Coronation of the New King of Tonga

Posted by on Aug 7, 2008 in The Mind of Makaira | 0 comments

Coronation of the New King of TongaAloha!

I don’t know if you heard, but the Isle of Tonga crowned a new King late last week. And just how did they celebrate the new King’s coronation but with a kava ceremony! I watched the ceremony on television, which was a big deal down here in the South Pacific.

They presented the new King with gifts as he arrived at the kava circle and when the ceremony began, they mixed the kava and followed that with chanting and more gifts, then they passed around the bowls of kava to all the dignitaries present. The entire ceremony took about two hours, and is regarded by many to be the most sacred of all the ceremonies during the King’s week long coronation.

Bells were ringing and then they shot off cannons, sent balloons up high into the air and there were choruses of children singing and crowds cheering. It was truly lovely! King George Tupou V is Tonga’s 23rd monarch and the final ceremony was a British-styled church ceremony, before a congregation of 1,000 that included Tongan, British, Japanese and Thai royalty, as well as South Pacific chiefs and heads of state.

So exciting!

King George Tupou V is a 60-year-old bachelor – and I said to myself – hmmmm – just how does one go about meeting this King bachelor? Haha! He was dressed in a deep red velvet and ermine trimmed robe, and sat on an eight-foot high gilded throne specially made just for him in China. Then a massed choir sang Handel’s coronation anthem, Zadok The Priest.

Here are a few excerpts from various news articles I read on the King of Tonga’s coronation ceremonies.

From the Fiji Daily Post‘s Tonga Diary:

“The taumafa kava began in earnest. Now it was down to the serious end of speeches presenting gifts, speeches counting off the gifts and speeches of thanks – all within the nobles circle. First it was aimed at the kava plants, and then directed to the whole pork and baskets of food. The speeches are given in call-and-response form: one voice calls out a question or makes a statement, which is then responded to by someone else.

After the initial choreograph, some of the ‘working group’ was dispatched from the nest of men sitting facing the king behind the tanoa to bring the chosen kava plant back to the pounding and mixing party for what is called the milolua. It was thrilling to watch the ritualized movements of the three lose responding to the calls to break up the plant stems, rip it apart and lay it aside ready for the root-splitting ritual. A root splitter came forward and in wonderfully choreographed movements raised his wooden spear and thrust it into the (waka) clump. As each part fell away he would raise his spear again and majestically repeat the ritual.

The chosen roots were then provided to the three lose – Vakautapola Vi, Princess Latufuipeka, and Sositeni Sefesi – who with synchronized ancient movements raised their stones to pound it to the sinewy pulp that is to be strained through water to form the kava. Seven strands of fresh fibre were used by each lose to mix the pulp. Each strand was handed over to the lose accompanied by a call from Siulangapo ‘Ahio. As its use expired, each lose would toss the strands behind them, high in the air.

Before the kava was served, members of the royal family came to the front of the nobles circle and distributed token portions of the food gifts (fono) in a semi-circle in front of the seated nobles. A young princess then led them around bending low and touching each small portion before it was taken up and put into baskets.

At the conclusion of this interlude, the king was served his coronating cup of kava. Applause broke out spontaneously it seemed. This was moment we had waited for. The cup emptied of its brew in a single effortless swill symbolized the king was now king. The honor was sealed. The reciprocating tributes of the nobles was all that was needed to literally complete the circle of allegiance. As with the sacramental Christian cup binding each imbiber to their Lord, so the kava cup served to make the king and his people (as represented by their nobles), one.

The ritual then took its face of a slow orderly drinking of the cup of kava by the assembled circle of nobles. This hour-long chapter in the ritual called for quiet patience by onlookers as one caller sitting by the tanoa announced the kava was ready, and another, the responder called out the name of the chief that it was to go to for drinking. A small team of cup-bearers was dispatched in sequential order of rank to locate the noble in the circle and give him his cupful.

As it came to an end, our attention then turned to the king who stirred from his solemn Buddha-like stillness and eventually rose to leave. While he was led away by his Fijian guard, the crowd assembled in the Pangai cheered and applauded.”

And from AFP:

“Tonga’s king was presented with dozens of pigs, hundreds of food baskets and other gifts during a traditional ceremony Wednesday to recognise his anointing as head of the tiny South Pacific nation.

The event in the capital for King Siaosi Tupou V was held nearly two years after the death of his father, the former king, and ahead of a lavish and official Western-style coronation on Friday.

More than 200 of the country’s nobles and chiefs, from the nation’s four main island groups, gathered to pay tribute to the king, formerly a controversial businessman with a reputation as an eccentric bachelor.”

It’s Makaira here, and I apologize for interrupting the story, but I think this eccentric bachelor King is someone who I need to meet!!!

Okay, back to the story from AFP:

“Siaosi sat alone on a raised platform in a grassy field near the royal palace surrounded by the chiefs, dressed in white with woven flax ta’ovala mats around their waists, for a kava drinking ritual.

The king, whose title dates back to the 17th century, was offered the first bowl of kava, a mildly narcotic drink made from pounded plant roots, to recognize he is first among Tongans.

One of the king’s talking chiefs — who speaks on his behalf at formal occasions — said later the ceremony was central to the culture of a country which unlike its Polynesian neighbors had never been formally colonized.

‘This is our traditional ceremony for the coronation, the Western coronation is much more recent,’ Ma’u Kakala told AFP.

‘I’m so proud to have taken part. Everyone here in this field took part to celebrate our own culture.’

I am so proud of kava being such an integral part of this auspicious occasion and I still want to meet this new eccentric bachelor King!!!

Aloha no,

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