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


Lau Ā faka-Tonga faka Kilisimasi’

ʻOfa ke mou maʻu ha Kilisimasi fiefia mo homou siʻi ngaahi fāmili. Ko e kiʻi meʻaʻofa eni maʻamoutolu kau mātua’ ke kau aipē ki he teuteuʻi kilisimasi homou loto fale.

ʻOfa atu mei he sino ni ki he sino na.

Christmas greetings and a gift from me to you. Feel free to print and add to your Season decorations at home. I believe Our children can not be what they can not see. The more normal it is to be surrounded by our language at every occassion our children will gravitate towards it.

ʻOfa atu Hema

GAME: Sai ke tau ‘ilo

Game Saiketauilo.png

An important feature about our Tongan culture is our value of Tauhi vā (keeping our relations close).  However as our extended families grow and move further away it does get harder to keep in touch. It is important to take advantage of the times that families do get together to bond and keep those family ties strong. So here is a great game to connect reminisce and laugh and will defintely bring all generations closer by sharing stories.

We gathered for Fathers day and played this last night and there was plenty of laughter and emotional tears at times reminiscing of loved ones not here. And the best part of it all was the younger generation who were glued to their seats listening to all the stories rather than in their rooms on the devices. So when you have a captive audience take advantage of it and tell them all the stories of life in Tonga, explain cultural concepts behind the stories you share.

The saying “sai ke tau ʻilo” is a typical saying you will hear often meaning ʻgood to know’ often said in a somewhat sarcastic way.


  1. Gather the family around.
  2. You have to share a story that perhaps no one knows or only a few people know of. It can be of your childhood, a memory of your parents, grandparents. Memories of life in Tonga. A story of a current or past life challenge and how you overcame it.
  3. If a quarter of the family eg 3 people already know the story they will call out “sai ke tau ʻilo” then you must share another story.
  4. Good for you to start off the game to show the others how it is played.
  5. Ensure that everyone shares a story big or small. May take a few rounds for the quiet ones to share but thats ok.
  6. Taimi vaʻinga ē (Time to play!)

Open Day Bazaar

Mālō e lelei kaunga ako, siʻotoʻofa!

Hello fellow learners! I am always thinking of how i can engage my young learners not only to ignite in them a love of learning for our language but also give them an authentic learning experience.

This school term we are learning about clothes and Tongan clothes in particular tupenu, sote aloha, puletaha. I promised my students they would run a store somehow at the end of term and i am so excited our class will be hosting a Tongan clothes swap. This is a great idea given all the Tongan vala that we have lying around. Why not swap it pass it on to someone else to enjoy.

Tongan superhero in training


For a tiny nation we have so much to be proud of. Pita Lolo carried our flag proudly at Rio Olympic Games in 2016 and this year we are cheering as Mate Maʻa Tonga play to victory #RLWC2017.

When I consider how a tiny nation continues to accomplish despite its size, I am reminded of these two quotes.

“Ko Tonga moʻunga ki he loto” – Tongan Proverb

The first is a proverb meaning Tonga’s strength-hold is its heart. Moʻunga means mountain and Tonga is not known for mountains yet we have a courageous spirit that when faced with a mountain and the challenges that it brings we do not shy away.

“We should not be defined by the smallness of our islands, but by the greatness of our oceans. We are the sea, we are the ocean. Oceania is us”. – Epeli Hauʻofa

The second is a quote by author Epeli Hauʻofa. We Tongans DO NOT define ourselves by the size of our small islands. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we have never been colonized, but we Tongans define ourselves more by the vastness of what was once the Tongan maritime empire.

For my children and the younger students that I teach the Tongan language to, I like to put things simply that they can understand and relate to. “You come from a line of warriors, You are a superhero in training!”

Your superpower is your language. Your superpower is your culture. “Ko Tonga moʻunga ki he loto”. Always remember who you are and the faith and prayers of your family and ancestors. Take the time to learn as much as you can of your culture and language. Embrace your superpower. Use it for good!

Tuʻa ʻofa ʻeiki atu Hema

Lea ʻoe Uike: Siʻoto ʻofa

Koe lea ʻoe Uike’. The word of the week!

Greetings, our learning journey for this new year begins with a word of the week or more like my favourite word or a new word that iʻve come across. 

It is a Tongan greeting which you donʻt often hear as the more popular greeting of mālō e lelei. If you grew up in Tonga then you are probably familiar with the word but for most of us raised outside the kingdom this will interest you.

As with all new words you learn, you quickly become aware of the word around you. And the more i come across it, the more i love it. 

Reading one of the Maui legends in Tongan, Maui greets a lady on one of his epic journies with Siʻoto ʻofa fefine! Greetings Lady!

In the Tongan bible Angel Gabriel comes to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:28) “the angel went to her and said siʻoto ʻofa you who are higly favoured, the lord is with you.” Note there is no mālō e lelei!.

Then on a recent post on facebook i noticed the same greeting on my grandfathers grave. The translation being ‘Dear greetings to you Rev. S Lemoto Tongilava beloved father’.

This greeting has now become a favourite of mine. It just seems more poetic than mālō e lelei so i will be using it more often.

Happy Learning, Tuʻa ʻofa atu Hema 👋🏽

Tapa wedding dresses to admire

For as long as I can remember I wanted a Tapa wedding dress for my wedding and 12 years ago I did just that when it wasn’t in vogue. It is so nice to see the creativity and popularity grow. Hope you enjoy my little tribute to the wonderful creations. If you’re a bride-to-be, may it inspire you.

Five things/ vocabulary to know about Tapa.

  1. Tapa is cloth made from the bark of the mulberry tree.
  2. Feta’aki is the white cloth before any dye or design (kupesi) is put on to make it the final product called a ngatu.
  3. Ngatu ‘uli (plain all black-coloured) is the chiefly of all types of ngatu.
  4. Koka’anga is the term for the making of the Tapa.
  5. Fale koka’anga is where traditional learning and knowledge is shared for all the women.
  6. When a ngatu presentation is done you will hear the Matapule say “Fakafetaʻi e koka’anga” (Thank you for your Tapa presentation).

Like and Comment which one is your favourite.

Tu’a ‘ofa atu Hema.


Know your Tongan: ki (v) kia

Here is the first of our Thursday Grammar. Do you know the difference between the two words “ki” and “kia”?  Both mean the same English preposition word “to”.

Thurs grammar

Read carefully the information above and fill in the blanks.

Is it “ki” or “kia”?

  1. ‘Ave _____ Sione. Give it to John.
  2. Na’a’ ke lea _____ Mele? Did you talk to Mary?
  3. ‘Alu ____ he falekoloa’ Go to the shop.
  4. Na’a’ ke falala _____ Tomasi? Did you trust Thomas?
  5. Foki ____ ‘api. Return home.
  6. Sio  ____ he faiako’. Look at the teacher.

Hope this helps you. Leave a comment and share with those who do not know the difference.

Tu’a ‘ofa atu Hema

2015 a year of learning

At this time of year I like to remind myself and all the entire Tongan Language School of how much they have achieved in 2015. So I created this video. Kids always love to see themselves in videos. I then challenged my family to write down their new goals. Amongst our new family goals is to speak more in Tongan. To consciously catch ourselves when we speak in English. To make more opportunities to use our language. What one Tongan word will describe 2016 for you? Will it be ako (learn, learning). For me it will be the word “va’inga” (play). To be more playful, to incorporate more play-based learning into my lessons. 2016 will be a year to play.

‘Ofa ke mou ma’u ha ta’u fo’ou fiefia.

Tu’a ‘ofa atu Hema

How to love your long Tongan name


Tangaki Taulupe Faletau

Do you or your child have a long Tongan name? Chances are most pālangi people can not pronounce it. Am i right? Like Taulupe, you are probably using a nickname or prefer your pālangi name over your Tongan name. It’s James not Semisi. 

When asked her name, a young student said her pālangi name until the teacher found out her name was Vaʻelaveamata and insisted on using her Tongan name. Who would name their child (foot injured face/eyes) which is the literal meaning. I wondered wether she knew the origin of her name? She was a beautiful girl who became the wife of the Tu’i Tonga back in 1450. Her name was Va’e (foot) but when the Tu’i Tonga saw her he was so blinded to the point of injury by her beauty that she became known as Va’elaveamata

Here are my tips in teaching kids at a young age to love their name. 

  1. Know the Story behind the name.
  2. Share the story. Keep reminding them what an awesome name they have. Share stories of their namesake.
  3. Make sure teachers/ friends can pronounce their name correctly. It isnʻt that hard teachers ʻread it how you see it, phonetically. 

Mālō Tuʻa ʻofa atu