Princess Diaries IX: Laukau’aki
When you look up the word pride, you will find different translations in the Tongan – English Dictionary. One translation that stands out to me is laukau’aki. I feel warmth in my heart because of all the memories and weight laukau’aki holds for me. Ever since I was a child, I remember hearing chiefs, talking chiefs (matāpule) and others use the word laukau’aki in speeches or sermons. The context which I witnessed it being used, such as, when a matāpule representing a noble thanks another High Chief’s matāpule, adds weight and soul to the word laukau’aki. Laukau’aki is the humblest expression; it is the essence of what it is to be Tongan.
The traditional Tongan way to do anything is to first create a foundation for one to build upon. This applies to the way one expresses pride. Humility is one of the four golden core values which Tongan society is built upon and finds grounds to express pride. It is a method of expression that is slowly disappearing amongst Tongans. Without it, people lose grip of what it is to be truly Tongan.
So much of what traditionally motivated Tongans is felt in the heart instead of just being an idea of pride in one’s head. Askew sense of pride more Tongans are expressing is called lotopōlepole. Pōlepole means to boast and loto means inside your heart. Therefore, lotopōlepole translates to boasting heart.
A strong traditional belief amongst Tongans is if one is worthy of praise then others will praise you. If you have to praise yourself or talk others into praising you, then you have no grounds on which to be praised. This is shown in how important one’s kainga (village and extended family) can give more power. In today’s society, kainga is not limited to a village or extended family, it includes the people’s hearts you’ve won. The way we were taught to achieve this was by being humble, strong and kind. When I’d observe my parents and their parents interaction with people, I noticed how they would make everyone feel as though they were a part of the family and took genuine interest in their lives, na’a nau laukau’aki honau kainga – they were proud of their kainga. In return, the kainga felt the same way about them.
Ideally, the desired goal for inspiring pride within people is to encourage a sense of unity. Unity in the Tongan language is lototaha, which means to have one heart, therefore, in many cases, to work together and have the same objective. The manner people wish to accomplish an objective is as important as achieving one’s goal. The best example, people were lototaha during the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC) as Tongans around the world came together to support our national team, the ‘Ikale Tahi. To the ‘Ikale Tahi, every Tongan became their kainga and the pride everyone felt resonated around the world. Tonga made its presence known to every country that participated in the 2011 RWC.
In contrast, the pride that unites us is the boasting that divides us; lotopōlepole, also, means to defame someone so that you or another person is exalted. Lotopolepole weakens us and takes us several steps back from where we should be. The Tongan word for pride, laukau’aki, is used in appreciation; you are humble and grateful for being part of something great. Although I encounter great change with the attitude of so many Tongans, I still believe we can alter perceptions or at least show the next generation there is a different way of expressing one’s pride like our forefathers did. The elders have a saying when they hear of Tongans gloating and publicly defaming people, “na’e fe’ofo’ofani pe hotau fanga kui,” meaning our ancestors only had love for each other.
Our forefathers understood we have no one to help and look out for one another but each other because the traditional core values led their means of expressing pride. Some of my most cherished memories are of watching our late grandfather Tupou IV talk to great Pacific Island leaders, such as, his late Highness Susuga Malitetoa Tanumafili II, the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangi Kahu or the late Ratu Sir Kamasese Mara of Fjij. My sisters and cousins and I would be given the task of sitting on the floor at their beck and call while they talked and I remember listening to them speak with the utmost courtesy and humility. The only praise I would hear was when one would compliment the other; each had confidence in their knowledge of culture, as well as, Christian faith. All had every reason to boast and brag but never did; they were experts at culture and history. If such esteemed and beloved leaders of the Pacific were like this then why can’t other people?
I feel proud to be Tongan. I am proud of my people and what we have accomplished when we work together towards things that will benefit everyone. ‘Oku ou laukau’aki hoku fonua – I am proud of my country. And this motivates me to do what I can so people have one more thing to be proud of.
Article Written By: Hon. Frederica Tuita