku lolotonga fou he lākanga ko ia hono fā ko e Tufunga Fonua. Kuo liliu lahi ‘a e fa’unga ‘o e fonua he tapa kotoa – mei he fa’unga tukufakaholo mo e tala-e-fonua ki he founga pule kae’uma’a ‘a e mo’ui fakaekoloa mo fakalaumālie. ‘Oku hoko e ngaahi liliu ni tu’unga he ngaahi ‘uhinga lalahi mo ngali kehekehe ka ‘oku nau felave’i kotoa pe. ‘Oku kau ai ‘a e taulaka ‘a māmani ke taha ‘i he tapa kotoa ‘o e mo’ui, pehē ki he’etau foli takai ‘i māmani pea ohi mai ‘a e ’ilo, poto, mo e ngaahi to’onga mo’ui fo’ou. Ko e liliu ko e kupu anga maheni pē ia ‘o e mo’ui. Ko e mo’ui ‘oku liliu ma’u pē. Ka ‘oku ‘a kitautolu ke faka’uli hotau fonua mo hotau māmani ke tu’uta hao ki ha fonua malu, fonua ola mo ha māmani ‘oku leleiange he tapa fakamatelie mo fakalaumālie.

    ‘Oku fiema’u ai ‘i he tu’unga kotoa mo e tapa kotoa ‘a e kau tufunga fonua poto, pea toe fakapotopoto. Ha kau tufunga fonua ‘oku nau mohu ‘atamai pe matapoto pea toe lotopoto. Ha kau tufunga fakatoukatea mo alaisia-mo-kolonga, ‘oku māsila hotau ‘atamai pea Tongafisi mo e laumālie. Ke nau hangē ko e kau Lo’au ‘o ono’aho, pe ko e ‘Uluaki Fā mo e Ta’ahine na’a ne faka’ilonga’i ‘a Tonga ki māmani lahi he katoanga ‘o e 1953 ta’u ‘i Polata’ane. Ke fungani’aki ‘a e ako faka’atamai ‘a e maama fakalaumālie pea ke nau filifili mai ‘a e ‘ilo mo e poto ‘o e Hihifo mo e Hahake, he lotu, saienisi, taukei ngāue mo e ako, pea tui fakapotopoto fakataha ia mo e ‘ilo tu’ufonua ‘o ‘etau nofo koe’uhi ko e lelei ‘a e fonua kotoa.

    Tau aofangatuku e talanoa ni, he kuo lahi e ngaahi ‘uuni kaveinga kuo fai ki ai ‘a e lave. Mei he mahu’inga ‘o ‘etau ‘ilo tu’ufonua, ki he loloto mo e maaukupu e ngaahi lea Tonga ‘o hangē ko e fonua, kae’uma’a ‘a ‘etau kau atu he pue ‘o e nofo fakavaha’apule’anga. Kaekehe, ‘oku lave’i nounou pe ‘a e ngaahi fakakaukau ni ke fakatupu ai ha talafili mo ha talanga pea ke makatu’unga ai ha fekumi mo hano ‘auliliki ‘e he lolotonga pea pehē ki he kaha’u koe’uhi ko Tonga monū‘ia mo māmani kotoa. He ko e Tonga ‘o e ‘aneafi na’e lahi tupu pē ‘i Tonga mo ngata pē ‘i Tonga. Ka ko e Tonga ‘o e ‘aho ni ‘oku ne takafia ‘a māmani kotoa. Pea ‘oku ‘i hono ‘aofinima ‘a hono kaha’u, ‘o tatau pē ‘i ha potu ‘i māmani ‘oku ne ‘i ai. Ka ke ne ngāue’i ‘a hono ‘apongipongi ‘i he ‘aho ni. ‘Oua ‘e tautoloi pe fakatoupikoi. ‘Oku ‘atautolu ke tufunga’i ‘a e Tonga fo’ou mo hotau kaha’u, ‘i Tonga pea mo māmani kotoa.
    Tu’unga he’ene lototo’a, ‘aufuatō, ‘ofa fonua mo fakapotopoto, talu mei mu’a mo e faka’uli pē ‘e he Tonga hono taumu’a mo hono founga ‘o tau fonua, pea tau’atāina ai mei he pule kehea, kae’uma’ā ‘ene lavame’a mo mo’ui ‘aonga ai ma’a Tonga mo e potu tahi Pasifiki, pea pehē ki māmani kotoa. ‘I he’etau kau atu ki he pue fakavaha’apule’anga mo ‘etau hoko ko e kakai ‘o māmani ko e fonua pē ‘e taha, ‘oku taau ke kei lava pe ‘a e Tonga ‘o tu’u he’ene kaimu’a ko ia, ke kau hono faka’uli ‘a e māmani koe’uhi ko ‘etau lelei fakakātoa ‘a e matakali pē ‘e taha ‘o ha’a tangata. Ko e ngāue faka-‘Otua ia, ‘a e faka’aonga’i hota tufakanga kuo foaki fakalangi ke langa hake ‘a e māmani, neongo ko e fē ha potu ‘oku ta ‘i ai. ‘Oku fakamāfana pea fakatupu ‘amanaki lelei ‘etau vakai atu ki he to’ufefine mo e to’utangata Tonga ‘oku nau kau he langa fonua he tu’unga fakavahapule’anga – he sipoti, ako, ngāue, pisinisi mo e lotu foki. Ko e fakahalafononga fo’ou ia ma’a e Tonga.

    Te u tali fiefia ke talafili mo ha ni’ihi ‘oku nau fie hoko atu e tālanga he ngaahi kaveinga ni. Fetu’utaki mai pē ‘i he’eku email.
    Kimu’a pea tau lepa heke ‘o uiui matangi ki he konga hono fā ‘o ’etau talanoa tufunga fonua, tau māvae kava ‘aki mu’a ‘a ‘eku ki’i ta’anga ko eni ke ne fakama’u hifo e kaveinga:

    Fakahalafononga ‘o e Kuonga Fo’ou ma’a e Tonga
    Tonga ko e kihi’i tāputa
    Kae fonu tapuaki faka-‘Otua
    Fakamonū hota koloa mei ‘olunga
    Kae ‘ilo e ‘akau lelei ‘i hono fua

    Fatongia ē kuo poletaki
    Tau kau he pue mo māmani lahi
    Siu-mei-moana mama’o si’ono kakai
    Kae moana honau loto, ‘amuange e ‘atamai

    ‘Oua e lau kafo kae lau lava
    Si’i-pē-kae-hā he faivaola
    Tufakanga tatau ‘a fafine mo tangata
    Lῑ’oa ma’a māmani, kaimu’a ‘a ha’a tufunga

    He kuo liuanga e māmani ‘o fonua pe taha
    Taha ‘a hota matakali, fa’ahinga ‘o e tangata
    Fetaiaki e lotu, poto mo e fonua
    Fakahalafononga fo’ou ma’a hota kuonga

    Kolo-e-‘ofa tatau atu kae liu e folau
    Ki he Maka-ko-Fele’unga mo e Vai-ko-Kanakana
    Ki si’i Fā‘onelua mo e Vao Nukonuka
    Tupu’anga si’ete ‘ofa mateaki he Fonua Ola.

    Tu’a ‘ofa atu
    ©Sione Tu’itahi, 2017
    Email: stuitahi@xtra.co.nz