Tongan concept of Māfana’?

I came across this video which is timely with ‘Aotearoa celebrating yet another Tongan language week. To add to Isoa’ great explanation, I want to bring some language and my own personal insight into how Tongans view this important concept.

In any types of faiva (artistry performances) the key objective is mālie which can be thought of as the Italian concept of bravo said of someone that has done something well.

‘Only something mālie would draw forth the feeling of māfana’

Adrienne L. Kaeppler

Underpinning loto-māfana ie the feeling of warmth is one of the four Golden pillars of what makes us Tongan: Tauhi vā (maintaning strong relations). As an oratory culture speech performances are an important part of all celebrations that is often aimed at evoking laughter and crying from the audience. I remember one occasion where my father urged the importance of keeping familial ties strong. He mentioned the word milimili sino which piqued my attention. Something familiar to Tongans growing up is the mothers rubbing coconut oil on babies and childrens hair and skin or coconut oil laden dancers.

“Oku māhu’inga e milimilisino’ ko e me’a ia ‘oku ma’u ai ‘a e māfana.”

– Siniholani

He coined the word friction in Tongan is like milimili sino. When you put your hands together and rub them you get friction and it is with that friction you get warmth. An important part of Tongan culture is milimili sino done before dancing the dancers get warmed up and ready to perform. If the performance which includes the singers performance langitu’a is done right there will be a feeling of māfana that will resonate from the performer.

‘ofa atu Hema


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