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6 THE ART OF SYMMETRICAL SOCIOSPATIAL RELATIONS THERE ARE MULTIPLE EXAMPLES of tauhi vā in the daily interactions of Tongans on Maui,most notable in fai fatongia (performance of social duties), fai‘aho (birthday celebrations), faimali (weddings), faiputu (funerals), failotu (prayer vigils), and faikava (kava drinking gatherings).1 Interestingly, these cultural events are linguistically marked with the Tongan prefix fai, which is a form of tā (marking time). In a tempospatial sense, fai means to perform or to engage by intersecting acts in time and space (vā).2 For example, a fai‘aho, in a tempospatial sense, is the intersection (mutual engagement) of people (tā) and things in space (vā) to commemorate a birthday. If the intersection is symmetrical, it produces harmonious and beautiful social spaces (vālelei). Conversely, if the intersection is asymmetrical, it produces dissonance and disharmonious social spaces (vātamaki). VAHE (SHARING FOOD) One evening,after our church’s choir practice,I noticed Sione ‘Anitema waving from across the room.I went over,and he told me to drive my car to the back of the church.To my surprise,he had three large kahokaho yams for me.I carefully loaded the yams into my trunk,thanked Sione,and drove home feeling honored to receive these three large kahokaho yams. The Art of Symmetrical Sociospatial Relations  91 On Maui, vahe (the practice of sharing resources with others) is one of the most visible forms of tauhi vā.3 Although there are various forms of vahe on Maui, the most common is the practice of sharing food with others. In terms of food, vahe means to divide food into portions and to share the portions with others.4 Dividing and sharing food,whether on Maui or in Tonga,is an integral part of tauhi vā. Leslie noted that, among Tongans in Kauvai, Hā‘ano (Ha‘apai, Tonga), “food is used as a medium of exchange, to maintain good social relations (tauhivaha‘a)” (2002, 229). Furthermore, individuals share food to ensure that they stay vālelei (on good terms) with each other (Leslie 2002, 299).5 On Maui, kāinga (relatives), friends, and kāingalotu (church members) divide and share their food with one another. Sharing food is an important fatongia (social responsibility). The Tongan adage “femolimoli‘i ka tau ‘inasi” (divide food into small portions so that we can all have a share) highlights this fatongia.6 The act of femolimoli‘i (dividing food into small portions and sharing it) is a harmonious and beautiful social pattern (kupesi).The mutual sharing of small but equal portions of food produces a beautiful kupesi. The cultural value of sharing food probably emerged during the time of the early Moanan long-distance voyaging. Sharing of food during long-distance voyaging created vālelei and increased the chance of survival for the voyagers (Māhina 1999a). Sāmiuela Fifitaniua, a Tongan elder on Maui, defined tauhi vaha‘a as the sharing of resources.Tongans, according to Fifitaniua, are a tauhi vaha‘a people: “Tauhi vaha‘a means that things you have, you share it with others . Things that are good, you share it. If you know something that is good, let others know about it. We should practice tauhi vaha‘a with all people, not just our immediate family”(personal communication, August 12, 2004). Tauhi vaha‘a, according to Fifitaniua, involves sharing goods with all people , not just one’s nuclear family. On Maui, the sharing of resources is evident in the distribution of the highly valued kahokaho yams (see chapter 5). Every year,Sione harvests his kahokaho yams and distributes them to members of his kāingalotu.7 For Sione, sharing his kahokaho yams is part of performing his fatongia to his kāingalotu. As stated in chapter 5, kahokaho yams are in high demand among Tongans on Maui (see figure 21). Kahokaho yams are not only the favorite food for daily meals,but more importantly,they are a high-status food.On Maui,they are the preferred food at Tongan feasts—birthdays, graduation celebrations, weddings, and funerals. They bring status to the family that is serving them. Although Tongans plant kahokaho on Maui, the yearly harvest falls short of the demand. 92 chapter 6 Yam planters like Sione have to divide their kahokaho yams into small portions so that all of their kāinga can have a share (“femolimoli‘i katau ‘inasi”). On Maui, femolimoli‘i gives rise to social forms of mālie, such as vālelei and lavengam...


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