If you walk in to almost any falekoloa Siaina, inside you’ll find ‘u ta’ovala and ‘u kafa on display, ready for sale. The only thing is, these items that may resemble our traditional garments, are in fact not what they may look like. They are imitations, “Made in China” and some of us Tongan’s are buying them, worse, wearing them as our “national attire.”
“It’s cheaper” says Sesimani, Teacher.
“It looks like the real one anyway” says Lupe, Business Owner
“I just got it because it was easy.” admits Sione, Reporter
Here, in conversation with these three individuals, is the validation that it is OK that not even the hands of a foreigner but their machinery weave a symbol of our Tongan traditions because for them convenience holds priority over preserving the essence of who we are as a people. It’s a sad thing to witness, some of us carelessly supporting the robbery of what was only ever meant for the hands of our Tongan women.
Some of us being the very leaders of our country. The Deputy Prime Minister among many has been seen fashioning these Chinese made imitations while proudly wearing a tupenu with a bold print saying “Mate Ma’a Tonga”. The individuals who lead this nation displaying perhaps what the reality is for our future – China is already weaving the fabric that makes up Tongan society.
As the youth of this nation, it is up to us to decide whether this will just be a fashion trend, which will have its end, alternatively we can just give in.
Handing over our traditions may seem like the easier option, especially when remittances are coming in as if this way of living is the “Tongan dream”. With a Prime Minister that insists the solution to our debts is to ask for “forgiveness” as if our ancestors did not teach us that hard and honest work is in the very core of who we are as Tongans. Let us ask ourselves, do we really want to Mata Ma’a Siaina?
Even those prancing around wearing their imitations of a ta’ovala and/or kafa I’m certain would say, NO. We’re the proudest nation there is and there is no country that unites like we do, especially in times of need. Our Mate Ma’a Tonga matches are a testament to that. Tonga, we are in need now. Something that may seem as trivial as what we wear can be a very telling detail, particularly when it comes to traditional garments. With a future guaranteed to be in crisis, with our debts, there has never been a more important time than now, to unite, to work – hard, and fight for the Kingdom and traditions that we all say we would die for. Let us make the right decisions that our past, present and future will be proud of and start weaving our own future.
Mate Ma’a Tonga!