Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Tongan Tradition: the funeral

Hymn 114:  I wander through the still of night, When solitude is everywhere—Alone, beneath the starry light, And yet I know that God is there. I kneel upon the grass and pray; An answer comes without a voice. It takes my burden all away And makes my aching heart rejoice. –Theodore E. Curtis

Malo aupito  to Sister Teni, a wonderful sister missionary and friend, for sharing some of these tender pictures with us.  She helped Maama and her family through a difficult time.  Death in Tonga is a communal affair and funerals are usually large, involved and expensive.  Because there is no embalming done here, the body is frozen until the deceased person is prepared for a viewing in the home and burial.tongatimes 008Various congregations (Latter-Day Saints,Wesleyans, Free Tongans, Catholics, etc.) come  and go to pray, sing and mourn continually throughout the evening. Wailing occurs as a release of feelings.   Tents and small lights are erected for the mourners who will sit on woven mats throughout the  night until just before the funeral in the morning.  They will present gifts of tapa, woven mats, cloth, a pig, etc. to the eldest member of the family.   In turn, the family must provide plenty of food for the mourners which is a hardship. Tongans wear black when they are in mourning and close relatives wear large woven mats for three days.  Funeral attire 018Wesleyan congregation singing at a wake:Wesleyan Members of Congregation at a Wake President Makemaile and President Shumway bring comfort through scriptures, prayer, and song:The Weslayan Wake--Pres. & Sister McMurray (Makelmeli) Pres. Shumway With some of you we have shared the sweet story of Maama and her testimony translated and written by President Shumway.  This lovely young sister passed away recently after suffering for so many years with “Weber” disease in which her leg grew abnormally large.  We share some pictures of Tongan funerals with love for her and her family:  tongatimes 010Eli, Maama’s husband,  mourns the passing of Maama as he comforts their son:009 The body is then taken to the burial place early the next morning in a car or truck decorated with tapa cloth or woven mats.    tongatimes 013tongatimes 014After the funeral the gifts are redistributed back to the people.  The family usually ends up giving more than they have.tongatimes 015tongatimes 016The body will be wrapped in tapa cloth and banana leaves for the funeral and buried in a family plot; a mat is held up as a screen for the burial.tongatimes 018Sister Vuki, President & Sister Shumway, Sister Teni and family pause after  Maama’s burial.tongatimes 019Quilts are placed at the grave of the family members and left for display.  When a quilt wears out, the family will replace it with a new one.quilt 078 077 103 To honor the passing of a Noble in the Kingdom of Tonga, purple and black cloth is draped on the homes and fences of his village: 124 The new noble of Houma is appointed by the king.  He lives here in Hoema where his father did before he passed away in June.135  This is the noble’s burial site in the village of Houma.  136  How sublime are the priceless gifts of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ wherein we may know that we can be reunited eternally with our loved ones in the world to come. Looking towards Eua078

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Potter's Clay: Shaping

A grandson of ours loves to work with clay.  He finds it's not easy to mold and form it into his desired shape, however.  It takes practice, practice, practice and long hours of work and patience.  Each of us is like a piece of clay with the potential to be molded and shaped into a beautiful and useful vessel.   However, sometimes flaws or errors appear that must be repaired or when the clay is placed in the fiery furnace of the potter's kiln it will break or crumble.

We do not reach our full potential until we have been through the fiery heat of the potter's kiln--the trials in our lives.  Then as we truly repent and center our lives in Christ, through the power of the atonement  we will come forth from the fire transformed into an eternal being of beauty.  

Dr. Viliami Toluta'u is a renowned sculptor and artist from BYU-Hawaii.  He spoke to the Havelu Middle School students during the Ministry of Education Exposition for Tonga about the importance of using their hands, their eyes, and their minds to create and perfect  a beautiful piece of art:Perfect your Eyes, Hands, MindViliami's clay sculpture of a javelin thrower:Sculpture  Javelin throwerNia, the principal of Havelu Middle School, brought her students to the expo to help them appreciate their heritage.  This tapa cloth 3-dimensional art is displayed in a doorframe.Lavenia and piece of 3-D artwork in door frame

These women are making tapa cloth for clothing.  The bark is stripped from the mulberry tree, soaked in water and dried before the beating process begins and then pounded with a wooden beater on a wooden log.  We can often hear the soothing rhythmic beating throughout the island. Tapa cloth Making tapa cloth for dressesTapa cloth is dried before being made into beautiful clothes:tapa drying on the lineLiahona students design and complete their own lovely  tapa cloth dresses:Home-ec girls wearing their tapa cloth designsWorks in Progress from Old Tonga:  President Fehoko is well-known throughout the South Pacific for his beautiful wood carvings.  His finished pieces are works of integrity and beauty.  In the village of Popua he has developed and built  Old Tonga as a project in family self-reliance and to preserve Tongan heritage and traditions of the island.  President Fehoko is the fisherman who took President Monson out in a boat to demonstrate the octopus story.  (See earlier blog.)  This will one day be a finely carved chair.035  039 046 004 President Fehoko explains his wood carvings to the students. Note the fluid movement of the larger fish to catch the smaller fish (top right).009 A carved Kava bowl: Kava Bowl A kali is a Tongan wooden pillow:Kali wooden pillow Finely woven purses from coconuts leaves and other natural materials grown on the islands: 037039 Three-dimensional tapa cloth art:Tapa cloth artworkTurtle carvings048                                       Artist’s creation of a tapa cloth dancing costume:  043                                     Tapa cloth is highly valued by the Tongan community.Tapa Cloth“O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand”  (Isa. 64:8)  010