the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group;
c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.
Growing up I was unaware of my rich culture and heritage. I was predominantly surrounded by Hispanics in southern california and did not see myself any much different from the other children.
It was not until High School where I started to differentiate myself from the other students. I realized the beauty within my culture and started to embrace my heritage every step of the way.
KINGDOM OF TONGA
From a village called Lapaha located in a small town called Mu’a in the eastern district of Tonga. Lapaha is also the home of the Tu’i Tonga Empire (when Tongan expansionism and projected hegemony began around 950 CE).
Fun fact: Lapaha was the first capital of Tonga before Tu’i Kanokupolu moved it to Nukualofa)
** if you don’t know who that is, too bad!**
**Jk, just google it**
Being Tongan not only stands for its strong monarchy bloodline and rich land; it stands for its ability to operate between two distinct worlds/contexts. ‘Anga fakatonga’, the traditional Tongan way, and ‘Anga fakapālangi’, the Western way. We are culturally adept to learn both set of ways and when to switch between them. This not only goes for the way we speak; but they way we treat one another; whether that being at church, in our workplace or surrounded by strangers. As Tongans, we are able to adapt through life and carve waves’ way like the oceans before us for next generations to come.
As a Tongan woman in today’s society; I feel that we are held to the highest of expectations. Not only amongst our family, friends and co-workers but especially among ourselves. We embrace the roles we are taught at a young age which is purity, humility, grace and obedience and use them to create a beautiful image of these roles that others can aspire from. Not only do these tools shape who were are as women of God but they shape the very being of our souls as a whole. Everything about my Tongan heritage speaks volumes in regards to who I am and how I move. From the recipes we learn from our mothers, to the dances we learn from our grandmothers, and most importantly the passionate work ethic and respect that we learn from our fathers; are all key components that contribute to our culture.
As they say, “Ko e ʻOtua mo Tonga ko hoku tofiʻa”, “God and Tonga are my inheritance”.
UVEA MO FUTUNA
A french island in the south pacific between Tuvalu to the northwest,
Fiji to the southwest,
Tonga to the southeast,
Samoa to the east,
and Tokelau to the northeast.
Though both French and Polynesian, this island is a BEAUTIFUL hidden gem in the south pacific–
Wallis (Uvea) and Futuna lie 230km from each other but are linked through French governance. Wallis has ancestral connections with Tonga, while Futuna traces its roots to Samoa. Which is apparent in the two languages.
My grandfather is originated from the village of Liku which is located in the Hahake district in Wallis. Fun fact: Mata Utu is the capital of Uvea mo futuna and is the largest city in the Hahake District. Liku is the second. **according to the 2008 census**
My father would play Uvea/Futuna music everywhere we drove, and I can remember thinking to myself, “Dang dad, can we play something else?” I never identified myself as a part of this culture; because no one knew what it was and I was afraid to be different. I told myself and others that I was Tongan and sometimes I’ll even throw in that I was Samoan just to mask the other half of my heritage.
I mean damn, we spoke Tongan at home, cooked tongan meals, my grandparents all spoke tongan, we wore tongan clothes to church and everything about us pointed to us just being, plain ol’ Tongans… My dad didn’t look Tongan so I just told all my friends he was Samoan just so that I wouldn’t have to explain what Wallis and Futunans were. Lol
I was blind to see the beauty of my Grandfather and my father’s homeland. I wasn’t okay with being different amongst my classmates at school, let alone around other Tongan kids. I constantly tried to fit in that I always seemed to stand out. Something about me was always different from everyone else.
Now that I am an adult, I am so infatuated with my culture and heritage. I take every moment I can to distinguish and display it for others to see. If I had spent the same amount of time I did trying to hide my Wallis and Futuna background, into actually learning and embracing it- I would have spent more time with my grandfather to learn more about my roots before he passed away in 2015.
As a token to him, I will return someday and each time I represent our homeland; it will be for him, and for my future generations to come.
I am Tongan.
I am Wallisian.
I am Futunan.
I am a part of this beautiful world; Polynesia.
Thanks for reading! xoxo
-Thérèse-Siulolovao A. Rinetta Loko
( Traditional Soamako song from Wallis et Futuna. Artist/Band: TEALEKA // Uploaded by my Father, check him out on Youtube, Like & Subscribe: @TagikiUvea)
(My grandpa Talo’s (on my Mother’s side) 1st cousin Lavaka Kefu, from Mu’a Lapaha Tatakamotonga)