Aspersions of Agency: Tevolo, Love and Sickness in Vava'u, Tonga

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Aspersions of Agency T!volo, Love and Sickness in Vava’u, Tonga

Michael Poltorak


Š M. S. Poltorak 2004

Printed by XPS, Brighton Book and Cover design by the author. Cover photo- Nonga, a.v.i, (of the wind or sea) calm, still, tranquil; (of persons or the mind, etc.) calm, tranquil, peaceful, contented. People enjoying a break during the festivities of a church inauguration in Ofu. The main island of Vava’u is in the distance.



Sina & Emeline



TABLE OF CONTENTS Preface……….6 Abstract ……...8 Illustrations……....9 Case studies……….10 Foreword and Acknowledgements……....12 Introduction. T!volo: An epistemological dilemma, ethnographic deficit and pragmatic necessity ………………....18 Glossary……....38 A note on transcription and translation………49 1 Vava’u: an introduction ……..…52 2 Being and speaking ………..68 3 T!volo and Agency, Tapu mo koe……....100 4 Healers: Speak of the 't!volo'……....117 5 '"vanga: Why pathologise interaction with a t!volo? …………149 6 Living and dead t!volo: Faking and false attribution……....178 7 Help, healers and the hospital……….202 8 Notions and attribution of efficacy…………..229 9 Eccentricity, explanation and stigma……….253 10 Laumea 'a e ta'u: Avoiding psychiatric interpretation……....281 11 From t!volo to mental illness and back: some concluding comments……....306 4

Appendix……....317 Bibliography……....318 Author index………….337 Executive Summary………340


PREFACE Aspersion (n). a charge that tarnishes the reputation; a calumny, slander, false insinuation. Agency (n). the faculty of acting or of exerting power; action or instrumentality embodied or personified as concrete existence. This medical ethnography focuses on t!volo (inadequately glossed as ghost, spirit or devil) to address the problematic and sensitive issue of mental illness in Vava’u, Tonga. It aims to establish a space for positive and productive discussion between sufferers, their families, anthropological and local researchers, healers and doctors, and health policy makers dealing with Tongans and the Tongan diaspora. Writing to engage such specific and variously informed audiences in an empirically and ethnographically sensitive way has meant using some literatures and skirting others. Tongan translations for the term ‘mental illness’ are neither value free nor widely used in Vava’u. Local healers and families prefer to use terms and explanations that are nonstigmatising and concur with their expertise and experience. I have, therefore, for the purposes of creating common ground, relied on anthropological, local and medical literatures that are informed by research on Tonga, illuminate local concerns and issues or help frame the rationale for this ethnography. An author index lists those researchers and writers with whom I enter into most direct conversation in this ethnography. Health policy makers in Tonga, New Zealand, Australia and the United States are experiencing similar concerns with rates of mental illness and the provision of psychiatric services. However, they lack ethnographic data on the prevalence of 'traditional' healing and Tongan ways of dealing with and treating mental illness. This ethnography addresses this deficit through revealing the diversity and syncretism of traditional Tongan healing practice and ideas about ‘mental illness’ in Vava’u. Sufferers’ and healers’ concerns influenced the choice of t!volo the central theme of this ethnography and the use of a Tongan concept and value to both analyse local interpretation and contextualise that analysis. 6

Extended case studies show how the diagnoses of, and the interaction or lack of interaction between, doctors and healers have ramifications and influences on the lives of sufferers and their families. They serve as a focus for discussion of important issues of public health provision and also encourage appreciation of the respective concerns and dilemmas of healers, doctors and psychiatrists. This publication is an adapted version of the thesis ‘Aspersions of Agency: Ghosts, love and sickness in Tonga’ which was submitted in partial fulfilment for the degree of PhD in Medical Anthropology at University College London, London in March 2002. It was funded by the ESRC under the original title ‘Healing, Self-Identity and Social Change in Tonga’. The collaborative and consultative project, of which distribution and discussion of this publication is a part, is funded by an ESRC Postdoctoral Award based at Brunel University, London. It aims to involve all the above groups in the dissemination, framing and planning of future research and publication. Michael Poltorak August 2004 Department of Human Sciences Brunel University Uxbridge Middlesex UB8 3PH United Kingdom

Contact details: 60 Clyde Road Brighton United Kingdom BN1 4NP Email:


ABSTRACT This medical ethnography examines the phenomenon of t!volo in the South Pacific island group of Vava'u, Tonga. The term t!volo, inadequately glossed as ghost, spirit, devil or demon, seems to have originated in early missionary attempts to demonise various pre-Christian practices and deities. The essential physicality, presence and indistinguishability with living humans that are attributed to t!volo are fundamental in appreciating how they cause sickness (including 'mental illness'). The metaphorical association of t!volo with a local idea of agency are evident in the occasionally deceptive, humorous and ambiguous ways the actions of t!volo explain mysterious and potentially embarrassing events. Drawing on the popularity and contentiousness of t!volo as a topic of conversation and storytelling, as well as its resistance to precise identification ensures that the ethnography pays attention to the process of coming to knowledge and intersubjectivity. This ethnography thus addresses fundamental concerns in the production of anthropological knowledge in the Pacific following a critical pacific literature which problematises the translation of local concepts and draws attention to the political and positioned nature of representation. This ethnography fulfils a need for ethnography that is accessible to local audiences, reflects local concerns and contextualises anthropological practice. The epistemological dilemma implicit in the process of identification is resolved by dint of rendering analytical the concept of tauhi vaha'a, a Tongan idea that expresses the evocation and attenuation of relatedness. By prioritising the inextricability of the act of speaking (or writing) and tauhi vaha'a the ethnography engages with a Tongan idea of knowledge. The ethnography strikes a balance between Abu Lughod's idea of an 'ethnography of the particular' through focus on incidences of sickness, descriptions of particular people, conversations and events, and general issues of more ethnographic, medical anthropological and public health interest. Through a regional focus on Vava'u, as distinct from the rest of the Tongan archipelago, and a Vava'uan notion of personhood, it addresses previous over-structural and homogenising characterisations of Tongan sociality. Answering the call for research into the practice and efficacy of local healers, collaboration with health professionals and prioritising local literature makes the ethnography relevant to health policy.


ILLUSTRATIONS Figure 1 Map of the Tongan Archipelago………..50 Figure 2 Map of Vava'u……..…51 Figure 3 Psychiatric Admissions of Ngu Hospital (Neiafu, Vava'u) since 1975………………289






Lupe—A middle aged woman with high blood pressure diagnosed by two different healers, with two different diagnoses (‘nerves’ and t!volo caused).



Iloilo—a young woman’s interaction with a famous t!volo when she was about 16 or 17.



Hiva—a young woman recounts an episode with a t!volo some ten years before.



Kami—a relative of Hiva recounts a serious episode with a t!volo that happened nine years before.



Longo—the case of a teenage boy affected by several t!volo from Nuku’alofa.



Paongo & Lose—two girls treated for feitama fakatevolo (t!volo caused pregnancy) by the same healer with different results.



Maiepuho-an ambiguous case of t!volo caused malaise.



Sisipipine—a woman treated for t!volo interaction despite denying any involvement with t!volo.



Toutouofa (a young married woman with facial swelling), Pouanga (an elderly man who had recently suffered a stroke) & Lalao (a middle aged man experiencing pain in the lower abdomen). Three people treated concurrently by the same healer and at the hospital.



Katea—a case of tali mate (to await or expect ‘death’) of a man with suspected TB or ascites.

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Ahio—stories and commentary about this famous Vava’uan eccentric.



Evaipomana—stories and commentary about this reclusive Vava’uan eccentric.



Salipoto—commentary about an older eccentric whose behaviour is attributed to his great intelligence.



Tukufolau—a serious case of constant ‘mental’ sickness.



Taisia—a case of laumea ‘a e ta’u (‘periodic eccentricity’) also treated at the hospital.



Mana—a celebrated local case of ‘mental illness’ cured by the intervention of her church.



FOREWORD AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS These acknowledgements are a social map, in space and time, of my changing relationships and associations in Tonga, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Hawai’i and London. The acquisition of knowledge in Tonga follows fundamentally from the process of knowing people. Thus, the knowledge I represent in this ethnography is, to a large extent, reflective of conversations and interaction with the people I acknowledge here. I could not have carried out the research without the love, help and attention of the people I thank below. These acknowledgements are the fakam#l$ (vote of thanks) that I was unable to deliver while in Tonga, for it is unlikely that all the people mentioned here would ever be in the same place at the same time. As is traditional, I thank the Government of His Majesty King T!ufa'!hau Tupou IV for granting me permission to carry out research in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. This ethnography is dedicated to Sina Fetuani, a healer, mother, friend and person of exceptional courage, dedication and 'ofa (love), much loved in Vava'u, who passed away a year after I returned to London. My first contact with Tonga was through the staff of the Tongan High Commission in London in 1998. Kaimana Aleamotu'a kindly offered to supervise my first attempts to learn Tongan. I thank the current staff for all their assistance and for continuing to invite me to Tongan functions in London. Nina Etkin, Art Whistler and Geoffrey White gave me invaluable advice during visits to Hawai’i on the way to Tonga and back. Mapa Puloka was unfailing in his attention and explanation at the psychiatric ward in Vaiola hospital during the six months I spent in Nuku’alofa from the end of April 1998. Pauline Lolohea and Mele Palu Lasalo showed great kindness and invited me to many functions. My fluency in Tongan is due, in large part, to the solid grounding given to me by Elenoa, a Tongan language teacher at the Peace Corps. I had the pleasure of many visits to Atenisi University and the inspirational concerts of AFPA, Atenisi Foundation of the Performing Arts. I thank Futa Helu for his hospitality and pointing out questions of intellectual property on our first meeting. I am extremely grateful to 'Okusitino Mahina and Leo Hopanoa, for encouragement 12

and drawing my attention to local issues, most particularly the wondrous idiosyncrasy of Leimatu'a. I thank Ana for her comments and letters in three languages. Sela, Atolo, Tenisi, Maria and Lani showed great hospitality in their guesthouse where I stayed whenever I was in Tongatapu. I thank also Siosi Bloomfield, Caroline Fusimalohi and Pesi Fonua for many illuminating conversations. Ela Kedar gave me the confidence that I could attain his level of mastery in the Tongan language and humour. A month long working holiday allowed me to carry out research in the library of USP in Suva as well as visiting some of the islands of the Yasawa group to the west of Fiji. I thank Epeli Hau'ofa, Konai Helu Thaman, Randy Thaman, Tracey McIntosh and Michael Monsell-Davis for their time and advice. I arrived in Vava'u in a small Cessna on September 9th 1998 thanks to Jack Lewis who kindly included me in his passenger list of one. Williami Mafi was generous enough to suggest that I stay with his father in Neiafu. Nehumi Mafi was one of the founder members of the Constitutional Church in Tonga and I thank him, Lopeti and his church for looking after me and trying to decipher my initial attempts to speak Tongan. I stayed with them for six weeks, until I found a house close to Mount Talau, which had a reputation for housing t!volo, where I lived for the remainder of my time. I slept and studied there. However, most of the time I was out of the house or in other peoples' houses. My neighbours did much to make me feel at home, to get used to and to enjoy Tongan banter, inviting me to local funerals and church events as well as helping me through a period of illness. I particularly remember one night when the boys next door pretended to be t!volo. I remember especially Takau, Karl, Silesa, Marina, Tangi and Ioani. I owe greatest thanks to the families who made my time in Vava'u the special and insightful experience it was. Most particularly I thank Emeline, Tevita and family for their generosity of spirit and time and for making me feel extremely welcome. Through their actions Sina, Fetuani, Fale, Lela, Ana and family gave me an appreciation of some of the local values that I came to treasure. My first contact at the Prince Wellington Ngu hospital in Neiafu, Litili Ofanoa, entrusted me to the care of the public health nurses: Mohulamu, Valeti, Afu, Lea, Pilimi and Kalisi. Their consultation room became my second living room, where I always felt comfortable dropping in for a chat, to play cards and to ask for 13

help. I thank particularly Kalisi, Fotu and Sese for inviting me to many enjoyable and delicious Sunday dinners. Thanks also to Lini, Peta, Petelo, Peti, Saia, Sililo, Keo, Ikani, Sela and the staff of Ngu hospital in Neiafu. I very much enjoyed the company of Simi Tei who was unfailing in his hospitality and advice. For friendship and for spear fishing lessons I thank Simi. In Neiafu, Usu offered respite and conversation in her bookshop. The public health nurses introduced me to some of the many healers who subsequently became friends. For reasons of confidentiality I cannot acknowledge by name the people to whom I owe the greatest thanks. Many healers shared their time to explain their practices and experiences of t!volo. Their and their patients’ explanations form the largest part of the case studies in this ethnography. The contentiousness of some of the cases I discuss prompts me to use pseudonyms throughout. They are drawn from a list of translated names in Gifford (1929: 237-276). I do not want particular people to be attributed with any possible misinterpretations or any seeming lack of appropriateness on my part. During a visit to Auckland in March 1999, I was much encouraged by meeting Sitaleki Finau and Siale Foliaki. In Sydney, I thank Uanivea Havea and family for their hospitality and humour. Several memorable experiences stand out in my mind: Firstly, my participation in the lakalaka performed for the king, on his visit to Vava'u for the celebration of 100 days before the new millennium. I owe great thanks to the encouragement of the other participants but most especially to the Magistrate, Peau Bifeleti. Vulangi kindly tutored me for several weeks before the dance. Sione 'Eva and Philippe persuaded me to teach them a salsa routine for the Miss Universe Pageant in Nuku'alofa, which they performed with remarkable aplomp and which led to much welcome ribbing. One of my greatest pleasures was being involved with the Vava'u youth congress under the guidance of Alaipuke ‘Esau. Their project, Tala kei Kapa (Prevention is better than cure) supported by the Peace Corps, the hospital and churches succeeded in communicating issues of public health in a novel and sensitive way. It is only lack of space in this ethnography that prevents me from describing this project in more detail. Thanks particularly to Afu for his friendship and consideration. Fotu and his family in Leimatu'a showed me great hospitality. I hope, at 14

a later stage, to do more detailed research on Leimatu'a, following up some of Fotu's extremely interesting accounts of the history of Leimatu'a. I very much enjoyed discussions with Siale and Koli. Koli wrote a proposed thesis structure when I expressed my reservation on the usefulness of the concept of culture. There are many other people who shared their insights who I have not been able to acknowledge. Their omission is reflective only of my poor memory. I left Tonga in late February 2000 and flew to Honolulu where I carried out a month of further research in the Bishop Museum and the library of the University of Hawai'i. I returned to London in early April 2000. I owe great gratitude for academic guidance before and after fieldwork to staff in the Department of Anthropology, University College London. I thank my main supervisor, Roland Littlewood, for expert reading of the following chapters, for the idiosyncrasy of his reading suggestions and for suggesting the concept of 'agency' and encouraging my own agency to write about what I felt was most important. Buck Schieffelin, my second supervisor, gave me much encouragement at all stages of the PhD. His insightful comments on a first draft opened up a host of new possible areas of research. I owe a great debt to Allen Abramson, an inspirational pedagogue, for hard copy comments above the call of duty while in the field and a most useful dialogue in the final months of writing up. I thank Murray Last for stressing the importance of people, language and the present, steering me past Foucault, and drawing our group of medical anthropology students in the department into sometimes perplexing but always very useful avenues of academic inquiry. For many inspirational conversations about knowledge I am grateful to Carlos Mondragon. I thank particularly Alisi Fineasi and Yuko Otsuka for much encouragement and fascinating conversations either on email or in person throughout the whole period of research. They reminded me constantly of my fondness for the social world in which we all had become a part. I thank my past and present housemates Marinella, Saskia, Jeroen, Artur, Joanna, Ana, Heide, Nico, Andrew, Frieder, Krystallia and Julian who all contributed to the wonderful convivial atmosphere in the Onslow household where I wrote most of this ethnography. 15

My mother, father and brother contributed in no small part to the inspiration for this ethnography. Their continued correspondence, while I was in Tonga, reminded me that I too had a home. I thank the ESRC for a PhD scholarship that funded the research, the Graduate School for funding of video equipment, and the CRF fund for providing audio recording equipment. Any mistakes or misjudgements of appropriateness are my own. I hope this ethnography will lead to more dialogue with all the above people mentioned. Michael Poltorak University College London May 2002




T !volo An epistemological dilemma, ethnographic deficit and pragmatic necessity The talent show had just finished at Vava'u High School. A friend of mine had to call some relatives abroad so we went together to the telephone office. While I was sitting waiting for my friend a boy and a girl came and sat down opposite me. The boy started talking to me straightaway. He greeted me 'Alu ki fe'.1 I recognised him as Paloakula and the girl as Lingelingasi immediately. Lingelingasi left. Paloakula told me not to tell anyone about him. He said he would meet me down at the wharf. He followed me to my island and during the next three weeks we had regular conversations. I never touched him. I wasn't frightened. He gave me food and told me nice things. Two or three weeks later my father gave a feast on the 31st of December. I didn't help very much; I felt very lazy. A healer told my father's brother's wife that I was affected by a t!volo. They told my cousins to bring leaves and they treated me. It took seven boys to hold me down. The leaves stuck to my skin, which is a sign I was genuinely ill. I swore and had a headache. Then I saw Paloakula walking down the beach into the distance. Lots of people and my great-grandparents were walking after him and chasing him away. I was back to normal very quickly. During my sickness I didn't feel anything special or anything out of the ordinary. The t!volo knew me from before. He had seen me walking down the street. He was quite a cute guy. He is buried in Nuku'alofa. He came up on the ferry. I don't know why he picked me. Maybe because he liked girls with long hair?

This summarised and translated account of a young woman's relationship with a famous t!volo describes events that happened over the Christmas period some nine years previously. At the time, Leisi, the young woman, was around seventeen years of age. She recounted the event in a very matter of fact way in response to my teasingly


Alu ki f!?-Where are you going? A common greeting in Vava'u.


questioning the reality of t!volo.2 She seemed to find the interaction with the t!volo quite satisfying; evidence many people in Vava’u would attribute to the ability of t!volo to hold her in a kind of sensory spell. According to most healers the person’s interaction with the t!volo can be most effectively broken by a treatment, tulu'i, which involves the dripping of t!volo repellent plant extracts into the eyes, nose, mouth and occasionally ears. So repellent is this liquid, that the t!volo's ability to communicate their dislike of the smell is manifest in the almost extrasensory ability of the affected person to sense the arrival of the healer with the remedy long before anyone else. Girls rarely succumb voluntarily to such painful treatment. Inspired by the love for their seemingly real companion and aided by supernatural strength they often put up a fight that requires many individuals to hold them down, in Leisi’s case, seven strong men. Sleep typically follows treatment. On awaking the healer encourages the affected person to describe or name the t!volo and thus their identity and involvement is revealed. The two individuals in Leisi's narrative, Paloakula and Lingelingasi, are individuals who became t!volo after dying in dramatic circumstances.3 Leisi’s and others’ narratives suggest that current glosses of t!volo as ghost, spirit, devil or demon are inadequate to describe their attributed physicality, presence and indistinguishability from living people. Nor do they suggest how the significance of t!volo extends beyond their role in causing and explaining a spectrum of sickness; from what doctors would label problematically as ‘mental illness’ to sprains, unusual bruising and enduring sickness. The term t!volo also has many metaphorical, figurative and humorous uses born of their association with the behaviour of the kind of person living outside of community constituted in Christianity. Uniquely appropriated from its intended missionary meaning to demonise various pre Christian practices, it has come to mean much of what is ambiguous, hybrid, both satisfying and 2

I use the term t!volo for both the singular and the plural. Churchward (1959), the most comprehensive dictionary of the Tongan language, translates t!volo as (devil, demon etc) and fakat!volo (as or like pertaining to devils, demons, or ghosts). In Churchward’s terms puke fakat!volo, the term that people used to describe Leisi’s condition, thus refers to a puke (ailment or seizure) pertaining to devils, demons or ghosts. 3


detrimental in Tonga. The diversity and contentiousness of commentary mean t!volo are an extremely popular topic of conversation and the subject of much banter and storytelling. Ironically, while in Tonga t!volo may be blamed for behaviour that is against a community ethos, as a focus of study it serves to encourage discussion within a wider, though disparate, readership concerned with health in Tonga and the Tongan diaspora. This inclusive medical ethnography takes seriously critiques of the inaccessibility of much anthropological work on the Pacific to both Pacific Islanders (Hereniko 2000) and those involved in health policy. It follows the need to bring medical ethnographies 'into the domain of policies, programs and practices' (Kleinman 1995:256).4 Bloomfield (1986), Helu (1999) and Puloka (1998) present a locally engaged view of health issues. Their work is the starting point for the attempted dialogue between anthropologists, healers, sufferers, medical practitioners and those involved in health policy both within Tonga and Tongan diasporic communities in the United States, New Zealand and Australia that this ethnography aims to engender. The ethnographic emphasis draws on the style of both Mariner's [Martin (1979)] account of being shipwrecked in pre-christian Tonga and Gifford's (1929) monograph on Tongan society.5 Neither Mariner nor Gifford claim a theoretical highground but are turned to for reference and as a resource by Tongans and non-Tongans alike. Their attraction 4

The need for detailed research on local healing practice was recognised in a 1993 W.H.O mission report on Tonga on the theme of 'mental illness'. The recommendation 'that further research was needed to clarify what the healers did and efficacy of their treatment' (Williams 1993:24). This ethnography responds to the questions of the psychiatrist Dr Mapa Puloka on health provision in Vava’u and possible models of mental illness. 5 Mariner's [Martin (1979)] account of his time spent in pre-Christian Tonga during a particular turbulent time in Tongan history in the early 1800's remains a classic in the Tongan literature. Its richness in ethnographic and historical detail is drawn on extensively in making statements about pre-Christian Tonga. The earliest anthropological work in Tonga was almost exclusively ethnographic. Collocott, based in Tonga as a missionary, wrote a series of papers (1921a, 1921b, 1923a, 1923b, 1924a, 1924b, 1927) on Tongan religion, the supernatural, marriage, poems and proverbs. Gifford (1929) drew on Collocott's papers, and on nine months fieldwork, to write the first monograph on Tongan society. Rich in historical data, it attempts a comprehensive account of the most important features of Tongan society at the time. Beaglehole & Beaglehole (1941) followed slightly more than a decade later with a remarkably comprehensive village ethnography of Paingamotu in Vava'u based on seven weeks fieldwork.


and readability lie in their descriptions of particular events, attributed conversations and myths or genealogies of local interest. Grounding this ethnography in the particularity of the phenomenon of t!volo affirms the epistemological (epistemology refers to the theory or science of the grounds of knowledge) concerns raised by Kavaliku (1961), Thaman (1988) and Helu (1999). To varying degrees they have problematised the interpretation of Tongan social reality through drawing attention to the difficulty of translating Tongan concepts and the political nature of interpretation. The untranslatability of t!volo is key to creating an epistemological middle ground that allows for a negotiation between practitioners and their diverse ideas about sickness, most specifically between biomedical and 'local' ideas. It also allows for an examination of the ramifications of those aetiologies and the epistemological dilemma inherent in interpreting Tongan sociality. This fundamental dilemma is perhaps best introduced through what it reveals and what the theme of t!volo also addresses: a current ethnographic deficit in the Tongan literature. The ethnographic deficit in the Tongan literature The ethnographic deficit has its origins in post 1970’s researchers’ engagement with wider anthropological questions in cultural anthropology and Polynesian Ethnology (a 'laboratory for comparative studies' (Howard & Borofsky 1989:286)). These required pan-Pacific societal characterisations. Tonga came to be characterised as hierarchical - a term largely absent in the work of the Beagleholes (1941) and Gifford (1929). This continues to the present day, in Gordon's (1996) introduction, for example: 'A constitutional monarchy, the Kingdom of Tonga is the most conservative and highly stratified of the contemporary Polynesian nations, with three hereditary social classes: the king, a chiefly nobility of thirty-three families, and commoners' (Ibid. 55). Of the voluminous anthropological literature, the most influential in emphasising and examining the structural characteristics of Tongan society have been the work of Kaeppler (eg: 1971, 1978, 1985, 1993) and Marcus (eg: 1977a, 1977b, 1980a, 1980b, 1989). Both their work involved close association with the nobility. Decktor-Korn's (1974) 21

analysis of the different views of nobles and commoners regarding kin relations had already raised the issue of bias in interpretation born of association with only one sector of the Tongan population. This issue was taken up in part by Hau'ofa (1977, 1978, 1979, 1987) who examined some of the larger economic dilemmas facing Tonga, and Perminow (1993), whose ethnography of a small island in Ha'apai focused on some of the local dilemmas of life. In the main, however, most contemporary anthropologists present their work in theoretical terms and use the broad structural characterisations reinforced by the work of Kaeppler and Marcus.6 Despite Howard and Borofsky's (1989) claims in 'Developments in Polynesian Ethnology' that contemporary ethnographers are now more concerned with intracultural variability, diversity, flexibility of social forms, descriptions of particular events than ever before the best exemplars of such work within 'Polynesia', for example (Shore 1982), still betray an explanatory focus on structures and culture.7 The published Tongan literature reflects an epistemological confidence and theoretical enthusiasm, but as yet, little concern with post colonial critique (Said 1995[1987]), reflexivity (except in an autobiographical form (Morton 1995, Small 1997)) or attention to the more textual reflexivity of the ‘writing culture’ debate that Marcus went on to initiate 6

Van der Grijp (1993) uses the Marxist notion of mode of production to examine the ‘significance of thinking within the production of contemporary Tonga society’ (Ibid.:3). Gordon (1988) investigates the invention of local Mormon identity, arguing that it is neither the acceptance of received ideology nor purely instrumental but reflective of historically situated cultural process. Morton focuses on child socialisation (1996) and questions of identity among diasporic Tongans (1998a, 1998b, 2003). Urbanowicz (1977a, 1977b, 1977b, 1989) writes, almost exclusively, on tourism and ethnohistory. James has published widely on gender (1983, 1990, 1992, 1994a), on rank and leadership (1997), migration and remittance (1991, 1997) and political change (1994b & 1998). Besnier (1997) examines transgendered individuals in Tonga in terms of their location at the convergence of a 'complex socio-economic and symbolic system' following previous more general discussions of gender liminality within Polynesia (Besnier 1994). In the rich historical and ethnohistorical literature, with the exception of Mahina (1993), current ethnography in the main serves the interests of historical reconstruction (Latukefu 1974 & 1975, Rutherford 1977, Bott 1982, Gailey 1987, Herda 1987, Herda, Terrell & Gunson 1990). I review literature of more medical anthropological interest in the following chapters. 7

Ironically this claim is made within a book that through its very focus on Polynesia, and in one chapter 'the Polynesian Worldview' implicitly contradicts this claim. Shore (1982) for example reads Wagner's (1975) discussion of the way anthropologists invent 'culture', as a justification rather than critique.


after his research in Tonga (Marcus & Fischer 1986, Clifford & Marcus 1986). Herzfeld's attention to ethnography as source of critique of anthropological practice could well be applied to the Tongan and wider 'Polynesian' literature: In the attempt to generate abstract theory about a geographically defined entity, moreover, 'Mediterranean anthropology' overlooks its own ethnographic status both as a collection of descriptive unities and as a product of stereotypes existing in the societies from which social and cultural anthropology emerged. In responding to these broad assumptions, we must use ethnography, not as a servant of anthropological theory, but as the source for a critique of anthropological practice-of what theory does (Herzfeld 1987: 6).

The characterisation of Tonga as hierarchical is emblematic of continued use of ethnography as handmaiden to predominately theoretically framed concerns.8 Tonga's 'hierarchy' is not only an ethnographic question (Aoyagi (1966), Beaglehole (1941) and Marcus (1975) found little social stratification in their village based work) it has been overdetermined by the terms of analysis. To what degree does this characterisation reflect local understandings and appreciation of the actions and local values that come to be understood as hierarchical? As Toren (1990: 19) argues: ..hierarchy cannot be conceived of as an analytical principle, even with respect to Fiji itself, since conceptions of how it works differ as a function not only of the age, but also of the sex, of any given person.

There is no Tongan word that reifies hierarchy in the English sense. The closest term in Tongan, and that many Tongans would take as the concomitant characteristic of Tonga, is faka'apa'apa. This can be used as an intransitive verb (meaning to do homage or obeisance to; to show deference or respect or courtesy, to be deferential or courteous) or as an adjective (showing deference or respect, courteous; (of words) honorific). Churchward's (1959) translation reveals faka'apa'apa as an 8

Herzfeld argues: 'Theory serves as an officializing strategy in the social pragmatics in which anthropology is embedded. One cannot say that there is no such thing as theory; but it is a culturally contingent and pragmatically evanescent phenomenon’ (1987: 204).


action that requires agency. It is not a social structure but the action that is either required by or leads to perceived structure. While the term hierarchy implies structure, stasis and lack of freedom, faka'apa'apa suggests action, agency, politics and a degree of freedom. Bearing this in mind, there seems two ways to move towards a more sensitive appreciation of Tongan sociality. One, assume hierarchy as a valid descriptive term and then examine how it is mitigated (Marcus 1984), negotiated or constituted as structure by individual action. Or two, prioritise local ethnography and analyse it using local concepts that have been rendered analytic. In this way one can examine how, in politically loaded acts of speaking or writing, local behaviour and concepts come to be reified or naturalised. 9 The latter approach addresses the over confidence in terms used to describe Tongan sociality. In much current anthropological work on Tonga the possibility of translation is assumed but without the concomitant linguistic anthropological insights into language as a 'form of social action, a cultural resource, and a set of sociocultural practices' (Ahearn 2001: 110). If all meaning is constituted in intersubjectivity then basic translations are possible only where the use of English and Tongan words intersect. Thus concepts that express a multitude of local meanings and instrumental uses are often impoverished in their translation into English. Current anthropological characterisations suggest that Tonga is homogenous, behaviour more cultural than political, and to a degree agency limited (Evans 2001). My involvement with people contradicted these characterisations. Abu-Lughod (1991) argues that the implication of such ‘cultural explanations or generalisations’ is that they reflect ‘a standing apart and outside of what was being described' (Abu-Lughod 1991:150) and tend to 'to smooth over contradictions, conflicts of interest, and doubts and arguments, not to mention changing motivations and circumstances' (Ibid: 153). For Toren (1990 & 1999), structure and social process are mutually constituting:


Chapters five and six examine the reification and naturalisation of the term 'avanga as a local culture bound disorder. Chapters nine and ten discuss the serious implications of the reification and use of terms for mental illness.


…..cultural knowledge has to be cognitively constructed and that particular 'knowing subjects'-who are always 'social subjects', inevitably situated within specific social relations-are the locus of that construction (Ibid 1990: 230).

In these terms, characterisations of Tonga as hierarchical only serve to erroneously homogenise Tonga for comparative purposes and imply a lack of concern with local epistemology and ethnographic reality. 'Ofa (love): A local position of knowledge To engage with a local idea of knowledge in Tonga entails prioritising language, in spoken and written form, as social action. Possibly most iconic of this assertion is Kavaliku’s choice of 'ofa, most commonly glossed as love, as the topic of his Batchelor's thesis in anthropology at Harvard in 1961. People often describe 'ofa as one of the most common motivations of t!volo in their interactions with the living, particularly when the t!volo is related in some way to the person affected. Kavaliku, argued that 'ofa, in Tongan thought, is a logical construction comparable to social structure and seems to represent the supreme justification for people's behaviour and activities (Kavaliku 1961:4). It can embody meanings of: …..kindness, sadness, sharing, hope, care and many more. It can be a verb, an adjective or noun. No single meaning is a whole unless the other meanings are implicitly or explicitly implied (Ibid. 4).

He adds: …..the usages of 'ofa can and do show us the kinds of relationships between members using the term. Thus we can tell, generally speaking, who is in what group. Indeed, my informants regard 'ofa as the basis of Tongan society, as the medium through which interactions take place (Ibid. 59).

Kavaliku quotes one of his informants: Koe toki 'ilo 'e ha taha mei tu'a 'ae me'a fakatonga koe 'ofa. Ko 'ene toki lava ia ke ne kamata 'ilo 'a Tonga.


When a person from the outside knows the Tongan 'concept' of 'ofa, then he will be able to begin to understand and know what Tongan society is.

For this informant any local claim for knowledge must be a manifestation of knowing and experiencing 'ofa. Kavaliku concludes: Any study of Tongan society needs an understanding of 'ofa, the thing that Tongans call 'the treasure of Tonga (Kavaliku 1977: 67).

Yet he makes that enterprise difficult by not identifying what ‘ofa is: The pith or the core meaning of 'ofa is not known to the writer but it is expressed in many forms and in many meanings (Kavaliku 1961:58).

Toren (1999) concurs on his conclusion and profound comment on the importance of following local explanation and concepts in attempting to explain local social reality: ..what strikes me the most forcibly is that while I have analysed elsewhere the playing out of constituent processes of Fijian hierarchy in other guises and with respect to other domains of investigation, it now seems to me that love constitutes the most powerful explanation for the specific nature of that hierarchy. It is perhaps needless to say that it is also the domain that I least understand (Toren 1999: 145).

Neither Kavaliku nor Toren claim to understand the very concept that seems most important, in the terms of Kavaliku’s informant, to understand what Tongan society is. Perhaps that problem, as examined below, derives from the alienation that results when trying to understand by identifying ‘ofa and people as objects of study. The very involvement that leads to the experience of ‘ofa, is not only difficult to describe but is critical of the need and possibility of representing it. Addressing an epistemological dilemma The basis of acquiring social knowledge in Tonga is active participation. This seems at first sight to concur with anthropology’s key methodology, participant observation. In Tonga, however, the more 26

seriously we take participation the more difficult it becomes to present and analyse the knowledge gained in a written form. One can of course gain basic ‘cultural’ information through interviews and conversations. To appreciate the wider epistemological context of such information, however, one needs to experience oneself in relationship with other people through learning the Tongan language and valuing one’s participation in local activities. It was my personal, philosophical and anthropological inclination, affirmed by the encouragement of people in Tonga and the general feeling of inclusivity that prompted me to learn how to be valued as a person in Tonga. Taking participation seriously also means awareness of the implications of interpreting the explanations of people who have become friends and colleagues. Adopting a written authoritative voice implies distance and a degree of alienation. It also denies the means by which knowledge was gained (largely in interaction and conversation), the possible motivations of speakers as well as the occasional ambiguity, provisionality and contentiousness of the statements and explanations that form the basis for analysis. The dilemma of presenting knowledge that follows from this is well put, though not exclusively, by Bowman (1997). He asks: Is it possible for the anthropologist to resituate him- or herself in field and text in a site that does not simultaneously deny both his or her intuitive experience of being assimilated into another culture and the 'native's' ability to reason, innovate and adapt to change that makes itself so evident to the anthropologist in the field? I would argue that as long as the anthropologist retains an affiliation to the intellectual tradition that constitutes him or her as the subject who gazes upon the world as object and speaks its truth, he or she cannot escape those consequences. The unity of the Cartesian subject as the 'one who thinks the world' carries within it a radical, and nihilistically self-referential, alienation from that world (Bowman 1997:43).

Bowman echoes other contemporary theorists (Herzfeld 1987, Marcus 1999) in suggesting attention to the processes of coming to knowledge and intersubjectivity as ways of dealing with these consequences. He argues: If we are to play a part in finding a way out of the impasse of modernism's epistemological failure, it can only be through discrediting the modernist imperative to 'identify' the other as object and by attending to the processes


of coming to knowledge (of other and self) through 'identifying with' the other as subject (Bowman 1997: 47).

The choice of t!volo as the central theme of this ethnography fulfils these criteria. The term t!volo resists translation and identification. As I go on to argue its contentiousness and resistance to objective interpretation implies the intersubjective origin of all knowledge (i.e. that knowledge is produced through the interaction of subjects). By choosing a topic of great local interest I commit myself to continued dialogue with the people with whom I worked and a failure to commit entirely to continuing dialogue with any particular literature. This is also part of a strategy to resist the degree to which this ethnography would be compromised by writing for exclusively disciplinary concerns.10 At first sight the need to resist identifying others as objects, being sensitive to local epistemology and engaging a wider readership would seem to paralyse analysis. How does one analyse a phenomenon that one cannot identify in simple terms? Some readers would question the very existence of t!volo on the basis of religious or scientific belief. Knowledge of similar phenomena elsewhere might lead others to suspect that t!volo exist because of the way they may be used creatively or deceptively, perhaps to avoid shame. How then can one keep these concerns in mind whilst locating discussion of them in a way that acknowledges that deception is just one manifestation of knowledge of t!volo? After all, as I will go on to explore, for many Tongans and nonTongans t!volo exist. One possible solution to using anthropological terms or concepts to analyse the phenomenon would be use a local concept that has been 10

The so called literal turn in anthropology, exemplified by the ‘Writing Culture Debate’, has argued the ways ethnography can be seen to be overdetermined: contextually: by the social milieux in which the anthropologist lives while he or she writes; rhetorically: by the expressive conventions of language which are used, which use them; institutionally: by the specific academic discipline the texts feed into and the academic audience which reads them; generically: by the genre they add to (monograph; thesis; edited collection; textbook) and set themselves against (novel; poem; religious tract); politically: by the power they have to assume the authority to describe and analyse and publish a 'culture'; and finally historically: by the fact that all the above factors are changing through time (Rapport & Overing 2000:238, summarising Clifford 1986:6).


rendered analytic. Ideally, this same term would allow for the kind of epistemological negotiation necessary and keep the intersubjectivity of explanations constantly in play.11 The Tongan concept and value of tauhi vaha’a fulfils such a role. As value tauhi vaha'a relates to the importance of 'maintaining harmony of the 'space' between oneself and others' (Thaman 1988:120), derived from tauhi (nurturing), v# (space between), and ha’a (lineage).12 A good friend from Kapa in Vava'u, was the first person to impress on me its importance to Tongan life when he described it as one of the four most important kavekoula (values) of Tonga along with faka’apa’apa, toka’i and fetokoni’aki.13 The term is often used to assert an authentic Tonganess. Mahina (2002), for example, asserts its centrality to Tongan experience. Of these four values tauhi vaha'a is most explicit of the importance of relatedness- a term that can be used ‘in opposition to, or alongside 11

I follow the Tongan anthropologist Dr ‘Okusitino Mahina and resist the 'the anti realist and relativist tendencies underpinning post-modernism and post structuralist thought'. Personal communication. 2001. As a development of cultural relativity, that Sperber (1985:62) sees as a 'kind of cognitive apartheid', much postmodernist discourse implies a denial of the reality of indigenous interpretation in anything other than its own terms, the denial of the possibility of dialogue, a strengthening of naïve insider/outsider dichotomies that preclude and ignore real communication and a denial of the very real mutual accommodations of Pacific island diasporic communities world-wide. 12 A translation I prefer to Shumway (1991:15-16) tauhi vaha'a (maintaining good relations, being eager to mend fences). Tauhi v# seems to be a more colloquial usage. Neither tauhi vaha'a nor tauhi v# appear in Churchward (1959), but tauhi and v# do. Tauhi (tend, look after, take care of, or to minister to; to keep, to keep safe, preserve, keep inviolate, maintain, to attend to, carry out) Churchward (1959:528) translates v# as distance between or distance apart with figurative meanings of attitude, feeling, relationship or towards each other. 13 Faka' apa'apa (to do homage or obeisance; to show deference or respect or courtesy, to be deferential or courteous). Toka’i (to have or show respect for, to consider the feelings or judgement of, to have or show consideration for, to take notice of (so as to be affected by), to mind, to object to or worry about; to care). Fetokoni'aki can be translated as (to help one another, to co-operate) from tokoni (help) and fe'…. aki (reciprocative prefix which in this case communicates a sense of reciprocity and collaboration) (Churchward 1959:147). Princess Pilolevu, by way of introduction in a video (Kava Kuo Heka 1999), talks of virtues and ideals that are typically Tongan and predate Christianity: 'anga 'ofa (loving nature), 'anga faka'apa'apa (reverence and respect), tauhi vaha'a (keeping up good relations with one's fellow countrymen), mamahi me'a (zeal, team spirit towards any worthy cause) and loto t$ (ready and willing mind). She seems to concur with Shumway’s (1991: 15-16) translations of: anga 'ofa (a loving nature), anga faka'apa'apa (a respectful, reverent disposition), mamahi'i me'a (zealousness in a good cause to the point of pain), tauhi vaha'a (maintaining good relations, being eager to mend fences), and loto t$ (to be humbly willing, deferential, but keenly committed).


kinship in order to signal an openness to indigenous idioms of being related rather that a reliance on pre-given definitions’ (Carsten 2000: 4). In this ethnography relatedness refers to the degree of relationship, where relationship is assumed and may or not refer to a relationship described in kin terms. Though vaha'a has a figurative meaning of relationship (Churchward 1959: 528), there seems little use or awareness of an abstract Tongan term for relationship that is not specific to particular kin terms or group affirmed membership.14 In my experience, people tended to translate the term ‘relationship’ as the Tongan term for neighbour, friend or fellow household member. Relationship, in European terms, is assumed by virtue of one's mutual participation in 14

Nor did the Tongan friends I consulted recognise vaha'a or the more colloquial v# (n., distance between, distance apart; fig., attitude, feeling, relationship, towards each other.) as a term that could stand alone. When relationship was described it was not abstract but both evocative and particular to a group affirmed membership. I had thought initially that v#, as a concept that communicated the degree of connection between people and that would influence their interpretation of an event, would be the fundamental unit of analysis. I had assumed that because the term tauhi (to look after) could stand alone as a verb that v#, as that which was being looked after, could also stand alone as a concept. I translated it rather ambiguously as affiliation, sensing that relationship was not an adequate translation. However, in doing so I was unwittingly reifying a concept that suggested a determining influence on interpretation and did not allow, following local interpretation, for the agency of individual acts. On discussing my search for a more appropriate translation for vaha'a or v# with Tongan friends I realised that my assumption of v# being the basic unit of analysis to be fundamentally flawed. I had wanted to contextualise how in the interpretation of an event of t!volo involvement some people wanting to distance themselves from the family might suggest deception. My friends, however, did not recognise vaha’a or v# as terms that could be abstracted from tauhi or from other terms. They pointed out that v# or vaha'a alone did not sound correct. Nor were they able to volunteer any translation that was similar to Churchward’s (1959) translation or suggest a Tongan translation for the English term relationship. My friends are both educated Tongans who have spent long periods of time in the UK and the USA and are well accustomed to translating concepts from Tongan to English. Even allowing for the fact that they had both been overseas for many years, I could not argue that the concept of vaha’a or v# to be fundamental if they did not recognise it. They affirmed that tauhi vaha’a, as concept and action (Tongan terms are both nouns and verbs) should be the fundamental unit of analysis. In doing so they affirmed the sense that an action and process oriented concept was more fundamental than a structural unit of relationship. (I discuss this is more detail in chapter two). Tauhi vaha'a suggests process but it assumes a resource of social connections from which relationship can be constituted. This reconciled several other problems with using affiliation or relationship as a key term. Empirically, one can have more confidence in a person's act of evoking and attenuating relatedness that in an assertion that there is connection or 'affiliation'. People often seek to hide the relationships that mean the most to them. Girlfriend and boyfriend relationships are typical in this regard. One could never confidently know of people's emotional connection with others but one could see their tauhi vaha'a in their actions and words.


group activities and thus tauhi vaha'a as concept refers to the evocation and attenuation of relatedness. 15 How then do people tauhi vaha'a? Mahina's (2002) assertion that the sending of remittances is a sign of fetokoni'aki and tauhi vaha'a, is directly translated as 'that helping each other through remittances is a Tongan element of existence'.16 The act of sending money is regarded unambiguously an act of tauhi vaha'a as are other acts that involve giving and sharing money or items of food. No doubt for some people such acts are so habitual or taken for granted that they may have little reason define them as acts of tauhi vaha'a. While not all Tongans may necessarily define tauhi vaha’a as a value, their acts reflect an awareness of it as a principle of sociality. Tauhi vaha'a as concept, as the evocation and attenuation of relatedness, is also manifest in acts motivated by 'ofa ('love'), in being respectful, in helping, sharing and in ways of interacting and speaking. By linking tauhi vaha’a and speaking we can also address the politics of ascertaining the involvement of t!volo. The political nature of local interpretation, already recognised by Malinowski (1952: 307)17 and the inevitable misrepresentation that results from generalising out such interpretations as representative facts of Tonga as a whole is well recognised in the wider anthropological literature, but not yet so widely 15

This is an essential act in the active and creative constitution of personhood and the means by which I came to knowledge in Tonga. Arguably, my act of choosing tauhi vaha'a as a concept is also an act of tauhi vaha'a, a means by which I evoke and attenuate an assumed relationship with the people I worked with in Tonga. 16 The article is entitled "No Change will Occur in Next 100 Years". The sentence occurs in the first paragraph (underlined) and was translated in the English version of the Newspaper in the second paragraph. "Na'e fakamatala fiefia 'e Dr. Feleti Sevele 'a e tokoni lahi 'a e kakai Tonga nofo muli ki Tonga. Ka 'oku ngalo 'iate ia ko e tokoni 'a e kakai Tonga mei muli, ko e konga ia 'o e fa'unga lolotonga. Ko e fetokoni'aki mo e tauhi vaha'a faka-Tonga ia. Ka fai leva 'a e liliu, he'ikai toe fai 'a e li seniti ki Tonga," ko e lau ia 'a Toketa Mahina. Translation: "Dr. Feleti Sevele explained that remittances from Tongans overseas was a major source of income for people. However, he forgot to mention that this is part of the Tongan person's life. That helping each other through remittances, is a Tongan element of existence. If this change occurs, people overseas will no longer send money to their families," Dr. Mahina explained. Tongastar. 6 May 2002 Volume 2; Fika 63-65 17 '…….the conception of meaning as contained in an utterance is false and futile. A statement, spoken in real life, is never detached from the situation in which it has been uttered ‘(Malinowski 1952:307).


acknowledged in the Tongan literature.18 Gailey (1987) notes as an afterthought in a contextualisation of anthropological work in Tonga in the 1970's: ‘…often, most informants who co-operate with an anthropologist represent one kindred or one particular chiefly group (e.g., Decktor Korn 1974; Marcus 1977a; 1980). Tongan kinship is presented in accordance with the viewpoint of that group. The results, one should note, are not thereby wrong; they are reflective, rather of the claims of that faction at that time’ (Gailey 1987:270).19

A focus on language and social action would suggest that people's interpretations are not simply viewpoints, beliefs or reflective of claims they are acts of tauhi vaha'a through which they constitute themselves in relatedness with others.20 This is perhaps best illustrated with an example that brings out the occasional contentiousness of t!volo involvement. A not uncommon occurrence is that a household claims, through the verifying treatment of a healer, that their daughter's behaviour or sickness is due to the actions of t!volo, which someone else (perhaps but not necessarily medically trained) attributes to her anger or her faking. Both the daughter's anger and possible faking would be regarded locally as inappropriate manifestations of her agency (fa'iteliha), since anger is highly inappropriate if expressed and faking suggests she is hiding something which is more serious. To suggest deception or anger is in effect a form of slander: in other words, an aspersion of agency. It also implies that you are not implicated or share in the shame of the event, and thus have no wish to 18

Except Helu (1999:123), who argues that anthropological definitions for Tongan kinship terms do not bring out 'the primal fact of Tongan (or any Polynesian) society, viz. that social customs are all based on group interests, that these customs can only be fully understood when viewed through the optics of sociopolitical advantage'. 19 This statement is made in the final paragraph of the appendix. For criticism of Gailey (1987) see James (1988) and Besnier (1997). 20 People are autopoietic (self creating) subjects (Toren 1999), who are not only positioned or positioning but are also constituting their personhood in acts of interpretation. Tongan people's recognition of the autopoietic nature of personhood is reflected in the contextual nature of presentation of self (Morton 1996), the value placed on tauhi vaha’a, and the interest in and discussion about deception and ulterior motive. This interest is particularly salient in interpretations surrounding t!volo.


tauhi vaha'a to the household of the girl. Thus, all interpretations around t!volo seem to implicitly manifest the wish to tauhi vaha’a of the speaker. Knowledge of t!volo is manifest in acts that maintain and deny relationship and interdependence. Drawing attention to the inextricability of tauhi vaha’a and statements of interpretation also questions the need for impartiality. In the intimate, convivial and interconnected life of Vava'u the notion of impartiality in social matters is foreign. Nor is it desired as it reflects a denial of relatedness and a break with the values that tie people together. There is a creative tension between the need to have a local claim for knowledge (through avoiding false claims for impartiality), the requirements of being an anthropologist and reaching the readership I detailed in the preface.21 Style: balancing the general and the particular That reminds me of what Voltaire said about men of letters. He said men of letters are like flying fish. If they fly too high the birds will eat them. If they dive too deep the sharks will gobble them up. And I take that to mean for a generalist like me if he ventures to rise to general ideas he will be eaten alive by scholarly birds, eagles, and if he dives too deep into details he will be devoured by scholarly sharks (Helu 1999 22).

Examining the phenomenon of t!volo forces one into the particular, the diverse, the idiosyncratic, the humorous and the liminal. The diversity of opinions about t!volo and their popularity as a topic of discussion require the presentation of individuals and their opinions. In particular instances, questions of tauhi vaha’a and interpretation and the politics that surround them become most salient. However, both disciplinary and pragmatic demands require more general statement and arguments.


This is some way is comparable to the Tongan recognition of the contextual nature of presentation of self (Morton 1996), that one behaves in different ways to different relatives in different contexts. 22 At the Tongan History Association biennial conference, 'Versions of the Past, Visions of the Future', Nuku’alofa, July 1999. Professor Futa Helu, as Chairman, gave the keynote paper entitled 'Tonga at the end of Millennium'.


Abu-Lughod argues that 'ethnographies of the particular' and a focus on practice, discourse and connection23 are ways of writing against the concept of culture which she argues 'operates in anthropological discourse to enforce separations that inevitably carry a sense of hierarchy' (Abu-Lughod 1991:138). The act of writing inevitably means there must be a sense of separation. I cannot write about people I had the privilege to work with unless the ties that link me to them are loosened considerably.24 How then to write and avoid, in Helu's terms, being eaten by scholarly sharks who will question a position in local terms and eagles who will do so in more broadly anthropological terms? How therefore can one reflect collaboration with people in Tonga and write accessible anthropology? If all writing is generalisation to a degree how does one find the balance between that degree of academic generalisation which is meaningless in a local context (where individuality and agency is buried and the whole of Tonga seems homogenous and distinct from the rest of the world and the extreme of particularity which has little attraction to the anthropologist not familiar with Tonga (where Tongans are individual actors, Tongan identity is a myth born of individual actions, and every assertion needs to be credited). Following Abu-Lughod's idea of an ethnography of the particular is less ‘writing against culture' but, in Helu’s terms above, a flying between eagles and sharks, propelled by the salience of the particular in local discourse, juggling questions of local and my own interpretation, and the wish to continue to tauhi vaha’a (to evoke and attenuate relatedness) to my friends and colleagues in Tonga. People in everyday interaction in Vava'u talk specifics. Their awareness of the complexity and diversity of human relationships and motivations makes generalisation of them a reflection of lack of knowledge. It is the expertise of finding particular genealogical connections that is praised, not the formulation of general rules of kinship. It is with particular individuals that I interact, and it is in the 23

'Various connections and interconnections, historical and contemporary, between and community and the anthropologist working there and writing about it, not to mention the world to which he or she belongs and which enables him or her to be in that particular place studying that group' (Abu-Lughod 1991:148). 24 See Lizot (1985) for an exemplary ethnography written while in the field.


particular that questions of motive and agency surface and test any sense of impartiality. Maintaining the relative integrity of case studies allows for reanalysis from different perspectives, further elaboration in other chapters as well as their serving as foci for discussion on health policy in Tonga. The particularities within this ethnography (case studies, descriptions of people, conversations, interviews and events) and the theory I draw on to structure them are mutually constituting. The particularities are a reflection of friendship and collaboration. They are representative of local issues because they were not exclusive to particular extended families, villages, healers or doctors, nor one island group or another. Breadth and depth of relationships followed from the fact that people do not seek healing from within their family, village and island alone. The case studies in this ethnography reflect knowledge gained as a result of depth of involvement. They become insightful into the dilemmas of health provision in Tonga, through the process of attaching questions of local and medical anthropological interest to them.25 Outline of chapters The introductory chapter is structured around an impressionistic description of the passing of a week in Vava'u and sets the ethnographic scene for the chapters that follow. It is based on what friends drew my attention to as being the most important aspects of life in Vava'u. In making such positioned statements people constituted their relationship


The theory that I use was suggested by the particularities of fieldwork but also my prior training within medical anthropology which prompted interest in Tonga in the first place. My original research remit was to examine a particular emblematic 'mental condition' associated with the effects of modernisation. The plan was to theorise it in terms of current medical anthropological debates on the performance, efficacy and experiential specificity of healing, and use it as a locus for the examination of political economic and phenomenological models of 'mental illness' through a considered focus on the body. Not unusually in anthropology, the reality of field work revealed a clash between the 'epistemological confidence' of the literature that had informed my study and a local epistemology. This led to issues of greater local concern and a more inclusive and locally engaged framing.


with their surroundings and affirmed Vava'u as the place they wanted it to be. Chapter two formulates a notion of Vava'uan personhood as emergent out of the capacity to tauhi vaha'a. It demonstrates how relationships of precedence are constituted in the inextricable relationship between tauhi vaha'a as value and concept, and acts of speaking or not speaking. Chapter three introduces the multiple understandings of the term t!volo, its historical origin and the degree to which t!volo possess personhood and embody a particularly local understanding of agency. Chapter four is an introduction to the main healers in Vava'u, structured by both their prevalent ethic but also examining the degree to which their interpretation can be read as a manifestation of their acts of tauhi vaha'a. Chapters five and six examine a seeming culture bound disorder ('#vanga) which is the most dramatic evidence of t!volo. I locate the reification and naturalisation of this condition in the inextricable link between speaking and tauhi vaha’a. These two chapters also attempt to answer three questions as a heuristic process to illustrate the degree to which any explanation can be disentangled from tauhi vaha’a: Why is Christmas the most common time for people to suffer from '#vanga? ; why is there an perceived historical decrease in incidence and why are young women more likely to suffer? The case studies highlight the need to bring out not only the distinction between seeing '#vanga as a real and perceived phenomena that needs to be communicated but also the social ramifications of claiming to perceive it in a certain way. Chapter seven looks at why people go to the hospital or a healer. The importance of relatedness is manifest in the ease with which people can ask for help from healers and also in the local idea of enduring connection between living and dead relatives. This is perhaps most dramatic in the treatment of ta'aki akafia, where tree roots intruding into the skeleton of a dead relative explain the cause of sickness in living relatives. This chapter starts the process of an appreciation of efficacy. Chapter eight is framed as a response to the statement of a dentist friend who argued that biomedicine is responsible for much of the efficacy attributed to healers. The one main case study examines in detail the case of a man who despite being treated successfully at the hospital attributed efficacy to the healer. Attributions of efficacy as acts of speaking are the focus rather than efficacy in any objective sense. The 36

different styles of speaking of healers and doctors and their implications on mutual understanding are strongly implicated. Chapters nine and ten examine questions of mental illness in which the inextricability of tauhi vaha'a and peoples' interpretation is pushed to its limit. Through case studies of particular local eccentrics I show how the agency implicit in Vava'uan personhood is preserved in the explanation and use of various local terms that could be problematically translated as 'mental illness'. Psychiatric intervention denies the agency implicit in Vava'uan personhood. It is avoided in practice through appeals to divine intervention that also implicitly deny the modernist claim for knowledge in which psychiatry is embedded. I examine the ramifications of the promulgation of such models of mental illness. The ethnography concludes with a discussion on the intersubjectivity of knowledge of t!volo and psychiatry and the implications on the pragmatic questions asked of me by the psychiatrist Dr Puloka. This also serves as a summary of the epistemological dilemmas reconciled through the use of tauhi vaha'a as an analytic tool and suggests further research and action.


GLOSSARY I have abbreviated translations for the most frequently used words in this ethnography from Churchward (1959). The dictionaries of Tu'inukuafe (1992) and Schneider (1977) are useful but much less comprehensive and concise. The translations that follow are intermediary. As I discuss throughout the ethnography, translation is often problematic because of the instrumental and multiple use of words. I chose translations most appropriate in the context of the sentence and argument. The Tongan alphabet follows the sequence: a, e, f, h, i, k, l, m, n, ng, o, p, s, t, u, v, 'a, 'e, 'i, 'o, 'u. Abbreviations a.a., adjective or adverb. adj., adjective. a.n., abstract noun. a.v.i., adjective or intransitive verb. c.n., common noun. conc., concrete. esp., especially. fig., figuratively. impl., impersonal. i., intransitive. k., kind of. lit., literal(ly).

n., noun. obj., object, or the object being a word denoting. prec., preceding (word). q.v., which see v., verb. s.s., sometimes used in the sense of. s-t., semi-transitive. syn., synonymous. v.g., general verb. v.i., intransitive verb. v.t., transitive verb.

A anga, n., habit, custom, nature, quality, character, characteristic; way, form, style, manner, method; behaviour, conduct, demeanour, way(s) of acting. angahala, n., evil conduct, sin. Adj., sinful. anga lelei, of good character or disposition; well behaved; kind. F faha, a.v.i., mad, insane. N., insane person, lunatic, idiot. fahu , n., (man's) sister's son or grandson. faito'o , v.t., to treat, cure, or try to cure, by medical means: obj. person or disease. N., medicine or medical treatment or any kind, or (in general) remedy ; or native doctor (medicine man or 38

woman). As v.i., to give, or to receive, medical treatment. faiva, n., work, task, feat or game, etc., requiring skill or ability ; trade, craft ; performance, play , drama, item (at a concert, etc.), entertainment; film, moving picture. fak afiefia, v.i., to produce happiness or joy ; to be actively joyful, to make merry. Adj., productive of happiness or joy. Adv., joyfully, happily, merrily. fak afiem alie'i, v.t., to set a person’s mind at rest, to console or soothe or comfort or please or satisfy. fak ahu a, v.i., to joke or banter. fak ak ata, v.i., to excite laughter; to act or speak in a joking or humorous manner. Adj., causing laughter, funny, humorous. fak am ahaki, n. synonymous with '#vanga a.v.i synonymous with fakatupumahaki -causing or producing sickness or disease. fak am aahuahu, v.i., to tease or sling off in a pompous or selfimportant manner fak am "l#, v.i., to give thanks, to be grateful, to feel or express gratitude; to praise or congratulate fak am atala, v.t. to explain ; to describe ; to report on . N. explanation, description, or report. fak am atamatale lei, v.t. to make beautiful, to beautify. V.i., to put on a pleasant or friendly look which is not genuine. fak am atalili, v.t., to tease, to provoke. fak am a'um a'u, v.t.,to restrain, repress, keep in (one's feelings). V.i., to restrain oneself, to exercise self restraint, to refrain. fak apik opik o, a.v.i., to be lazy or slothful. Adv., lazily. fak asesele, v.i., to act in a silly or eccentric manner. fak atapu tapu, v.i., to express respect for those present by saying Tapu mo‌ fak at !vo lo, a.a., As or like pertaining to devils, demons, or ghosts ; demoniacal(ly), etc. fak a'apa'apa v.i. to do homage or obeisance (to ki); to show deference or respect or courtesy, to be deferential or courteous. Adj., showing deference or respect, courteous;(of words) honorific. fak a'ofa, a.v.i., moving (to sympathy or pity), pitiful, stirring, pathetic, pitiable. 39

fala, n. mat. faleko loa, shop, store. f "mili, n., family (lit. or fig.). V.i.., to be of the same family. See chapter two for discussion of uses. It is as ambiguous in use as the English term. I use in the sense of one or several households constituting a locally based group. fanofano , v.i.., to wash one's hands. fanofano'i , v.t., to transfer (one's special powers) to another. fang a, sign of plural. (preposed), before names of animals. fatafata, n., chest, bosom. fatongi a, n. duty, obligation. fa'ahikehe , (lit., other side), n. superhuman or supernatural being, esp. of a malignant kind; ghost, spook, spectre; devil ; demon, malignant deity. Plural: fanga f., in the lit. sense; kau f., of persons spoken abusively as devils; ngaahi f., of thing treasure fa'iteliha, v.i., to please oneself, to choose to decide for oneself, to do as one pleases. Adv., as one pleases. N., what one chooses to do , one's personal decision or desire. fefine, n., woman or girl. Adj., female. feohi, v.i. or n., (to have) fellowship or communion or moral and spiritual comradeship with one another. fiefia, a.v.i., to rejoice, to be happy or glad or joyful. fiemalie, v.i., to be easy in mind, contented, satisfied; to be free from pain or discomfort or sorrow or malice. fie ‘eiki, to imagine oneself to be a chief, and so to desire to be treated as such ; to be arrogant. fie vale loi, to desire to be thought ignorant or unskilled (vale) when one is not really so. fili, v.t. to choose, pick out, cull, select, elect ; to sort. N., enemy ; s.s fa'ahikehe or tempter or temptress. fokisi, n. fox. fonua, c.n. land, country, territory, place. fotofota, v.g., to massage by squeezing. H hang atamaki, n., boil, abscess, carbuncle or other such swelling ha'a, (a) p.n. (preposed) , persons having the rank or status of ; (b) l.n. (preposed), descendent of (kings, etc) ; (c) c.n. people, race, 40

tribe. hou'eiki, n. chiefs, pl. of 'eiki. hua, a.v.i., jolly , jovial, friendly in manner, sociable, easily approached, agreeable ; humorous, funny, jocular (of persons or things). K kai, v.g., to eat. N., eating, meal ; food. kaimumu'a from k#imu'a, n. or adj. leading or principal or more important (person or people); also self-confident, self-possessed, quite free from stage fright. k "inga, n., relation, relative ; brother or sister in the sense of comrade or compatriot, etc. (Often collective). V.i. to be related ; to be related to each other. A.n. relationship. k "k ", v.i., to act deceitfully or fraudulently, to cheat. N. cheat, fraud, trickster. Adj. fraudulent, deceitful, cheating. kalapu , n. club (society). kape, v.i., to swear, to utter a swearword. kapek ape , v.i., to swear (kape) continually or habitually. (Kapekape in now used in the same sense as kape). kau , sign of pl., before nouns denoting persons. kauk au , v.i., to have a bathe or bath. kaung a, n., relationship, connection, connecting link (fig.). kaung "- , prefix, together, fellow-, as in kaung#ng#ue, to work together, to be fellow workmen, or (as n.) fellow-worker. kaung "'api, n., neighbour. V.i., to be neighbours. kave koula, value, ethic. kaven ga, n. burden, load ; responsibility. kiekie, n., ornamental waist-band or grass skirt. kole, v.i. and t., to make a request, to ask or beg (for), to apply (for), or to borrow. N., request, etc. kolo, n., village, town, or city ; fortress. koloa, n., goods, wealth, riches, possessions; what one values; cargo; store, shop. kona, a.v.i., salt, too salty, -of food, water ; bitter ; intoxicating, or poison; (of tobacco) strong. L 41

lahi , a.v.i big, large, great, or big enough; old, older (elder) oldest; head, senior. N., bigness, etc., size, amount. lak alaka, k. ballet or action song performed while standing. V.i., to perform a lakalaka. lata, v.i., to feel at home or at ease, to be comfortable or happy and contented ; to be friendly or at ease with. laum alie, n., soul, spirit. lau'i, v.t., to talk or gossip about (esp. in a derogatory or critical way), to say things about. lea, v.i., to speak ; to utter or make or produce a sound. Adj., eloquent. N., statement ; speech ; language. loi, v.i. to lie, tell an untruth, be untruthful or false. Adj., untruthful, false, untrue; fictitious, spurious ; counterfeit, artificial, imitation. N., lying, untruthfulness, etc., lie. lolo, n., oil. loto ko vi, ill-disposed, disagreeable, or malicious loto lahi, brave, bold, or determined. l$, n., taro leaves used as food. luma, v.i., to taunt, jeer, or hold other up to ridicule. Adj., habitually doing this. M m ", v.i. to feel shame, to be ashamed of. N., shame. maama, a.v.i., light (not dark) ; fig., enlightened (mentally, spiritually). N., light ; enlightenment ; lamp, lantern, or other source of light. m "fan a, a.v.i., warm (inwardly, subjectively);warm, such as warms us (of country, time, day, etc.); (of the mind) fervent, enthusiastic, cp. Loto-m#fana; (of love) warm, heartfelt. Also, friendly, cordial. mafuli , v.i., to turn over, capsize ; to be overturned, upside-down, the wrong way up, or the wrong way around. mahaki , conc. n., sick person, patient. A.n., sickness, disease, ailment; s.s. temperamental or characteristic fondness or liking, 'weakness' , craze, addiction. Att. adj., sick, diseased, ailing. Pred. adj. (v.i), dead (polite for mate). malanga, v.i. to make a public speech or (esp.) to preach. N., public speech, oration, esp. sermon; preaching service. Also =preacher (esp lay preacher). mala’ia, v.i., to meet with or suffer misfortune as a result or Nemesis 42

of wrongdoing ; unfortunate, unlucky. mali, v.i., to marry, be married. N., marriage. mali hola., elope. man ako , v.i. or s-t, to be fond of, to like, to desire ; to fall in love with, to desire to marry ; to desire or want to. man avah !, v.i., to fear, be afraid. mat "pule , n., man of honourable rank or status ; minor chief ; chief's attendant and spokesman ; in a college (prefect) ; males's brother in law or female's sister in law ; gentleman, man ; sir. masoli , a.v.i., chipped, having a little bit chipped off it. mate , v.i., to die ; s.s. to be stunned or quite unconscious. Also to be paralysed. Adj., dead, etc. N., death, etc. m "'olung a, a.v.i., high. N. height, etc. mehekitanga, n., father's sister (paternal aunt) or father's female cousins. Among Tongans one's mehekitanga is treated with special respect, and in many matters her decision is final. melino, v.i., to be at peace. N., peace. me'a 'ofa, n., gift, present ; gratuity, tip. mio'i, v.t., to twist ; fig., to distort. misinale, n., missionary ; annual missionary offering (the usual meaning). moa, n., fowl. Used figuratively to refer to a boyfriend or girlfriend. mofi, a.v.i., to be warm, esp. with fever ;fig. to be fervent. N., feverishness, temperature, fever. mohe, v.i., to sleep, be asleep. Adj., asleep, etc. N namu , v.i., to smell, to emit a smell or odour. N., mosquito. nofo, v.i., to sit ; to stay, dwell, live, reside ; to stay (instead of coming or going), to remain where one is or was. N., sitting, staying, etc.; persons sitting, assembly, congregation ; society, community ; social life , social conditions, life, way of living, or state of society ; state, condition, stability, or well-being. nonga, a.v.i., (of the wind or sea) calm, still, tranquil ; (of persons of the mind, etc.) calm, tranquil, peaceful, contented ; (of pain) gone or almost so.


NG ngaahi, v.t., to make, construct, build, manufacture ; to make or cause to be ; to do, attend to, handle, treat, deal with, manipulate, manage, work ; to mend, repair, do up ; to touch or meddle with ; to ill treat or attack (physically or verbally). ngatu , n., tapa cloth : made by Tongan women from the bark of the hiapo (paper-mulberry). ngutu, n., mouth; beak ; orifice ; mouthpiece ; brim. ngutu lau., habitually gossiping. P palangi, n., or adj., European, (person) belonging to any whiteskinned race. pau'u, a.v.i. ill-mannered, naughty, mischievious; to do mischievious or naughty things. N., naughtiness, mischief, etc. poto , a.v.i., to be clever, skilful ; to understand what to do and be able to do it. puhi'i, v.t., to blow, blow away, or blow out (inc. a candle, etc., thus extinguished), with the mouth. puke , v.t., to take hold of, to seize, to hold. V.i. (of a person or animal) to be sick, ill, unwell, ailing. N., being sick ; sickness, illness, ailment. pupunu , v.t., to fill up, plug up, block up, stop up. S siasi, n., church (organization, people). Also used figuratively to mean crazy. si'isi'i, a.v.i., very small, etc. ; small, etc., as compared with others ; too small. etc. s !, n., suitor, lover, or sweetheart. T t ", to hit (in various senses). As v.g. to hit, strike, beat, also taa'i; to chop, to cut or carve (eg a canoe). tala, v.t., to tell, relate; to state, assert; to tell, command; to announce, or inform people of. talano a, v.i., to talk (in an informal way), to tell stories or relate 44

experiences, etc. N., talk (ing), story, tale. talangofu a, submissive, habitually obedient. But literally easy (ngofua) to tell (tala). talatuki , v.i., to pronounce or utter a curse of imprecation. N., curse, imprecation. tali, v.i., to wait. V.t., to wait for, to expect, to await (esp. in order to welcome) ; to receive, to welcome, entertain, or give a reception to ; to receive or accept ; to receive ( a request) favourably, to accede to, to consent to grant, to accept or take on ( a job or challenge) ; to answer ; to respond or react to. tang ata, n., man (human being), man (not woman), man (not boy) ; s.s. (man's son). Adj., male. tangi, v.i., to cry, weep. tapu, a.v.i., forbidden, prohibited, unlawful.; sacred, holy. N., prohibiting, prohibition ; sacredness, holiness. tauhi , v.t., to tend, look after, take care of, or to minister to ; to keep, keep safe, preserve, observe (eg. the sabbath), keep inviolate, maintain. tauhi vaha'a , As value: 'maintaining harmony of the 'space' between oneself and others' (Thaman 1988:120). As concept it refers to the evocation and attenuation of relatedness (see extended discussion in introductory chapter). tau'at "in a, v.i., to be at liberty, free (not imprisoned, enslaved, or in subjection), emancipated, or independent. ta'elata, v.i. to not be lata. To not feel at home or at ease, to be uncomfortable or unhappy. ta'o vala, n., piece of matting worn around the waist. t !volo , n., devil, demon, etc. –now more or less syn. with fa’ahikehe. [Schneider (1977): (n) devil; evil spirit, ghost] [Tu'inukuafe (1992): demon; devil; apparition; ghost; spirit]. See chapter three for discussion of these translations. te'ia, v.t. (often impl.), to hit in order to ‘pay him out’; to be smitten or stricken, esp. by a supernatural being or power. Also, to be very much in love (‘smitten’). t#, v.i., to fall (from a height), to drop ; to fall from an upright position ; to be beaten, defeated ; to fail (eg. in an examination). Also: to miss, not to attend, or to be missed out or overlooked. tofua'a, n., whale (or whale’s flesh). 45

toka'i , v.t., to have or show respect for, to consider the feelings or judgement of, to have or show consideration for, to take notice of (so as to be affected by), to mind, to object to or worry about; to care. tokoni, v.i., to help (q.v.), assist, ‘give a hand’ ; to give an exhortation, a talk, or a short address of a moral or religious character ; to contribute. toto, n., blood. V.i., to bleed. Also, to be blood relations. toung "ue, v.i., (of a number of people) to work for one another in turns ; all working for one of the group one day, for another on another day, and so on. tou'a, n., person whose duty it is to prepare kava for drinking, esp. on ceremonial occasions. tui, v.i., to believe, to believe in or on. N., belief ; faith ; creed. Also: v.t., to put in, insert. V.t. or s-t., to put on, to wear. N., knee. tukuto'o , n. or v.i., (to give a) present to a doctor after the patient has recovered. It was formerly believed that this would prevent the disease from returning to the patient from the doctor, who was thought of as having taken the disease away. tulu'i, v.t., to bathe or treat with healing liquid:obj. ear, eye, wound, etc. N., lotion, esp. eye-lotion (m.s tulu'i-mata). Also (my translation): To administer medicine by squeezing the constituents of the medicine and dripping the resulting liquid. tuofefine, n., male’s sister or female first cousin. tuonga'ane , n., female’s brother or male first cousin. tu'a, n., commoner, person without chiefly rank. Adj., common, not of chiefly rank.. V.i., (of a relative) to be of lower of less chiefly lineage (on one side at least). tu'i, n., king or queen, sovereign. U uesia, v.t., esp. to move or agitate mentally or spiritually. V v ", n., distance between, distance apart ; fig., attitude, feeling, relationship, towards each other. vai , n., liquid, esp. fresh water ; medicine (also vai faito’o) ; well , tank, spring, river or other body of water. Adj., thin (of liquids), liquid. 46

V.i., to be or become liquid ; to dissolve. vale , a.v.i., foolish, silly, ignorant, unskilled, incapable, incompetent. Also, mad on , over-fond of. N., foolishness, ignorance, or incompetence ; fool, duffer, unskilled or incompetent person. vali , v.t., to paint or smear, obj., house, etc. (or sore, etc., as with iodine, ‘aitini). 'A 'aong a, a.v.i., useful, of practical value ; helpful, beneficial, effective, profitable, or worthwhile ; requisite, needful, necessary. 'api , n., allotment of ground ; home ; area of land, or enclosure, devoted to a particular purpose. ‘atam ai, n., mind, understanding, intellect, intelligence, reason. Adj., intelligent. 'atam ai vaivai, of weak intellect, feeble minded. 'au, n., current, stream. V.i. (of pus) to ooze out, flow. Hence a woman who suffers from continued discharge of blood from the uterus is said to be puke he ‘au. ' "van ga. (1) n., sickness caused (or believed to be caused) by a fa'ahikehe or t!volo. (2) (=prec.), v.i., to be fascinated or strongly attracted to, a girl (or a boy), as if enchanted or bewitched by her (or him). (3) v.i to develop a terrible craze for , as if bewitched ; to be infatuated. 'E 'eiki, n., chief, man or woman of chiefly rank. A.v.i., of chiefly rank or kind, etc. 'eva, v.i., to go for a walk ; to go away for a change ; to pay one’s addresses to a girl. 'I ‘ilonga, a.v.i., to show, show up, be seen, be recognizable ; to be indicated, shown, recognized, or known ; distinguished by a special mark or characteristic ; conspicuous, out-standing, notable, memorable. N., mark, impression of something. 'ita, v.i., to be angry. N., anger. 47

'O 'ofa, v.i., to love, be fond of, be kind to. N., love, fondness, or kindness. But see reference to Kavaliku's (1961, 1977) discussion of the many meanings of 'ofa in the introduction. 'oiau ! or shortened 'oue, interjective expressing surprise, astonishment, pity, regret, disappointment, or annoyance (or pain). 'otua, n., object of worship, deity, god ; (cap.) God. 'U 'umu, n., native oven or fire-hole ; food cooked in a native oven ; fire in a native oven. 'uta, n., land (not sea); interior or in-land (not coast).


A NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION Narratives, explanations and conversations in Tongan that appear in this publication were transcribed and translated by me from tape and video recordings. On occasion when conversations or interviews were not recorded I translated them from memory or notes. By preserving the Tongan as it was spoken to me or others I invite discussion and criticism of my translations. I also reveal through the speaker’s language use their perceptions of my capabilility as a Tongan speaker and informed interviewer. In some of my earlier interviews speakers appear to simplify their explanations in a way that some Tongan readers might find grammatically incorrect or inappropriate written Tongan. Translations attempt to preserve the speaker’s style of narrative.


FIGURE 1 Map of the Tongan Archipelago


FIGURE 2. Map of Vava'u




An introduction Vav#-space between the earth and the sky '%-bundle of things bound or tied together t$ ki he vav#--lit. to fall into the sky: (a) to fly very high-of bird, a kite, or a plane; (b) to be 'over the odds', or to do something 'over the odds' (something exceeding all bounds of decency or propriety). Churchward (1959: 535,489)

Almost the whole of Vava'u can be seen from the top of Mount Talau a long time before the sun finally appears on the horizon. In that grey light before dawn, Vava'u slowly comes awake to the sounds of cocks crowing, church bells ringing and church drums banging. Three days a week dawn is welcomed by the shrill, flat and forced voices of the congregations of the Church of Tonga, who, despite their number, manage to wake many within their areas. That sound travels better in the dewy air of this time of the morning explains how occasionally they can be heard crystal clear in 'Utulei, one kilometre distant across the harbour. Wisps of smoke rise slowly into the air, as pigs, dogs and chickens come running for breakfast, signalled by the sharp cracks of bushknives opening old coconuts. From this vantage point it is not difficult to see why the islands of Vava’u are well known to other Tongans. Of all the islands in the Tongan archipelago, Vava'u is the most scenic, its hilly geography giving spectacular vistas to the heavily vegetated fifty islands of the group. It is difficult, however, to get a sense of Vava'u's remoteness; the eyes' journey to the horizon is interrupted by the many islands to the south and the gently upwardly sloping landmass to the north. Only in the very distance can one make out the crashing swells breaking on the surrounding offshore reefs. Some eight hundred kilometres to the west lies Vitu Levu, the main island of Fiji and six hundred kilometres north by north east, Samoa's Savai'i (see Fig. 1). On Vava'u's enclosed harbour sits its largest town, Neiafu. From here, ferries wind their way 52

around Vava'u's maze of intertwined raised limestone islands to the open ocean for the one hundred and fifty kilometre journey to Ha'apai's spread out low atolls and then another one hundred and seventy kilometres to Tongatapu's large flat bulk. On occasion ferries will follow the south-west coast, passing Longomapu perched high on the headland. As they head north to the remote outliers of Niuatoputapu and Niuafo'ou, one day distant, passengers gape at the dramatic, treacherous cliffs of the northern coast. Inaccessible, except by boat, and by a few paths at their eastern extremity, they are like the outer edge of half an amphitheatre, forcing attention to the main arena of Neiafu. Descending from this outer edge, most villages sit at the point where land is closer to the more sheltered inner waters. The intimacy of the landscape hints at one of Vava'u’s nicknames. Fatafatam#fana (warmhearted) is a reference to the emotional volatility of people here, of their capacity for m#fana, an emotion of communitarian enthusiasm and of spontaneous moments of generosity that border on eccentricity in the eyes of people from Tongatapu. Vava’u’s memories of independence from their cousins on the main island, Tongatapu, and not a little guarded animosity to those who tend to look down on those from other islands, has something to do with their sense of difference. For people in Vava'u, Tonga refers primarily to the island of Tongatapu and not the whole island group that has taken its name. Puns on Vava'u lahi (Great Vava'u), another of Vava'u's nicknames, make the connection with Bilitania Lahi (Great Britain), and evoke Vava'uans' tendency to exaggerate, their wish to be the best and show it and their pride in their island group. At the King's eightieth birthday celebration, on the fourth of July 1998, Vava'u lahi certainly delivered. The local journalist reported that one thousand people from Vava'u travelled by ferry to the capital Nuku'alofa to perform a lakalaka (standing dance) that had as it's coup d'ésprit the surprise presentation of five hundred six pound tins of corn beef. Their generosity was a feat of understated one-upmanship.1 Generosity after all, can be heartfelt but it is also a means by which social capital is 1

See video (Haka he langi kuo Tau. (2001) Produced for the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga by the Institute for Polynesian Studies, Brigham Young University-Hawai'i, and the Polynesian Cultural Center) which tells in part the story of this lakalaka and Kaeppler (1999:54) for the words and translation.


gained. Vava'u wants to be the best, it does not want to be outdone. This is manifest in the expression: Vava'u ta'e fie t$, where t$, expresses an element of not wanting to fall in the estimation of others. Vava'uans’ fear of loss of face is embodied in the expression: Na'a t$ 'a Vava'u lahi (Lest Great Vava'u fail). Vava'u, as a good friend implicitly contrasted with Tongatapu and overseas, is a place where you can still nofo nonga (live contentedly). A place where when one's kavenga (responsibility) has been carried out one can enjoy mohe (sleeping), lotu (praying), talanoa fiefia (happy conversation), melino (being at peace), kai (eating) and 'eva (going to see people). People in Vava'u never tire of emphasising that here you are free of the monetary pressures in other countries, you can live and eat for free, content and confident in your membership of your k#inga (extended family). An easily accessible and sheltered ocean makes fishing relatively free of danger all year around and the fertile land and few pests make growing crops problem free. This, coupled with the inclusiveness and generosity so characteristic of people in Vava'u, and the strong ideology of mutual help and assistance (fetokoni’aki) within the extended family means very few people despite their economic or social standing want for food or shelter. Perhaps more importantly, people do not want for social interaction. And herein lies another supposed characteristic of people in Vava'u that occasionally perplexes people from Tongatapu. They are often accused pejoratively of being kaimumu'a (self-possessed, quite free from stage fright) in contrast with the more reserved character of the people in Tongatapu. This reflects a forwardness and presumptuousness of interaction in the Vava'u manner, that is a reflection of the involvement that people have and want in each other's lives. Fakahua (to joke or banter) is much valued and is evident in the teasing and joviality of interaction among most people. It is no coincidence that the most famous Tongan comedian, nicknamed Tinitini, hails from Paingamotu, Vava'u. From the top of Mt Talau one immediately notices that the largest buildings are churches and schools. Often together, they stand out from the areas of houses in which they are nestled. With few exceptions, they are the best-kept and best-positioned buildings. Both Tailulu and Chanel school students can gaze absently from high vantagepoints to a view of Vava'u, while benefiting from the breezes that are all the more cooling at that height. From the top of Mount Talau one can see school 54

children in their many coloured uniforms walking from their houses to schools. As all the secondary schools are located in Neiafu, every morning cars and trucks converge on Neiafu with their cargo of schoolchildren. By contrast with people in Tongatapu, Vava'u has little contact with the largely absentee landlord nobles upon whose estates most of the villages of Vava'u sit. The current Governor of Vava'u, Baron Tuita, whose estate encompasses the village of 'Utungake, is an exception. He occupies the highest governmental position in Vava'u. The Governor's office administers and issues directives to the six district officers and thirty-nine 'ofisa kolo (town officers) who are elected from within every village in Vava'u and represent the government at the local level. Some villages are located in the estates of the Tu'i (King), kau hou'eiki nopele (nobles) or kau mat#pule ma'u tofi'a (talking chiefs with land). The people of these villages are then referred to as the k#inga (people) of the noble concerned.2 They pay tax to him and are duty bound to help in the fulfilment of his responsibilities. Nobles' popularity varies, depending on the way they relate to their k#inga and the demands they make. There is an advantage in living on government land, in that taxes are set and fixed and that demands made on you tend to be lower. Many government villages still recognise their local chiefs although they were not given noble titles by King Tupou I in the late 19th century. Fotu and Afu, mat#pule ma'u tofi'a, both reside in their estates of Leimatu'a and Ha’alaufuli respectively. Most men, especially those living in the villages, work on the plantations that comprise much of the land on Vava'u. Many men prefer to work in small groups, known as toungaue, which work each other's land together (Grijp 1993). While men work in the bush, women in most of the villages gather in each other's houses or the weaving shed to weave and chat. Children, below school age, will 2

Villages on the estates of the King: Holonga, Paingamotu, Nuapapu and Matamaka. Villages on the estates of Nobles: Ulukalala (Tu'anuku ), Luani (Tefisi part of Tefisi falls on Fakafanua's land), Veikune (Longomapu), Crown Prince Tupouto'a (Taoa) , Vaha'i (Ta'anea) Tu'ia fitu (Makave). Vehekite ('Otea), Fakatulolo (Falevai), Fulivai (Hunga), Tu'ilakepa (Ofu & Okoa). Villages on the estates of talking chiefs: Fotu (Leimatu'a), Afu (Ha'alaufuli), Akau'ola (Taunga). Villages on Government land administrated by the Governor: Neiafu, Mataika, Feletoa, Tu'anekivale, Vaimalo, Koloa, Holeva, Houma, Ha'akio, Mangia, Lape, Ovaka.


accompany their mothers and sit in their laps or play around with other children while their mothers work. Koloa (valuables), such as fala (mats) and ngatu (tapa cloth), are vital in fulfilling familial responsibilities at funerals, weddings and other social events but can also be sold within Vava'u and at special katoanga (festival) which involve Tongan women from overseas. 3 Some work is available for those women who have secretarial or business qualifications. It is a testament to the lack of wage earning opportunities in Vava'u and Ha'apai that girls from these islands groups regularly come top of their class in the Nursing School in Nuku'alofa. It is mostly women who sell in the market. Other than selling foodstuffs, families make lolo Tonga (Tongan oil), vai Tonga (Tonga medicine) and handicrafts to sell in the market. For a relatively small number of people, there is work in the many ministries (Fisheries, Customs, Quarantine, Works), police station, fire station, governor's office, treasury, telecom office, banks, hospital and shops in Neiafu. As the heat of the day starts to wane, the roads come alive again when school finishes and most of the shops close. The streets are once again full of school children, walking or packed on trucks and pickups returning to their villages. The arrival of the inter-island ferries, the Tautahi and the Olovaha on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, breaks up the week and is an irresistible draw to many people whether or not they are picking people up or seeing them off. These ferries bring goods for the stores, mail for the post office and visiting relatives. People come just to witness the social drama of relatives being separated or reunited. Boys take great pleasure in launching themselves acrobatically off the wharf and into the sea between the ferry and the other moored boats. Each area of Neiafu, and every village in Vava'u, has a distinct character and reputation despite the multiple kin ties that link people to other villages in and outside Vava'u. There is no better example than a small area of land next to St Joseph's Catholic Church. Despite almost two hundred years since its settlement by a group of Ouveans at the beginning of the 19th Century, Falaleu, named after a village in Ouvea, 3

See James (1997) for a comprehensive account of the role of koloa (Tongan valuables such as mats and bark cloth) in the processes of modern migration and remittance.


still maintains its distinctiveness. That difference of mentality and allegiance that led to them having to flee Ouvea two hundred years ago is still manifest in their descendants, who now live all over the island but predominately in Falaleu and Fungamisi. Though they were given land by King George I (Tupou 'Uluaki), as Catholics their allegiances were with the Ha'a of the Tu'i Tonga, the lineage that was dispossessed of power when King George I brought the Ha'a Kanokapolu into total influence over the archipelago. The Catholics in their heartlands of Mu'a, Lapaha and Ma'ufanga (Nuku'alofa) to this day are more critical and less respectful of the current nobility. Falaleu is no different. It too has a reputation for dissidence, which is perhaps most manifest in the fearsome reputation of their young men on and off the rugby field. The Falaleu team, dressed in all black, is rarely beaten. The playing of rugby, football or volleyball in the evening, in which most young men participate, is one of the few activities that concretises a strong sense of village membership. Falaleu and to a lesser extent Fungamisi are rare in that common origin, k#inga and church all coincide. Other areas in Neiafu do not have this strong sense of difference. Their definitions were more arbitrary, their populations are much larger and are also comprised of a variety of different k#inga and churches. The total population of Neiafu is 4100, distributed in thirteen districts. 4 Almost anticipating nightfall, insects in the bush start their cacophony and fruit bats start spreading their wings as the sun is still setting. The night air is more humid and richer in perfume. On rare nights, when the wind has died and the full moon hangs high in the sky, boats can be seen perfectly reflected in the harbour's waters. On nights like these, once you have eaten, the pigs have been fed and the rubbish burnt, people sit outside, chat and joke. Women sit together near the house. Boys sit or lie in groups on the warm tarmac, chatting and teasing each other. In Neiafu, people no longer gaze on the many fishing boats which would linger in the harbour until dawn, their lamps attracting fish to carefully crafted lures. Now, the many yachts of the 4

Fangatonu (457), Talau (381), Fa'okula (370), Sailome (145), Saineai (206), Masilamea (471), Kameli (812), 'Otumapa (193), Falaleu (154), Neiafu Tahi (340), Houmalei (101), Fungamisi (470), 'Utulangivaka (222). Statistics for Jan-Dec 1998 (Public Health Department, Prince Wellington Ngu Hospital, Neiafu)


charter companies Sunsail and 'The Moorings' are spread out over the harbour nearest the Catholic Church. Some men will go spearfishing on the many reefs, returning early in the morning with fish to feed their household or to sell in the market. The huts of the four taxi companies erupt periodically with the laughter of drivers who play cards and drink kava5 while waiting for fares. Choir practice, especially close to the regular singing competitions, takes place in informal groups within churches or houses. The air is thick with the polyphonic harmonies which impress so many visitors to Tonga. The many small falekoloa (shop) that are dotted around Vava'u provide a place for a chat in the evening. Children are sent to pick up food on credit for dinner. Other families will watch videos. Video machines appeared in the 80's, soon after the three cinemas closed down. Many men will head to their local kalapu (kava club). Discussions on the events of the day, joking, singing and occasionally a card game or watching a video takes place around a bowl of kava. Drinking kava promotes a relaxed sociality in which, men acknowledge, frustration and anger dissipates. The overall atmosphere is one of cheerfulness, lack of pretension and enjoyment of each other's company. The most popular clubs have tou'a (young women servers) leading to a more ribald and risquÊ interaction. Leimatu'a’s famous Friday kalapu is also a major fundraising event in which one's weekly wages may disappear in the enthusiasm of generosity. Neiafu gets busier as the week progresses. There are more people buying and selling in the market. On Friday, one of the regular Royal Tongan Airlines flights from Nuku'alofa brings the Vava'u ration of the Chronicle and Taime Tonga newspapers to be devoured by readers eager to read news from Tongatapu and overseas that they have not heard on the radio. On Friday night the market stays open till late, and the centre of town is full of lorries and cars from all the villages, bringing produce to sell and at the same time people to 'eva. 'Eva is socialising for its own sake in the process of travelling by car or 5

To make kava, the dried, crushed and powdered roots of the shrub Piper methysticum, are added to water and then strained through a thin gauze. Kava refers to both the plant and the beverage made from its dried, crushed and powdered root (Churchward 1959).


walking. It is a kind of 'social wandering', sometimes with the aim of seeing particular people but often with no other purpose than to see and maybe meet someone. It is, undoubtedly, one of the most popular activities in Vava'u. Fathers might take some members of their household for an 'eva to the beach or to the house of some relatives, but they might just as easily just drive around without any geographic aim. During this activity peoples’ response to the common greeting 'Alu ki fÊ' (Where are you going?), is a cursory 'Eva p!' (just wandering). The attraction of 'eva for the youth is of a different quality to that of older, married people. For them this is a chance to find a moa (boyfriend or girlfriend). So popular is this relative freedom from some of the strictures of living in a household that girls, who have tasted its pleasures, claim to postpone marriage to get a few more years of it before the responsibilities of marriage take over. The freedom to 'eva, often without chaperones, is one of the biggest changes to some girls' lives in Vava'u over the last decades. Traditional courting that involves drinking kava in the house of the girl, still takes place but not to the same extent as before. The Friday night discos, despite warnings from church and school, are an irresistible draw, enough to make children lie to their parents, regardless of how good their relationship is with them. Youth in Neiafu have more exposure to these new pleasures, but awareness permeates the whole of the island group. It is not only the youth, however, that frequent discos. They are also a distraction for married men and women. The darkness, noise and mass of people in discos contrast with those other spaces in Neiafu where it is difficult not to be observed. Mormon dances, by contrast, take place in basketball courts, under full floodlighting with household members and church members present. In town, boys sit and stand in dark doorways, quietly watching and occasionally whispering comments to get the attention of the girls who wander centre stage through the market and through town. Teenagers sneak off and hang out outside the main discos, hoping to get the three pa'anga (Tongan pound) entrance fee from an obliging relative. Inside, whole weekly salaries may be spent on beer for everyone who knows you. No sooner is a beer bought than a namu (lit. fly-someone who hangs around at the bar asking for drinks) takes it off you. Fights occasionally break out between boys from different villages 59

and are soon ejected into the street. The many contradictory accounts form the staple of conspiratorial conversations the next day. The quadrant in Sailome which includes the fire station, police station, the kava club Mohetaha (lit. sleep together) and Sia Leka's (a 24 hr restaurant), stays awake later than the rest of Vava'u. Under shelter, the night shift at the police station sit and chat while drinking kava. It is difficult not to linger in this area; the songs from Mohetaha fill the air and mix with the smell of curried mutton. One can sit and chat and watch the late night kava drinkers returning home to a deep long slumber. Saturday: The Villages Saturday brings almost the whole of Vava'u into Neiafu. People arrive early from the villages and soon the market is overflowing with baskets of manioke (cassava), kumala (sweet potato), 'ufi (yam) and niu motu'a (ripe coconuts) a source of understated pride to the families whose men grew them. There will be many comments as to the size, quality and provenance of the crops concerned. Huge mounds of l% (taro leaves) are sold quickly to make the essential component of any Sunday meal; one of many varieties of l% dishes in which meat or shellfish is cooked wrapped in l% and soaked in coconut milk.6 In season, piles of melons and pineapples almost surround the market. As men unload lorries of produce, the women, as representatives of their households, cajole and encourage people to buy their produce. The women, who sell most days of the week, have their own tables in the main part of the market, while the rest of the women who sell only on Friday and Saturday sit on a covered area of concrete outside. The women in the market are party to all the latest news in Vava'u. By Friday night village news has become island news. The positive value and enjoyment of socialising that characterises the interaction in the market is not limited to people from your village or your extended family. Although women will tend to sit in groups 6

For example l% sipi (mutton), l% moa (chicken), l% fingota (shellfish) and l% pulu (corned beef or beef).


with other villagers and feel less inhibited in their presence, they will also joke and banter with other women and passers-by. Women send their children to get change from a nearby woman, and lend each other knives to open coconuts. People leave their produce and other women will take the money on their behalf. The excitement of the market extends to interaction in the main street of Neiafu. Every available sitting space is occupied by groups of boys and girls watching, chatting and flirting ever so surreptitiously. The flea market's narrow pathways between stalls are full of youth looking at the clothes, toiletries and assorted bric-a-brac. In passing conversations gossip is shared of the previous night, and jokes and banter revolve around tulimoa, which literally means chasing chicken but refers to the process of looking for a boyfriend or girlfriend. Saturday is the ideal day for an illicit date with your moa (boyfriend or girlfriend) without raising suspicion. Market day is one of the few occasions when boys and girls can meet casually. The excitement is palpable, so much so that some mothers even forbid their daughters to go into town, fearing they will lose their heads over some young paramour. The importance of feohi (interaction/fellowship) is manifest in the constant mutual acknowledgement of people who know each other, through common greetings such as 'alu ki fe' (where are you going), or shouting their name followed by an expletive, 'Finau 'e '. Someone who does not engage may be labelled fakamaahuahu (to ignore in a pompous or self-important manner). Approximately three quarters the population of Vava'u live in the thirty-six villages other than Neiafu on 'Uta Vava'u and surrounding islands.7 Only about one thousand three hundred people live on islands which are inaccessible by motor vehicle. The largest villages are those that have the greatest access to cultivable land. They are in order of population: Leimatu'a, Pangaimotu, Longomapu, Ta'anea, Mataika, Tefisi and Taoa.8 The more land a village has the more able they are to 7

Falaleu and Fungamisi, though they curiously both have 'Ofisa Kolo (town officers) in contrast to the one that is the official representative for the whole of Neiafu, are regarded as being areas of Neiafu. 8 Population statistics for 1999 carried out by the Department of Public Health, Ngu Hospital, Neiafu. Leimatu'a(1453), Pangaimotu(808), Longomapu(722), Ta'anea(658), Mataika(596),


fulfil their responsibilities and maintain the image they want to create through acts of generosity, especially in the yearly misinale. Although the competitive aspect of the annual church collection is not its explicit purpose, there is always a sense of interfamilial and intervillage rivalry as to who can donate the most. Intervillage rivalry, most visible in rugby matches on Saturdays, is also manifest in both friendly and pejorative ways of teasing. During the rugby season, the more important matches take place in the afternoon, once the market has closed. People come to the rugby pitches at Saineh! or Chanel for the spectacle. Heavy falls and collisions elicit just as much laughter from the crowd as cheering when a try is scored. Men, sitting in large groups, are muted in support for their team. It is some of the women who create the biggest spectacle by throwing themselves onto the ground, in expression of exuberant emotion known as m#fana. Most unmarried men play rugby for either their first or second team. Matches are rough; many boys come off with gashes in the head or sprained muscles. People in Vava'u are no different from other people in Tonga in that they play and draw on stereotypical characteristics of people from different places. While Vava'u may be the butt of friendly banter in Tongatapu, there is plenty of seeming internal differentiation to orient people and serve for humour. The proverb L$linga 'A Motu (Lolenga 'A Motu) meaning literally 'Habit of a small island', captures a degree of condescension that people living in Nuku'alofa and Neiafu may have toward smaller places (Tu'inukuafe 1992:26). The distinction between kolo (town) and 'uta (bush) reinforces people in Neiafu's sense of preeminence within Vava'u as a whole. People from Holonga, in particular, due to the difficulty in coming into town and their apparent insularity are joked about as being wild or in Tongan kakai kai vao (literally 'people who eat the bush'). Makave and Toula, the villages closest to Neiafu, share somewhat in its relative prosperity and the kudos of living in town, rather than i 'uta (in the bush).

Tefisi(572), Taoa(535), Holonga(465), Ha'alaufuli(443), Tu'anekivale(397), Makave(390), Feletoa(390), ‘Utungake(361), Toula(331), Tu'anuku(329), Utui(299), Okoa(298), Utulei(232), Utulangivaka(222), Talihau(216), Koloa(196), Ha'akio(187), Ofu(175), Houma(173), Holeva(134), Oloua(125), Vaimalo(99), Mangia(83), Malanata(45), Ha'alefo(25), Faama(22).


This association of status with place is manifest in teasing and joking and also the desirability of people in marriage for people from these places. Many parents from Neiafu will not be happy if their daughter intends to marry a man from one of the outer villages or the islands. Yet, girls from the islands and more distant villages are desirable as wives because of the perception that they are more talangofua (submissive, habitually obedient), anga lelei (of good character) and not fokisi (lit. like a fox but meaning promiscuous). Mali hola (elopements) are very common in Vava'u, partly because of the difficulty of pleasing your parents with your choice of marriage partner. The household of the man from one of the outer islands or remoter villages who marries a girl from Neiafu of high status will of course be very happy. They will benefit in both status and economic terms. Pragmatism and romance enters to various degrees in all marriages. The response of people in such places is not to deny their relative poverty and lack of opportunity but to celebrate their traditionality, their stronger sense of community, the greater involvement they have in each other’s lives and the success of their relatives. People in the small islands have a fortitude and calmness born of making the best of small island resources. Less exposed to the forces of change and the monetary economy they have pride in their traditionality, community spirit and church. The smaller islands also benefit from the academic and professional success of their children. Hunga celebrates the current Minister of Health, Dr. Williami Tangi; their pride in him reflects their pride in their island. Dr. Epeli Hau'ofa, the well-known Tongan author, is widely regarded to be originally from Hunga. The Dux of Mailefihi in 1999 was a boy from 'Oloua. Falevai, on Kapa, is the original home of the Bifeletis, an extended family which include two doctors and the current Police Magistrate, Peau Bifeleti in Neiafu. The current Governor's secretary is also from Falevai. Villages are also notable for more positive reasons. Pangaimotu for example, is well known for its faiva (performance). This is put to good use for tourists and visitors at the many barbecues they organise. No village, in Vava'u nor in Tongatapu for that matter, matches the renown of Leimatu'a. Its inhabitants are regarded with wonder, bafflement and on occasion fear. Many people from Leimatu'a claim it is a fonua fiefia (happy place) because of a strong emphasis on tau'ataina 63

(freedom).9 People here are more self confident in interaction than anywhere else in the island group. People attachments to others in their village and outside are evoked and denied to varying degrees in different contexts. For most people their household and extended family are their prime concern. And it is their concern over how their household is regarded that motivates them to both acquiesce to and celebrate the demands made on them by church and village. Women typically join the household of their husband, before setting up a household of their own. It is true that wives pick up the local way of doing things but, as sisters to their brothers, they still have strong influence over, and affection for, relatives in the villages where they were brought up. Disputes between households and individuals occur in all villages, though some villages have the reputation for more than others. However, familiarity and the fact that people live in such close proximity sharing in events and village activities is a force for reconciliation, at least on the surface. When someone dies in the village everyone will dress in teunga uliuli (mourning dress) and participate in the funeral. Men drink kava together frequently. After the rugby games Neiafu is almost deserted. Some families go to their plantations to do some work and relax. Others will go swimming, fangota (shellfish gathering) or fishing near their villages. During Christmas holidays, many churches will organise Kaitunu (picnics) on the various beaches on the main island. Men drink kava together, women talk together and children play in the water minded by their elder siblings or cousins. Discos are open on Saturday, but in general lack the excitement of Friday. At midnight everything must close, for Sunday is God's day.


According to an academic Tongan friend who had studied overseas Leimatu'a is a place where the individualised self is denied. Yet in the denial of this kind of self, people from Leimatu'a claimed there was great freedom. I suspect that what is precisely meant by this freedom is less a freedom from responsibilities but a freedom to engage and influence others born of the confidence in ones tauhi vaha'a (evoking and attenuating relatedness).


Sunday: Church There is a stillness about Sunday which you sense immediately when you awake, the stillness before the storm. Fires have already been lit and food put in the 'umu by the men of the household, when the stillness is suddenly disturbed by church bells and drums calling people to service. Sunday is celebrated all over the kingdom and in Tongan communities overseas. It is against the law to play music, play sport, swim and do washing. Decorum and good behaviour are expected. The bakery is the only business that is allowed to open, but only in the afternoon. Sunday brings the household together in common activity and the pleasure of eating together and re-inforces the centrality of the Church in life in Vava'u. Any comprehensive summary of the churches would require a thesis in itself.10 Only a basic introduction is possible here. The Wesleyan Church is the oldest, biggest and most traditional of the churches in Vava'u. The large number of Wesleyan churches in Neiafu and in the villages mean that most Wesleyans belong to relatively small intimate congregations, with churches near their homes. There are only two Catholic churches in Neiafu and most people go to St Joseph's, not only from Neiafu but also from Toula and Pangaimotu. There are three branches of the Methodist Church of Tonga in Vava'u with substantial congregations in Vava'u: Siasi Tonga Tau'ataina (Free Church of Tonga), Siasi Tonga Hou'eiki (Church of Tonga), Siasi Tonga Conistutone (The Constitutional Church). A breakaway group from the Wesleyan church variously named the Siasi Tokaikolo or Siasi Maama Fo'ou have a base a short distance from Neiafu in Malanata. The Mormon church has an ever-increasing presence in Vava'u and most villages have the standard design Mormon church. There are also small congregations of the Anglican and Seventh Day Adventists. There are two Assemblies of God that have a broadly Pentecostal doctrine. The Bahai church is the only non-Christian denomination in Vava'u, preaching an ethic of World Peace, with a structure in which authority is shared. 10

See Decktor-Korn (1978) for a study on Denominational Diversity and Latukefu (1974) for a seminal work on the early history of the Wesleyan Church in Tonga


That there is little obvious interdenominational conflict is a reflection of extensive kin ties (most people have relatives in other churches), the value of fakama'uma'u (to restrain, repress), the awareness of people's need to join other churches for marriage or for opportunity (access to education), and awareness of the many pleasures of church membership. Non- membership of a church is an option for very few in Vava'u. It would deny you the pleasure of interaction with fellow congregants, the experience of communal religious enthusiasm, the enjoyment of singing, a sense of identity as a Christian with the wider Christian community and opportunities to travel and meet people and gain status in your rise through the various grades of church membership. Many people love their church and their contributions are freely and emotionally given. For many people the distinguishing feature of the Wesleyan Church and the three Churches of Tonga, is their frequent kaifakaafe (feasting). This is a celebration of community through eating together. On most Sundays, there will be a feast in the house of one of the members of the congregation. It may be to celebrate a birthday, wedding or another special occasion. It is a matter of great pride for the household to put on such a feast, or provide a pola (a table of food) for it. Often the household will not eat properly during the week, so that they can provide an impressive pola. They will go without food before and after the event, for the sake of providing the best food in large quantities. The cornucopia of food in a pola contrasts markedly with that eaten by the household during the week. The wooden, often split-level structures are piled high with puaka tunu (roast pig), moa fakapaku (fried chicken), ika fakapaku (fried fish), 'ufi, kumala, and kape. Bowls of potato salad garnished with tinned vegetables, plates of a variety of different l% dishes, fingota (shellfish), lobster and large bottles of fizzy drinks fill out the spaces. Packets of crisps and snacks and apples dangle invitingly from the framework or branches attached to look like trees. People eat in silence and listen to the many speeches given by prominent members of the clergy, honouring the household which laid on the feast. When the guests leave, the more important ones laden with food in coconut frond baskets to take home, household members can finally relax in the knowledge they have completed their fatongia 66

(duty). Their guarded, respectful behaviour is let down as they relax, eat and joke with their kin. The large amount of food left over is then distributed among k#inga members who contributed. For members of other churches and for those who have not been invited to a feast lunch will usually be food cooked in the earth oven. Sleeping and the bliss of having nothing to do often fills the rest of the afternoon. As the bakeries in Neiafu open in the late afternoon, the streets fill with groups of young people dressed in their Sunday best wandering around town. A steady stream of cars comes to Neiafu to pick up bread for the villages. Groups of young people sit and eat bread and large chunks of butter and sweet buns and watch the goings on. From the top of Mt. Talau a long line of boats can be seen silhouetted in the setting sun as they return from the islands full of families ready for the school week ahead.



Being and speaking in Vava’u

In the banter and talk that distinguishes Vava'u from Tongatapu and the other island groups in the archipelago frequent reference is made to a particular aesthetic of relatedness in Vava'u. This is reflected in a complementary sense in the term Fatafatamafana (warm-hearted) and in a slightly pejorative sense in the term kaimumu'a (from k#imu'a, selfconfident, self-possessed, quite free from stage fright). Many people commented to me that in Vava'u there is more emotive enthusiasm (mafana) invested in the family than in Tongatapu. Kaimumu'a, on the other hand, hints at a presumptiousness in speaking and interaction that people in Tongatapu find inappropriate compared to their more formal interactions. Ironically, this more exaggerated celebration of relatedness is seen as a sign of tau'at#ina (freedom) by people from Vava’u. A Vava’uan notion of personhood (the quality or condition of being an individual person) follows most explicitly from people’s recognition of difference between island groups and villages (the most dramatic being Leimatu'a) and in their distinguishing Tongans from palangi (people of European descent) in terms of anga fakatonga (habit, custom, nature of Tonga) and anga fakapalangi (habit, custom, nature of palangi). It may not be discussed in the terms presented here, nor well conceptualised. But it is implicit in people’s ability to relate to people outside of their immediate household, in their suppositions and explanations of other people's motivations and in their positioned assertions of ideal behaviour. Many people in Vava'u take for granted their own lived understanding of what it is to be a person, and only become conscious of Vava'u as distinct when they leave their island group or meet with people from outside. To postulate a notion of Vava'uan personhood is somewhat of a departure from my ideal of an ethnography of the particular, which would assert that there can be no such thing as a generalisable Tongan personhood as people do not interact with personhoods but with particular people with whom they are in relationship. People in Tonga 68

evidently recognise each other as individuals. However, the individuality of action is most often celebrated in the context of giving or affirming relatedness. Postulating a notion of Vava'uan personhood, as distinct perhaps from a European or even a Tongtapuan, serves as a very useful tool in the following chapters in order to contextualise why, in Vava'uan terms, t!volo continue to be regarded as people (albeit with an exaggerated ability to do what they want), contextualise the interactions between western and more local forms of treatment (both which assume different notions of the 'patient' as person) as well as helping to explain why psychiatric conceptualisations and diagnosis are avoided. At the very least it serves as a mark of distinction for Vava'u and of interest to Tongans, who like most people are fascinated to read descriptions of themselves, if only for entertainment. Introduction A Vava'uan notion of personhood can be located in the ability of individuals to tauhi vaha’a, to evoke and attenuate relatedness.1 In Vava’u people recognise motive and fa'iteliha (to please yourself, ‘agency’) in individual acts that also affect relatedness (relationship being assumed). Child rearing activities and the attribution of faking to 'eccentrics' and the 'mentally ill' confirms a humanistic notion of personhood; it is in no way exclusive to particular groups, ages or individuals. 2 It also implies autopoiesis (self creation) (Toren 1999:6)individuals are intrinsically creative in the social environments that sustain them and are sustained by their creativity. One aspect of people's interest in t!volo is that they continue to demonstrate personhood, albeit with exaggerated agency; a point discussed in the next chapter. The greater freedom (tau'at#ina) in Vava’u that many people allude to compared to Euro-American societies also reflects 1

Many of the churches teach what seems to be a very individualist tripartite notion of the person consisting of sino (body), ‘atamai (mind) and laumalie (soul), which, though discussed, does not seem to guide individual action. 2 According to Morton (1996) all babies are regarded as inherently vale (socially incompetent) and pau'u (mischievous, naughty). The latter term implies agency and intention. This is reflected in active attempts to socialise children, including the use of discipline, within the first year.


autopoietic personhood, and is manifest in the encouragement of a freedom of association with relatives within the positioned ideology of kin terms. It also refers to a celebrated national freedom from colonial control. The notion of personhood, as manifest in acts of tauhi vaha’a, is more useful than 'membership' to contextualise and describe individuals’ largely optative (Decktor-Korn 1975) relationship with and within social groups. It also follows from the contextual nature of presentation of self (Morton 1996: 99) and people's need to play different roles, as for example higher status relative or lower status relative, depending on the particular social event. This chapter focuses on personhood as it is manifest and constituted in the act of speaking or not speaking and how particular ways of speaking both evince and constitute particular forms of relatedness. This follows from a general Tongan focus on oration and the importance of speaking in the many social events events described below. It also reflects the anthropological reliance on speaking to access interpretation. The chapter concludes with a discussion on how, as a result of the inextricability of tauhi vaha'a and speaking, the only appeal to objectivity that one can seemingly make is one that evokes and attenuates a common Christian identity. Pisimaake An introduction of Pisimaake -a much celebrated individual in Vava'uis an ideal way of starting this discussion.3 His eccentricity and contravention of 'ideal Tongan personhood' as characterised by Morton (1996) as well as people's understandings and attributions of his motivations suggest both a more accurate and local notion of personhood as manifest in practice and action. Many people would assert that Pisimaake expressed more fa'iteliha (to please yourself, ‘agency’) in word and action, than was appropriate. Though I never heard him referred to as a t!volo, I would not have been surprised if he had been, as people in similar situations were often jokingly referred to 3

Pisimaake is a pseudonym.


as such. I examine the association between t!volo and fa'iteliha in the next chapter. He is also evidence of the value of particularity; any generalised picture of Vava'u would make him anomalous or exclude him completely. My introduction of Pisimaake warrants an excerpt from my fieldnotes, edited on my return to London. This is a description that has not been influenced by subsequent analysis over the past years and which reflects my fondness for him. Few people in Vava'u are as ubiquitous as Pisimaake. It is a rare day when his bronzed, tattooed body is not 'propping up' the TCF supermarket in the centre of Neiafu. When not bantering, chatting and sharing his large bottle of Steinlager beer with others he dozes contentedly undisturbed by either the police or passers-by. Whether on deck or on the wharf he draws attention when the great orange hulk of a ferry, the Olovaha, docks. His strong features and physical presence and the laughter that follows his every interaction makes it difficult to take one's eyes or ears off him. He is, as his name suggests - Pisimaake is a Tonganisation of Bismarck - an imposing man of great largesse. He is also rather like the Olovaha, on which he often travels to the remote Niuafo'ou or Tongatapu, a little out of place. The flat-bottomed Olovaha was designed, as many seasick passengers will attest, not for the open Pacific Ocean but for the River Rhine. Pisimaake likewise breaks the rules but gets away with it. Still unmarried in his fifties, he enjoys a life relatively free of responsibilities. He goes as he pleases, seemingly not feeling shame when he walks shirtless through town or engages flirtingly with the girls at the wharf. Whether exchanging beauty products with desired volcanic rock in Niuafo'ou to then sell in Neiafu or cultivating land, he does so with the industriousness and vigour of a man ten years his junior. Few, officially, would see him as an ideal representative of Vava'u. He is often drunk and occasionally abusive when people make him angry. His fight with a well-known local businessman over yams stolen from his land reinforced his image as someone who does not take kindly to being deceived. He is on occasion, consciously or unconsciously disrespectful. On one occasion, as the Princess and Governor waited on the top deck of the Olovaha after a royal visit to the Niuas, Pisimaake could be seen in full view on the deck above them, adjusting packages that he had brought down from Niuafo'ou. This was a faux pas in full view to everyone. To show respect to the royal family one should not be on higher ground. His fame is in part due to his frequent attendance at funerals. All over the island, his husky voice will be heard as dawn breaks and others' voices are flagging. The next day he will be outside the TCF again, selling those pieces of cloth given to him in appreciation of his appearance to buy more beer, thus prompting joking


aspersions of k#k# (to act deceitfully) and accusations of ulterior motive. His sociability and his hua (humour/joviality), whether lubricated by alcohol or not, nevertheless make him a popular figure. Mentioning him in conversation is sure to raise a smile, not only because everyone has an embarrassing uncle or aunt, but also because many, especially young men, have a sneaking admiration for him. Some non-related people in Tongatapu might attribute his behaviour to his coming from Vava'u. Non Catholics might attribute his behaviour to his being brought up as a Catholic. Drinking is not tapu (forbidden) in the Catholic Church. People variously described him to me as poto (clever, skilful), siasi lahi (crazy), fakasesele (crazy) and fievaleloi (pretending to be inept). Some members of his k#inga (extended family) and friends, who know more of his personal history, talk about how he fell out of a tree and hit his head or was kicked by a horse. The fact that he is k#inga overrides any eccentric behaviour he might exhibit. What people regard as his motivation for doing the eccentric things he does, does not on the whole affect the way he is treated. Some people regard him as faka'ofa (sad, pitiable) seeing his freedom at the cost of status and true involvement. With fatongia (duty) and kavenga (responsibility) come the sense of involvement and sense of mutual dependency which both give satisfaction and burdens; satisfaction born of one's confidence in one's position in the community but burdens because these responsibilities can be financially and physically taxing. Regardless of how people interpret his behaviour, they will still joke and interact with him. Whether feeling 'ofa ('love') for him or not, the principle of the enjoyment of sociality and interaction will take precedence. One does not really know if he is being deliberately k#k# (acting deceitfully) when he goes to funerals and ultimately it is not important. One's relationships on the other hand are. This tolerance is reflective of the solidity of social relationships constituted through pleasurable interaction. Pisimaake interacts and jokes with so many people and is related to so many people on the island that it is difficult to see him other than as a person that you know.

Despite the fact that his behaviour is often inappropriate I heard many people describe him as fievaleloi (to desire to be thought ignorant or unskilled (vale) when one is not really so) and poto (to be clever). These are both attributions of agency and insight which cannot be ignored. One would naturally expect a variety of commentaries about him as a result of peoples' different experience and knowledge of him. The terms they use to describe him, and how they describe him are also acts of tauhi vaha'a. For many people, at least, Pisimaake does not contradict their implicit notion of personhood. That he relates to them so well on 72

occasion must mean that any supposedly inappropriate behaviour must be the result of him pretending to be vale (socially inept). In my experience with many people affected by strokes or other illnesses or otherwise incapacitated, the attribution of their faking ignorance on occasion cements the sense of personhood and agency being inextricable. So while the example of Pisimaake is not in itself definitive of the inextricability of agency and personhood, people's many attributions of his behaviour are. That many younger men celebrate his lifestyle, many of whom also lead a maverick lifestyle, confirms this sense. He is clever not only because of his ability to trade but also because he is socially competent. On occasion his cleverness shades into cunning. To be k#k# (to act deceitfully or fraudulently, to cheat) on occasion is to be clever as suggested by the term potok#k# (cunning, subtle). The overall sense of people's ability to hide, to do things for ulterior motive, to be skilled at k#k# (another pejorative stereotype of people from Vava'u) underlies the autopoietic nature of a Vava'uan notion of personhood. People assume you do things on purpose. In the sense of being socially wise, Pisimaake is also clever because he balances his acts of doing what he wants and inappropriateness with other acts of generosity in which personhood is usually more celebrated. The celebration of personhood In Vava'u, the personhood constituted in acts of tauhi vaha'a is most celebrated in public acts of giving. Few yearly events can equal the emotionality of the yearly ritual of church donation in the methodist churches, known as misinale. The singing and dancing and the expressions of communitarian enthusiasm (mafana) among those who were able to contribute results in an increased confidence in interaction and freedom of association. One might hypothesise a relation between generosity and social confidence that would account in part for Vava'uan self-confidence. Thus in the lakalaka for the king's birthday celebration, in order to distinguish themselves as Vava'u Lahi (Great Vava'u), Vava'u had to give more than any other group. If the euphoria 73

of having given so much is manifest in verbosity, the shame of those who could not give is manifest in silence. This affirmation of personhood in acts of giving occurs on a more minor level in fundraising concerts, in fundraising in kalapu, in weddings and funerals that occur on a regular basis. The act of fakapale, in which an individual places or slaps money near or on a performing person is a highly public act of attenuating relatedness to the family of the person performing. The enthusiasm in the acknowledgement of personhood, and its converse shame, in acts of giving, explains why in no small part hard earned weekly salaries may be used to buy drinks for everyone or given in fundraising kava clubs. It is in such events that an individuality celebrated in giving is known and valued and around which there is great emotionality and importance. In most fundraising events all contributions as well as the name of the contributor are read out. That you are named and acknowledged is very important.4 Returning then to the case of Pisimaake. His prominent attendance at funerals, his inviting people for food to his modest house, his giving money at fundraising events and his visiting members of his family, may be all seen as acts of tauhi vaha'a that attenuate people's connection with him. Pisimaake's way of speaking attenuates a relatedness that is free of status distinctions. It is this unselfconscious talking and joking to people in many different contexts, affirmed by the general importance of the act of speaking, that prompts my examination of speaking as an act of tauhi vaha'a as key to an appreciation of Vava'uan personhood, and thence social groupings. The social groupings of household and extended family that may be reified as structures in discourse both locally and in the anthropological literature are not sui genesis but are quite literally reconstituted day by day through people's acts of tauhi vaha’a. In my introduction to Pisimaake I claimed that he was related to many people, seeing the 4

I was most publicly recognised when I gave. People always remarked on my giving money at performances, especially when the performing person was a relative. When I made a gift of 15 chairs to the youth centre, through making a video of the Miss Vava'u competition and selling the resulting tapes, the youth group ensured that this was mentioned in the newspaper. My participation in the lakalaka performed for the king on the occasion of a celebration marking one hundred days before the new millennium was much remarked upon as an act manifesting my love and respect for people in Vava'u.


term 'related' in very static, structural terms. At the time I had not appreciated the degree to which that his acts were constituting this sense of relatedness. Kai p! lea (speech becomes food): Good speech makes people contented and at peace with each other. This saying was used of a man, who did not get a portion of the food distribution from a chief, but the chief spoke to him and that was enough to satisfy him. (Tu'inukuafe 1992:260)

The act of speaking is not the only or the main way in which relatedness is evoked and attenuated, but it always plays a role. Many Tongans would put more stress on the material manifestations of tauhi vaha'a, in acts of giving and their ability to kole (request) items and assistance from relatives. However, in all such events some act of speaking is always present and on occasion, as pointed out in the above proverb, may be a replacement. The inextricability of speaking and tauhi vaha'a is key in contextualising people's interpretations and acknowledging that every statement of claimed truth is implicitly or explicitly positioned. It also helps in the appreciation that seeming ignorance on the part of friends may be more a case of not wanting to speak or wishing to be diplomatic. The importance of speaking is attested in every important social event. Whether in the form of speech, prayer or vote of thanks what, how and who speaks is fundamentally constitutive of the seeming social structures at the time. The association between status and speaking is clear-cut in most churches. As one rises within church hierarchies one preaches longer, more frequently, and at more important times. Whether women and young men and women can speak in the different churches is widely commented upon. The fact that young men preach in the Mormon Church at a younger age than most other churches in their role as missionaries, is often a strong motivation for conversion. Oration is highly praised and those who speak well are esteemed. People recognise the need for people to be reminded, or told of their responsibilities and duties by those of higher status in relation to them. The power of speaking is also manifest in popular ideas of seduction by word (fakatauhele). The ability of good speakers to convince is widely attested. William Harris, elected as people's representative for Vava'u in early 1999, was widely recognised 75

to have won not only because of his eloquence, but because, it was claimed, that he talked to everybody on the island group. He was contrasted to other candidates who prominently gave money at many annual church collections but were not elected. 5 To posit speaking as an act that evokes and attenuates particular forms of relatedness, is key to understanding the village base research of Aoyagi (1966), Decktor-Korn (1974 & 1975) and Grijp (1993) which showed that 'commoner' social groups are difficult to deliminate and can be characterised by instability and a variable membership not defined by kin relational norms but in terms of options and choice. This contrasts with the structural understandings of noble kin relations in the work of Gifford, Marcus and Kaeppler. The terms that identify distinguishable 'commoner' kin based groups-'api (household), famili (one or several households constituting a locally based group) and k#inga (to refer to members of the extended family who might be called upon to assist in funerals and other important social events)- do not define their constituent members and vary in people's definition and use.6 5

William Harris sadly died of cancer little under a year after taking up his position. Two candidates were elected by vote: James William Harris (2,264 votes) and Samiu Kuita Vaipulu (1,809 votes) (Lao and Hia vol 4:1 Wednesday 17 March 1999). 6 Most people live as a member of an 'api (household). Household composition can vary greatly and membership is very fluid. People, often but not always close kin to each other, can become members for short or long periods of time (Decktor-Korn 1974). A large number, but not all, are based around a husband, wife and children. Decktor-Korn (1974) identified households containing from 2 to 32 people, with an average of seven people. In Vava'u the number of people in a household has decreased over the last decades to a current average of six (Population Statistics for 1999, Department of Public Health, Ngu Hospital, Neiafu). Grijp's (1993) assertion, based on research in Taoa, Vava'u, that 'there is no single example which can be considered as representative for the development of the household' (Ibid.: 145) follows from the important role of options and choice in people's decisions to be part of a household. In fact, as Decktor-Korn (1975) states: 'household composition in Tonga is to be accounted for not as the expression of norms regarding kinship, but rather as the outcome of individual's pursuit of prestige within the limitations of their social position and the resources available to them' (Ibid.1975: 255). The distinction between an 'api and the next kin based group, the famili, may be blurred as households may be 'less than permanent members of multiple-family households' (Decktor Korn 1975:243). Decktor-Korn (1974) defines famili as a village-based action group 'that provides goods, labour, and personnel when needed, as well as access to land for subsistence purposes' (Ibid: 9). Households participate and put emphasis on their connection with one famili though they may have dormant connections with other famili. Both Grijp (1993) and Aoyagi (1966) were confused by various contradictory uses of famili. Grijp, following Levi-


Fundamentally people's use of the term of 'api (household), famili, k#inga (extended family), k#ingalotu (fellow church member), kaungame'a (friend) must be seen as an evocative act that may reflect many things of which enduring participation in the activities that constitute such a group at a particular moment in time is just one. Trying to strictly define groups in terms of constituent members goes against how people use them. People's interactions are not exclusive to identifiable social groups nor are they exclusively kin oriented, though they may use kin based terms to attenuate them. It is, therefore, after an examination of the implicit assumption of relationship, to the act of speaking that I turn to see how groups are constituted in practice.

Strauss, chose the term maison to 'designate a famili in the sense of an extended family-which differs from the k#inga' in which membership of the group is determined by participation in the daily activities of the group (Ibid: 1993 134). He had found the term famili to be used to refer to the nuclear family, household and the extended family. He also mentioned occasions when the k#inga was called a famili. Aoyagi (1966) distinguished between famili (close relations) and k#inga (more distant relations). However, she found that distinction was not always clear in the accounts of her informants. When people belonging to the same famili were asked to name which relatives belonged to famili and k#inga they often gave different accounts. Participation of the 'api within a famili is optative, 'a person will be a member of the group within which and through which he can best secure his own advantage and, if necessary, he will switch membership to do so' (Decktor Korn 1974:11). Grijp (1993) classifies k#inga as 'the category of people to whom ego can trace a bilateral relationship of consanguinity'. It is a 'category of relatives who do not form a group in everyday life, but which can operate as a group on special occasions, such as weddings and funerals' (Ibid: 135). For Rogers (1975), k#inga is both ideology and a category of kinship, even nonrelated individuals who interact as if they were related are referred to as k#inga. Bott (1982: 57) captures the difficulty to which the term k#inga can be defined without reference to how it is used. She defines k#inga as the basic kinship concept, 'translated as 'kinsmen' or, in some contexts, as one's people. It is in effect the bilateral kindred; but it is important in Tongan usage that it is very flexibly defined. The boundaries vary according to the activity concerned, and people are considered k#inga only if they mutually recognise the relationship. People who cannot trace a biological tie may call each other k#inga if they treat each other as kinsmen. This quasi-metaphorical usage was politically important, for the subjects of a chief were called his k#inga even though some of them were not biologically related to him' (Bott 1982:57). As Churchward's translation of k#inga (n., relation, relative; brother or sister in the sense of comrade or compatriot, etc. (Often collective)) suggests, the term may also be used instrumentally to refer to a larger collective that is not kin based. For example, Tongans in New Zealand may refer to all other Tongans there as their k#inga even if they are not related to them (Grijp 1993).


The assumption of relationship: How people identify each other. The value and concept of tauhi vaha’a assumes relationship. This assumption also follows people's experience of living most of their lives in interaction. Most activities are carried out in the company of other people, on occasion in named and valued groups, on occasion not. Even at night siblings may sleep in the same room together and depending on how well off the family is, whole families (except brothers and sisters according to the brother/sister taboo) may sleep in the same room. People tend not to spend much time alone, and when they happen to be, this will often be an excuse or reason to sleep. Wanting to be alone is regarded by many as either a sign of eccentricity or sickness. The experience of everyday life is thus one of interacting with people, by virtue of being in a group constituted in activity. The focus is not relationship or not, but degrees of relatedness. When people identify others it is by and large in terms or their participation in some form of group. Hence, it is the specificity of communal participation that is expressed in the terms that people use to know and describe each other. People use the cardinal pronoun ma (we (two)) and mau (we (three or more)) then followed by a group term to identify someone else. So people say, ma or mau (we are) k#ingalotu (congregation), famili, k#inga (extended family), kaung#'api (neighbour or fellow household member) and kaung# ako (school mate) to identify another person. Though Churchward (1959) translates kaunga as (n. relationship, connection, connecting link) I only ever heard it used as a prefix. As a prefix kaung#- captures a sense of togetherness, in the sense of fellow-, as in fellow worker. The use of kin terms also accentuates closeness. While people in Vava'u could choose to use kin terms with the suffix 'aki, which suggests distance, they rarely use them. For example, the term tamai'aki could be used to distinguish between the father (tamai) and father's brother. However in most instances people do not distinguish in word between the father and father's brothers. They use the same group term, tamai, to describe all of them. Similarly the term toko'ua is used to describe a same sex sibling or cousin. Rarely, even if the cousin is quite distant is the term toko'ua'aki used. Thus most kin terms, except for mehekitanga (father's eldest sister) do not signify exclusive relationships. 78

One relationship term that is exclusive and does not refer to a category of people and as a result is loaded with much interest, humour and secrecy is that of moa (boyfriend or girlfriend). Among the youth, some joke of little else. Moa (chicken) is the most current term for the relationship of various grades of sweetheart, previously known as s$ (suitor, lover, or sweetheart) or 'ate (liver, as the seat of love). The exclusivity this relationship suggests is somehow both highly inappropriate and exciting, and as a result is often hidden. I remember when I described a friend as a kaume'a, and in a rare admonishment, she told me in future to describe her as kaungame'a, because kaume’a, in contrast to the translation in my dictionary, now expressed the idea of boyfriend. That the idea is more exclusive than other terms, is not to say that boys do not claim to have many moa or that girls also claim to have many moa. Ideally, you should not be able to identify your moa by a kin term. The confidence and presumptiousness in interaction that often astounded me when I first arrived in Vava'u is born of that participation, association and constitution in such groupings. One might say that implicit in one's association with one group is another person's confidence to relate to you. Speaking as an act of tauhi vaha'a Takitah a tauhi hon o v aha' a ngatae The homes of hou'eiki were marked by ngatae trees around the perimeter. Surrounding kainga were assigned parts of the perimeter, measured by ngatae trees (vaha'a ngatae), to tend. If all tended their assignments properly then the entire perimeter would look good. If only one neglected their part the entire perimeter was flawed. Often all concerned would end up being punished. Reflects the nature and implications of (ancient) Tongan relationships, particularly those involving service to hou'eiki/fahu.7

The above proverb and explanation suggests that the origin of tauhi vaha'a as a concept grew out the relationship of hou'eiki (chief), fahu 7

This proverb and explanation appears on a Tongan proverb website. ( I do not know the original source but suspect it is an adapted proverb from Collocott & Havea (1922)).


((man's) sister's son or grandson) with their k#inga.8 It suggests a useful starting point in this examination of speaking as an act of tauhi vaha'a is to examine the relationship between the 'eiki/tu'a distinction and speaking. 'Eiki is used to refer to someone higher in status and tu'a lower in status. However, as James (1990b) argues, 'they do not denote a simple notion of dominance of one over the other, but, rather an order of precedence in which 'eiki is the superior' (Ibid: 2) (In DouaireMarsaudon 1996:142). The 'eiki/tu'a dichotomy does not refer to objective superiority or inferiority, but a role for a particular context. 9 8

See Douaire-Marsaudon (1996) for an extended discussion of the fahu and their role in funerals. 9 Kavapalu (1995: 18) distinguishes between rank and status where rank is fixed and determined by birth and typically refers to the distinction made between those of chiefly blood and commoners. Status, she argues, is calculated in context, and is relative. It is 'determined by factors of seniority (genealogical or chronological), gender, kinship and reputation. The latter is in turn determined by education, wealth, generosity, level or involvement in church activities, and so on' (Kavapalu [Morton] 1995: 18). Kaeppler (1971) argues that status in Tongan kin group follows three principles (Ibid: 177): (1) From ego's perspective, kinsmen related through ego's father have higher status than those related through ego's mother (2) female kin have higher status than male kinsmen of the same generation, (3) elder have higher status than younger among siblings of the same sex. (In Marcus 1974:40). Douaire-Marsaudon (1996) broadly concurs, arguing that there are four principles, which give structure to the 'Tongan kinship system'. I have abbreviated the following rules for the sake of clarity: 1. The senior is superior in rank, or 'eiki to the junior who is therefore tu'a. 2. Sisters are superior in rank to their brothers, real or classificatory, notwithstanding their relative age. The youngest sister, therefore, is superior ('eiki) to the oldest brother who is tu'a. 3. The paternal kin is superior in rank to the maternal kin: k#inga 'i tamai is 'eiki while k#inga 'i fa'e is tu'a 4. The 'eiki/tu'a dichotomy disappears between two generations which are not consecutive, between grandchildren and grandparents (Ibid: 142). Precisely what is being structured if, as Decktor Korn (1975) argues, the composition of 'api and famili are not influenced by principles or ideology of rank and status. I suggest they are less principles than an ideological map that influences but does not determine, through ideas of rights and obligations, interaction between members of 'api, famili and k#inga. Helu (1999) suggests that what gives structure to the Tongan kinship system is the use of kinship ideology for economic and political purposes. My concern with practice meant that my research only touched on social organisation when it impinged on particular instances of illness. I did not carry out detailed household surveys nor ask detailed questions on the rules of kinship. However, on the basis of my interaction in many different social groups, my sense is that the optative emphasis given by Aoyagi (1966) and Decktor-Korn (1974 & 1975) is reflective of what actually goes on. It is also very difficult to generalise as often the ideals of status and associated practice that I detail above offset each other in particular cases or are not evoked at


The structural emphasis given of much previous work would suggest that speaking manifests these status distinctions in terms of the 'eiki person speaking and giving instructions and the tu'a person listening and acknowledging in silence. Toren (1990) examines the constitution of hierarchy in terms of spatial relations (i cake 'above' and i ra 'below'). In Tonga, by contrast, 'eiki/tu'a is primarily a social idiom and originates in the distinction between hou'eiki (chiefs) and tu'a (commoners). 'Eiki/tu'a is best seen as a 'discursive idiom' (Jackson 1989) that both manifests and constitutes particular relationships of precedence in particular instances based on ideas of stereotypical avoidance and speaking between chiefs and commoners. The seeming familial social structures in Tonga are thus not sui genesis and depend 'on the continuing, conscious, concerted activity of different individuals to intend, produce and sustain them' (Rapport & Overing 2000: 8). Seeing the 'eiki/tu'a dichotomy as constituted in acts of tauhi vaha'a follows Helu's (1999) suggestion that what gives structure to the Tongan kinship system is the use of kinship ideology for economic and political purposes. It also contextualises the need for violence (albeit on occasion motivated by love) to persuade people of their place in particular forms of relatedness when the recourse to available speaking modes to establish a relationship of precedence fail. Hence the recourse to physical discipline between parents and children, husband and wife and elder and younger siblings. I discuss in turn evidence that would suggest that speaking or not speaking follow from 'eiki/tu'a distinctions and then show that, following local interpretation, acts of speaking as tauhi vaha'a actually constitute these relationships of precedence. The reification and depoliticisation of social structure is largely affirmed in the discourse of those who claim or are ascribed high status.

all. There are also many changes taking place, well discussed in Helu (1999:121-134), which suggest more political and economic explanations. Douaire-Marsaudon (1996) argues that the brother/sister tapu is the kernel of the kinship system. To what degree can this assertion be reconciled with the fact that the Mormon church, which encourages closer fraternisation between brothers and sisters, is the fastest growing church in Tonga. See Kaeppler (1971), Bott (1982), Grijp (1993), Helu (1995 & 1999), James (1983) and Small (1997) for more detailed accounts.


1. Interaction between chiefs and commoners. Public interaction between hou'eiki (chiefs) and tu'a (commoners) is highly ritualised with matapule (talking chiefs) taking the role as intermediaries and using different registers of language. In their interaction with nobles, commoners show their respect through avoidance, wearing the ta'ovala (waist mat), making themselves lower (on occasion prostrating themselves on the ground) and through silence. However, Marcus' (1984) work on role distance between nobles and their k#inga (people) showed the way in which some contemporary nobles 'attempted with varying degrees of success to hold their nobility apart, as it were, and to engage unselfconsciously in ordinary conversation with commoners' (Marcus 1984:244). This suggests in doing so they were attempting to constitute a different kind of relatedness with their people. This is also manifest in the popularity of English as a language among many of the hou'eiki (those of chiefly blood). Other than the fact that most are educated in English (Tonga High School teaches in English), it also allows those of recognised hou'eiki ancestry to relate to commoners without the extra formality of commoners having to use the appropriate registers in Tongan. Amongst commoners, by contrast, speaking English is a claim for status and education. There are many contexts in which distinctions of status as manifest in speaking break down, or in which the model of 'eiki/tu'a behaviour is used to humble yourself to those of equal status. In many kava clubs, interaction reflects a playing down of status distinctions that might be manifest in more public and official settings. One Tongan colleague explained to me that villagers not speaking to nobles might be less respect born of the 'eiki/tu'a distinction, though it may seem as such, but rather more because they feel m# (shame), are inhibited to act because they do not know the correct register to use or simply do not want to. Not speaking may also be less showing respect than being diplomatic through a front of seeming ignorance or silence.


2. The appropriateness and use of synonyms. According to Churchward, on occasion there may be up to five synonyms for a word used in different contexts. He splits word usage into the categories of: (a) The ordinary word; (b) the polite word, such as one uses at times for the sake of courtesy even though there may not be any chiefs or persons of higher rank present; (c) the honorific word, used when addressing or referring to chiefs or to others who hold certain high offices; (d) the regal word, used when addressing or referring to the sovereign or to God; (e) the derogatory word, used mainly in referring to oneself or to one's own belongings or affairs when one is speaking to persons of higher rank or dignity (Churchward 1985[1953]:304).

This great stress put on the appropriateness and use of particular terms suggest an 'eiki/tu'a distinction in terms of the words that people can use.10 However, as Thaman points out in her criticism of Churchward's use of the term 'derogatory' in favour of 'self effacing', this characterisation does not give a sense of how the language is used (Thaman 1988:80). In reality, higher status terms become colloquialised as they become popular in use because of their association with a privileged register. It seems that in the past nobles drew on Tonganised English terms to replace those terms as they became colloquialised. Uafi and husapaniti, for example, are both regal words for husband and wife. The association between fakamat#pule (like or pertaining to a mat#pule) and politeness, as expressed to me by a health officer in Vava'u, also suggests less strict limits between who can say what than the words in such registers being desirable because they are somehow more appropriate in particular situations in everyday life. 3. The relationship between father and children. The idealised relationship between father as 'eiki who speaks (Kaeppler 1971) and his children who listen and carry out his wishes is seemingly mirrored in other relations of status such as minister/congregation and 10

I discuss this process with reference to medical situations in later chapters.


town officer/villager. The value of talangofua (obedience), which literally means 'easy to tell or instruct' is affirmed in sermons and by parents. Parents admonish children’s presumptuous behaviour by using the term fiepoto (to imagine yourself to be clever). Fiepoto has a lot in common with fieh# (to desire to appear or to be seen; to show off), fie'eiki (to imagine oneself to be 'eiki), and fie me'a (to imagine oneself to be something, to be self-important or snobbish). They all criticise a presumptuousness of action or word. In reality, due in part to the influence of the churches, such interaction is stereotypical and there is a great diversity in father/children interaction. That physical discipline is often required and that some husbands are well known for beating their wives demonstrates that such relationships of precedence are often contested by those who are supposed to be doing the listening. 4. The brother sister tapu and the role of the mehekitanga. From adolescence onwards, and often earlier, the tuonga'ane /tuofefine tapu requires that brothers and sisters practice respectful avoidance. Tuonga'ane is the term used by women to refer to all their male siblings and cousins. Tuofefine is used by males to refer to all female siblings and cousins. There is no Tongan term for brother or sister restricted to a nuclear family. A tuonga'ane is tu'a (lower in status) to his tuofefine and is supposed to show his faka'apa'apa (respect) primarily through avoidance and obedience to her wishes. It is only when his tuofefine is married that these restrictions relax to a certain extent. A tuofefine is 'eiki (higher in status) to her tuonga'ane and thus can make demands of the households of her brothers. Again this tapu, though widely affirmed in discourse, is upheld to varying degrees. The fact that the Mormon church encourages fraternisation between brother and sisters, and is widely criticised for doing so and yet is the fastest growing church in Tonga suggests a diversity of adherence. Following from the brother/sister taboo the mehekitanga, as the eldest sister of one's father, is supposed to have the highest status with respect to one's household. Her actual role varies from household to household. In most funerals in Vava'u she or her son or daughter as fahu plays the most important role sitting at the head of the deceased, taking the best part of the koloa (valuables) and distributing the rest (Douaire-Marsaudon 1996). But the degree to which she feels 84

empowered to be able to fa'iteliha (please herself) in giving instructions, asking for property, adopting the first child, naming her brother's children, again varies. All mehekitanga do not necessarily actively assert their seeming rights and privileges to the same degree. The mystical power of the mehekitanga has to a degree been undermined by Christianity (Bott 1981, Morton 1996:128). The ritualised roles and participation of extended family member as 'eiki or tu'a to the deceased at funerals (the best attended social events) which involves them in giving instructions or carrying out the time consuming and strenuous preparation of food and other duties, is on occasion undermined as groups now get paid to do the work which the tu'a side of the family would have done in the past. I attended two funerals at which this happened, and though it was bemoaned by many, it was acknowledged that many people now objected to the amount of work required if one had to take this role at a funeral. 11 5. Rising rank within church hierarchies and its association with speaking. In the Methodist churches, though many people preach in church, the minister has pride of place, preaching at the most important times. Those who speak usually have high status and are established members of the village. Men are, typically, married with children and have risen up through he ranks of the church to be finally accorded the privilege to speak in church. Some women proudly wear a red scarf and are known as kau malanga (lay preacher) which means they have reached a status allowing them to speak in church. However, since the advent of youth groups and new evangelical groups young people are gaining increasing opportunities to speak in public situations, often in church organised events. The 'eiki/tu'a dichotomy is a discursive idiom that in particular social and historical contexts constitute particular modes of relatedness. This can only be contradicted by claiming that the people who do not follow


See Grijp (1993) for a discussion of social asymmetry at funerals.


such status distinctions in many contexts, locations, or families are not Tongan or not normal in some way. Ideal personhood as chiefliness Morton's (1996) notion of ideal personhood as chiefliness, that follows from an 'eiki/tu'a distinction, and based largely on fieldwork in Tongatapu, is not so useful in Vava'u. The ideal: 'Thus 'eiki persons (or adults) are said to exhibit 'proper' behaviour, to be restrained, and to have authority '(1996: 25), does not reflect practice nor does it seemingly motivate the acts of most people. Personhood in Vava'u is most celebrated (not always willingly) in acts of generosity, in which people are often extremely emotional and jovial, hardly chiefly in Morton's terms. Many friends communicated the sense that in Vava'u the people who are most esteemed are those individuals, who inspite of having a position that establishes them in a relationship of 'eiki to many, seemingly set their 'eiki status aside in their interactions. Many of the comments people made in my presence about those in established high positions suggested that local esteem followed those who attempted to or responded to interaction that constituted equality. For example Princess Pilolevu's participation and speaking to many people in many events and activities was often remarked on and made her very popular. The governor, Baron Tuita, was also popular because of his unaffected manner and the democratic way he held meetings. Fotu, the matapule of Leimatu'a, was highly esteemed for his ability to joke and relate on equal terms to people in his village. On one occasion Dr Williami Tangi visited Vava'u after being selected by the King as Minister of Health. His drinking kava and relaxed speaking to everyone was remarked upon and much commended. HRH Prince 'Uluk!lalaLavaka-Ata, the youngest son of the King was, according to some friends, the most popular noble on the island because he made relatively few demands on his people. People are not constituted in relatedness by their wish to be chiefly, or by objective ('eiki/tu'a) status with respect to each other, but by people's mutual acts of tauhi vaha'a and speaking, that presuppose and use these ideas. Hence, we might say, that the ideal form of interaction between father and son, sister and brother, minister and congregation, teacher and pupil, noble and k#inga, as characterised by 86

'eiki speaking and tu'a listening exists only as a directive for someone to behave in a certain way. It is idealised in preaching, in parents admonishing their children, teachers telling their students and nobles making claims on their k#inga. However, the actual interaction will vary from household to household, from church to church, from village to village, from moment to moment depending on many issues, not least the wish and intention of individuals in their acts of tauhi vaha'a to maintain that particular kind of interaction, concordant or not with the historical and emotional trajectory of their interactions. Thus speaking as an act is more fundamental to appreciating seeming structures of precedence than ideas of higher or lower relative status. People's habitual or considered choice of particular forms of speaking or not speaking at once express and constitute particular forms of relatedness.12 Forms of speaking Tala (v.t., to tell, relate; to state, assert; to tell, command; to announce, or inform people of) Tala is the first kind of speaking a child is likely to experience where the speaker is making a claim for higher status, and the listener acquiesces by accepting, in silence or positive acknowledgement. Tala is the act of instructing which requires acknowledgement but not necessarily dialogue. It constitutes a relatedness which ideally demonstrates love and respect and where the speaker claims precedence. Much emphasis is put on children's response of ko au when they are called by their parents, invariably for a task of some sort. A missionary couple once told me how their adopted Tongan daughter experienced their failure to instruct and give her jobs in the way she was used to as a lack of their love for her. 12

I stress this is a general introduction to forms of speaking and the way they can express and constitute relatedness that sets the scene for the rest of the ethnography. In the following chapters particularity is more in evidence as I examine particular incidences of speaking and interpretation with respect to concrete incidences of sickness.


Parents tala to their children, teachers to their pupils. This precedence can be reinforced, when children try to initiate dialogue by humour and admonishments of fie'eiki, fiepoto, fieh# etc(see above). Much early childhood experience can be characterised by receiving instructions from elders and elder siblings. Many children, in response to these instructions, attempt to constitute a different relatedness, hence the common perception that children are pau'u (naughty) and talangata'a (disobedient) and the need for discipline. Malang a (v.i. to make a public speech or (esp.) to preach. N., public speech, oration, esp. sermon; preaching service). The etymological origin of the word for minister, Faifekau, is in fai (to do/make) and fekau (instruction) and within the methodist church, to which most people belong, this reflects a particular style of preaching. In malanga (public speech or preaching) the values of talangofua (obedience), faka'apa'apa (respect) within the extended family is often reinforced in a style, that while very inspiring in presentation, is usually instructional. In the Catholic church a priest is known as patele, and active participation in services is more shared. Many people from the congregation assist in the speaking acts within the mass. Within the Free Church of Tonga, it is predominately seated high status ministers who turn the sermon into a form of dialogue with frequent retorts of 'mo'oni (true) and ko'ia (that's it). They affirm the validity of the sermon but also establish their status as active participant at the same time. Le a (N., statement, speech; language) At all important social events lea (speeches) are made. Prominent members of the church hierarchies are given precedence and speak the most. The order of speaking typically reflects the status of the person at that particular event. Speeches form the background for every feast on the island group whether for a birthday or serious church event. Within more intimate extended family events people often give speeches to fakam#l$ (to give thanks, to be grateful) others for their help. Showing respect is also the aim of the gravitas-laden fakataputapu. This precedes most speeches and consists of a series of tapu mo (my respects to) naming those of high status from higher to lower status in 88

turn (Churchward 1985:303). On occasion, speakers cry with emotion. Crying suggests sincerity though some people may say that the person is tangi loi (false crying) with the implication that they are faking.13 Interestingly, not all people listen or are silent during speeches. Some may hold conversations at the same time. This reflects people’s active constitution of the relatedness that the speaker is implying. Even the instructions of the ofisa kolo (village officer) may be disturbed by occasional objections and speaking. Kole (v.i. and t., to make a request, to ask or beg (for), to apply (for), or to borrow) Kole is the act of asking for something or action from or of another person. It is an act of speaking which can evoke different kinds of relatedness. You will be more confident that your kole will be answered, if you can establish your 'eiki status with respect to that person. But you may also kole from friends and people in a generalised reciprocity in which there is no status distinction. The degree to which people feel comfortable and confident to kole varies. Several friends commented how they always answered other people’s requests but felt uncomfortable requesting themselves. Talano a (v.i., to talk (in an informal way), to tell stories or relate experiences, etc. N., talk (ing), story, tale.) There are many situations, contrary to many characterisations of Tongan society as hierarchical, in which people engage unselfconsciously in talking, joking and banter which evoke an equality of relatedness. Speaking between workmates, friends, classmates and cousins of roughly the same age in places such as plantations, weaving huts, the market place, kava clubs can be characterised by the familiarity of talanoa (to talk in an informal way, to tell stories or relate experiences), fakamatalili (teasing), and fakahua (banter, joking).14 An 13

In other situations crying does not signify sincerity. Where it might suggest self absorption it is not valued. Children are often told not to cry when punished. In hospital settings many doctors and nurses comment on patients' high tolerance to pain. 14 Much fakahua makes metaphorical allusions to parts of the body and of the act of sex.


etymological rendering of talanoa as derived from tala (tell) and noa (nothing) suggests the contrast between the instruction that establishes a particular relatedness of precedence and one in which there is no instruction, the 'telling nothing' that constitutes a highly valued relatedness of equality. Talanoa is on many occasions the verbal equivalent of 'eva noa'ia (walking without any real purpose). Toren argues that a relationship of equality in Fiji is characteristic of the relationship of cross-cousins, an equality that is 'indifferent to age, rank and gender' (Toren 1990: 50). It is not possible to argue this for Tonga, for there is no relationship that is characterised in the same terms as Fiji. While good friends of the same sex may often be cousins related through their mothers there is also the coincidence of age and school class. Elder siblings and cousins tend to establish relationships of precedence with their younger siblings and cousins. Cousins of the same sex refer to each other by the term toko'ua, which may extend to 2nd and 3rd cousins. The brother sister tapu prevents any kind of equality between male and female cousins. While in Fiji you look to marry a cross cousin (Toren 1990:50) in Tonga this would be regarded as highly inappropriate and incestuous. Ideally, you should not be related to the girl or boy you regard as a moa (boyfriend or girlfriend). Girls often use this moral injunction to their advantage when they cleverly fake or find a family link that make themselves cousins to a suitor in order to justify not wanting to talk or be moa with a particular boy. I once asked a well educated, professional Tongan woman friend how you could tell whether someone likes or dislikes you in the sense of wanting you as a moa (boyfriend or girlfriend). She replied that someone who likes you has 'ofa for you, he or she wants to talanoa with you, will bring you food, smile at you and stay with you. Someone who dislikes you will stay away from you, not speak to you, look at you in an unpleasant way, and on occasion kapekape (swear). Talanoa, constitutes a relatedness of friendly equality, that is also acknowledged in shouting each other names in the street, followed by expletive ĂŠ (as in Maika, ĂŠ) and in greeting questions such as 'alu ki fe (where are you going?). Someone who does not engage may be labelled fakamaahuahu (to ignore in a pompous or self-important manner) with the implication that they see themselves in some way better.


Fakahua (v.i., to joke or banter.) Fakahua and fakakata (to excite laughter; to act or speak in a joking or humorous manner) is evident in the banter and mutual teasing that attenuates even more a relationship of equality. Banter can often be extremely sexual and metaphorical, between men and men and women and men, of whatever age. However, in the presence of male and female cousins, such banter is a sign of great disrespect and is highly inappropriate and embarrassing. Much hua can be insulting and yet it attenuates an equality of relatedness. This might explain why there is a suspicion of fakahekeheke (flattery). Lau'i (to talk or gossip about in a derogatory or critical way) The boundary between lau'i and talanoa (to talk in an informal way) is a thin and flexible one. When does the conspiratorial conversation about people shift into the realm of gossip? The sharing of intimate information among familiars attenuates a relatedness or equality, but it can also influence how those sharing the gossip are likely to relate to the person being gossiped about. Is it possible to talanoa with some people without implicitly or explicitly constituting a different relationship to others? No, if only because when you are spending time with one person you are not spending time with another. In talanoa, one is constituting a relationship of equality. As fakamatalili (teasing) slips into luma (ridicule) that subtlety vanishes. In luma, people and their households are not willing participants. They may not experience it directly but through others avoidance and changed interaction. The knowledge that people are ridiculing you behind your back hinders your own sense of confidence in interaction. Thaman (1988) stresses the importance of interpersonal relations and the quality of fakama'uma'u (restraint--particularly of negative emotions such as anger and aggressive behaviour) in understanding a 'weakness of the spirit of criticism' (Ibid: 120) in Tonga. In contrast to the western goal of criticism as a route to an enlightenment notion of knowledge, criticism in Tonga is devalued because of 'Tongan's traditional concern of harmony in inter-personal relationships and respect for rank and people in authority, together with a high regard for the need for restrained behaviour‌..if there are criticisms, they are 91

best left unsaid, at least publicly' (Thaman 1988: 194). She quotes possibly the most quoted Tongan proverb ngulungulu 'a fei'umu (grumbling of those who make the 'umu) 'which is said of persons who will, despite their opposition to something, perform their duties as expected'. In the association between criticism and the quality of interpersonal relations lies one reason for the strong negative injunction on lau'i (to talk or gossip about in a derogatory or critical way), on ngutu lau (habitually gossiping) the fear of luma (to taunt, jeer, or hold others to ridicule) and in consequence the importance of fakamatamatalelei (to make beautiful, to beautify ; to put on a pleasant or friendly look which is not genuine).15 Shameful events within households, villages or churches are best kept hidden. If other people know about them it affects how people treat you and it hinders your ability to tauhi vaha'a. All household members share in the shame that affects the ability of people to relate to others in a confident way, experienced as a restriction of association, the very opposite of tau'at#ina (freedom). There is, however, a certain black humour in fakaluma (ridicule). One middle aged teacher from Fungamisi told me with mischievous glee that if I went to Vaimalo I should mention kupenga tofua'a (whale net). This reference reminds people of Vaimalo of an event they will never live down. When outboard motors where still relatively uncommon in Vava'u, migrating humpback whales would often swim as far as the harbour. On one occasion, a whale swam up the Vaipua inlet. In their enthusiasm to catch this whale, the people from Vaimalo, borrowed valuable nets and after joining them together attached the end to both sides of the Vaipua inlet. The whale could not be stopped and swam out to sea with the net.16 This was a considerable financial loss to the people in the village. But worse, perhaps, than the loss of the net was the resulting possibility of ridicule. Another example of the difference between teasing as constitutive of equality among familiars and that which is insulting is 15

See Firth (1967:138) for a similar concept fakamatamata laui (making the face good) in Tikopia. 16 Some adult humpback whales can reach fourteen metres in length.


illustrated by the comments of a friend on the difference between Wesleyans and Catholics. He mentioned that the Wesleyans are much better at saying prayers and preaching than Catholics and that it is almost automatic for them. While preaching is the central focus of most Wesleyan services, in the Catholic Church it is but one small part in the celebration of communion. He commented, 'Sometimes when Catholics are asked to give a speech or prayer, they recoil in fear and get someone else to do it'. He suggested that the absence of strong admonitionary malanga in the Catholic church and Catholics’ unease with delivering it themselves was the reason for their having a reputation of being pau'u (ill mannered, naughty, mischievous). He contrasted the holy behaviour inside the church to contradictory behaviour outside. Like any stereotypes these statements cannot be considered apart from the social purpose to which they are put. I repeat these comments for two reasons. Firstly, they link up the perceived transformative aspect of preaching and behaviour locally, and secondly, as the speaker later acknowledged, they reveal a sensitivity among people to criticism or teasing of their church which contrasts markedly to the acceptance of teasing among familiars. There will be Catholics who will acknowledge this criticism but nevertheless defend their church in conversation; there will be others who will find suitable criticism of a Wesleyan overemphasis on preaching, their prioritising presentation over content, but rarely will they voice these criticisms among Wesleyan friends. Kape kape (v.i to swear) Evidently people do not always tauhi vaha'a with the person they are speaking with, though they may often be implicitly or explicitly evoking and attenuating other relatedness in the process. There are occasions when arguments arise, insults fly, and often when alcohol has been drunk, fights ensue. Kapekape may both precipitate fights as well as be precipitated by them. Joking and banter may go too far and be construed as insulting rather than constitutive of an equality of relatedness.


The appeal to objective knowledge Fakamatala (v.t. to explain; to describe ; to report on . N. explanation, description, or report) One of the more positive aspects of our existence in Oceania is that truth is flexible and negotiable, despite attempts by some of us to impose political, religious, and other forms of absolutism. Versions of truth may be accepted for particular purposes and moments, only to be reversed when circumstances demand other versions (Hau'ofa 2000:454).

The above discussion and Hau'ofa's (2000) above definition of truth in Oceania beg the question: can people say anything that is not implicitly or explicitly evoking and attenuating relatedness? And if all acts of speaking are political in one sense or other in what interpretations do people have confidence? In this quagmire of competing truths the various churches seem to provide the discourse in which an interpretative high ground can be claimed. They have a monopoly on fakamatala (to explain, to describe, to report on), a form of speaking that if carried out in reference to the bible, constitutes the relatedness of all Tongans in Christianity. In Vava'u it is the explanations of ministers and priests as the fakafofonga (representatives) of the various churches which has the widest kudos. In Vava'u, church social activities have more influence on the yearly calendar than any seasonal or associated cycle such as the ngatala (coral trout) season in November, the ripening of fruit crops (mango, ifi) or the yearly migration of whales. Church events in the Methodist churches such as uike lotu (a week of feasting and religious worship), faka-M! (a special service and celebration for children held during the first Sunday of May), misinale, fakasepitema (a celebration in which women play a prominent role) and confelenisi (annual church conference) involve more people in economic and social activity than any other regular events during the year. Events such as funerals, birthdays, wedding and feasts also largely revolve around the church. Most other events will commence with a prayer and on occasion some kind of reading from the bible. Even the hospital week starts on Monday morning with a short service. During all these events, it is by and large those from the church hierarchies who speak the most. 94

That the churches are the representative bodies of God on earth and are, therefore, rightly the most influential institutions is, typically, not questioned in Vava'u. The weight of their interpretations stems from two main factors. Firstly ministers, preachers and priests draw their authority of interpretation by knowing and speaking of the Tohi Tapu (bible). Secondly, their speaking implicitly tauhi vaha'a with God, to whom Tonga belongs in popular discourse. The bible is the most powerful counterpoint to the flexibility and negotiability of truth that Hau'ofa (2000) claims for Oceania. It is, perhaps, the main source of 'objective' knowledge in Tonga, a knowledge which cannot be written off as partial. That this tohi (book) is tapu evokes a sense of mystery, power, awe and sacredness that a translation of bible in a secular society fails to capture. The bible is the most powerful justification of the sacredness of the church and its activities. Historically the tohi tapu (lit. sacred/holy book, bible) is the most important book in Tonga. For a considerable period of time, from when the first missionaries arrived, it was the only book. Many people can remember being taught to read by reading the bible. It is drawn to for inspiration, personal guidance, comfort and often given as the most important present for girls on their 21st birthday. Knowledge of the bible is much prized and discussions about the bible and its interpretation are some of the most popular topics of conversation. Some men like to contrast their talking about the serious matters from the bible with women's predisposition to gossip. Many people are adept at quoting passages verbatim to back up arguments. To quote from the bible is to make a claim for impartiality, though evidently the argument may be partial. Commentary on the bible appears in all the church newspapers and is often used to back up arguments or on which arguments are based in the popular letters to the editor in both the Tongan Chronicle and the Tongan Times. Foreign preachers are celebrated when they visit and praised for their erudition and knowledge of the bible. Preaching is often broadcast on the radio. At the time of the research, Vava'u was not receiving broadcasts from the largely Christian oriented TV channels in Tongatapu. It is significant that the Siasi Ma'ama Fo'ou (New Light Church) originally started as a bible study group and that its frustrations with various aspects of the main Wesleyan church were voiced in biblical terms. Even the Baha'i church recognises the bible, albeit as one stage in the progressive 95

revelation of truth and use it in talking to people of their faith. Mormons use both the bible and their own Book of Mormon. A friend in the Wesleyan church once described to me his oscillation between total faith and disenchantment in the Wesleyan church. He fought to justify to himself the huge expense of the misinale contribution for which he had to work all year and which then prevented him from paying his children's school fees. His Christianity was not of course in question, though he may have been considering joining a group with less financial commitment. He justified his contribution by quoting a section in the bible where it said that the church 'is' the body of Christ. In the same way that the Church is the body of Christ, the islands of Tonga are the body of God. It was often repeated to me that King Tupou I in 1845, in a move to prevent colonisation and subjugation from foreign powers, gave Tonga to God. That he did so in Pouono, in Neiafu, a place now marked by a cemetery and obelisk commemorating the event, is doubly significant. Some six years earlier in 1839 the first written law of Tonga, the Vava'u Code, was promulgated in the same place. This historical event is often used to explain why committing a crime on Tongan soil leads to divine punishment or mala'ia (to meet with or suffer misfortune as the result or Nemesis of wrongdoing) in Tongan terms. Under a big tree, silhouetted by the full moon, a neighbour talked of an event that happened in Longomapu some thirty-five years before: On the beach there was small shed in which the Minister's boat was kept. The minister had been unhappy because of somebody taking wood from it and had told people not to. Before going to spear fish a man took wood from the church boathouse on the beach to light a fire. He then went by boat with some friends to the reef and entered the water. A shark swam by and attacked him; biting the same arm he had used to take the wood. His two friends, who were also diving at the same time, were not touched. The sea went red with blood. When they got him back to land, he was already dead. Everyone goes fishing knowing if they do something wrong, a shark will bite them. If you do something bad to the minister or to the church, something will happen. The man had taken wood off the shed before but had not confessed when the minister had got angry about it.

Several male friends would pray before entering the water when spear fishing at night to ensure no shark would bite them. Shark attacks are 96

in actual fact extremely rare so it is very significant that the man was attacked. Many people explained to me that because Tonga had been given to God by King Tupou I no crime committed by a Tongan on Tongan soil could be kept hidden for long. This also explained Tonga’s enviable position and freedom from foreign domination. Challenging church doctrines or explanations in such a context is problematic, because it questions the relatedness between God and Tonga that one is implying in doing so. I give two examples. A friend of mine in the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon), suggested that girls in the Siasi Tonga (Church of Tonga) were more likely to get puke fakatevolo (affected by t!volo) than girls in the LDS. When I mentioned this to a healer in the Wesleyan church she became unusually agitated. She accused him of being fiepoto and went into a long biblical explanation involving Adam and Eve and their partaking of sin. A friend told me that when he was still at Mailefihi he would have arguments with the teacher about the bible. He would argue that it was just fananga (fable, story, fairy tale, legend) in the same way that stories about Tangaloa and Aho'eitu are. The teacher would get cross and call him fiepoto. The issue was brought before the headmaster. He told the teacher that he had to answer his questions and that if he couldn't then he should let him believe what he wanted.

The accusation of fiepoto (to imagine oneself to be clever) in these two cases of explanation is a criticism of the appropriateness of explanation in their respective situations. However, it is not only the lack of appropriateness, lack of respect but also the implication on relatedness that is important. In use fiepoto has a lot in common with fieh# (to desire to appear or to be seen; to show off), fie'eiki (to imagine oneself to be 'eiki) and fie me'a (to imagine oneself to be something, to be selfimportant or snobbish). They all draw attention to a denial of relatedness as currently affirmed. Both explanations imply a denial of the relatedness of all Tongans constituted in a common Christianity. In the suggestion that more girls are getting ill in the Wesleyan church than in the Mormon church, there is an implied criticism of her church and thus implied difference and distinction, my friend used the bible to reply. In the second example the argument is inappropriate to his teacher, it questions his authority and the sacredness of the bible, 97

and is ultimately (though not necessarily) a rejection of relatedness as constituted as Tonganess. The speaker eventually went overseas where he joined the Bahai church in which, he said, he was able to think more freely. I do not wish to give the impression that there is no theological debate within churches. In the first case for example, one other teacher felt his argument was valid. These examples do cement the powerful sense, that the claim for objectivity is one that affirms a common relatedness of Tongans in Christianity and interrelationship with the wider Christian world outside Tonga. Science, as it is currently taught in Tonga, has little influence on social matters. Only Tonga High School and Vava'u High School are not church run. Being a good minister or preacher in Tonga is somewhat of an art. For fakamatala to be credible it must evoke and attenuate particular forms of relatedness with the minister and the congregation, his membership with his church and a higher relatedness to God. It is no surprise that ministers who manage this are highly valued, and are accorded high status within the community. The ministers who have mastered this and are seen to support the congregation against occasionally unpopular requests from the large church hierarchy or government are extremely popular and often villagers request that they stay on after their three years are completed. Key to the success of ministers in the Methodist churches is that in most cases they are not from the communities in which they preach and are moved around every three years.17 To a degree the reality of t!volo is affirmed by the influence of the church in Tonga. In naming the ancient spirits and deities, contrary to Christian teachings, by using a Tonganised term for devil in early and current translations of the bible, missionaries and the churches that followed them have ironically ensured their continued survival. The following chapter demonstrates that while the church officially 17

Perminow (1993) discusses the failure of an evangelical program in 1979 due to young, newly trained evangelists being sent to their own communities. They then 'eventually succumbed to the pressure and conformed to the social expectations based on their previous position in the local community' (Perminow 1993:35). When they were then sent to other communities and not allowed to stay too long, so that they were accorded the status and respectability of guests of honour they achieved greater success. The head of the evangelist program recognised that the 'key was not to settle too long into the community'.


continues to see t!volo as devils or bad spirits, most people regard them more familiarly as unique persons embodying a personhood little different from living people.



T!volo and Agency, Tapu mo koe 1

There is a form of speaking that is rarely talked about and refers to the ability of people in certain relationships to cause sickness in others. Talatuki (curse), as Bloomfield explains: ‌.was said to be also a cause of some misfortunes such as sickness, pa'a (barren) and so on. The curse was usually directed by a socially superior person to someone inferior to him or her. For example, chiefs to commoners, mehekitanga (father's sister) to her tu'asina (father's children) and so on. There must be legitimate causes for the curse such as breaking of an important tapu and so on (Bloomfield 1984:7).

Though rarely mentioned as a cause of sickness now due to the influence of the churches, many people still recognise that 'ita (anger) can intentionally or unintentionally cause sickness in other relatives, though the medium may be unclear. I was told of several incidences when the mehekitanga made a special effort to be present at or after the birth of her brother's children to ensure that if the birth did not go to plan or if the new-born was sick her feelings were clear. Whether or not people still attribute the mehekitanga with the power to curse, she still retains the capacity, intentionally or unintentionally, to influence the outcome of the birth of her brothers’ children. This is not, however, seen as 'witchcraft' (fakalou'akau), a practice that many people attribute to Fiji. Bloomfield (1986) recounts an event of sickness that occurred in Tafahi, a remote volcanic outlier of the island Niuatoputapu. 1

Tapu mo koe. A Tongan expression that occasionally peppers conversations 'when one has said something which, according to Tongan ideas of propriety (which are sometimes very exacting), is, or may possibly be regarded as, more or less improper or disrespectful (Churchward 1953: 303). Churchward translates it as 'if you will excuse my using such a word or mentioning such a matter' (Ibid: 304). I introduce this phrase to accentuate the fact that t!volo is a sensitive topic for some people and that this chapter is the start of dialogue in which the reader in engaged.


Two sisters were asked by their brother to go and fakamolemole (ask forgiveness) of his wife. This is unusual as sisters are of higher rank than their brothers. This incident was the talk of the village. One of the sisters came over and explained their side of the story. She said, that since it was Easter Sunday it was only Christian to beg forgiveness of their sister-in-law, regardless of her being at fault. She added that already two of their brother’s children had died because of their mother’s attitudes towards her and her sister, the children’s mehekitanga. On the next day, the brother’s wife came for a talk and described her sisters-in-law as demons [in Tongan most likely to have been t!volo. My italics]. She also said that she would rather her children all died than to give in to her sisters-in-law. Both parties thus confirmed the belief that diseases and death can be caused by some breach in a social relationship, particularly when those concerned are of different social ranking. As the brothers’ sisters (mehekitanga) are fahu (earthly chief), they are customarily allowed to do what they like with their brother’s children. It is only logical, therefore, that their anger should be the cause of the children’s deaths. Despite the fact that the two children died of dengue fever, most people believed that they died of supernatural sanctions. When I explained the effects of dengue fever on the body and the probable reasons for the children’s death, most people said, ‘But there were many other children with dengue fever, why did only those two children die?’ (Bloomfield 1986:141).

Why then did the mother describe her brother's sisters, among them the mehekitanga, whom she blamed for the death of her children, as t!volo?2 The answer to this question, which I argue lies in her metaphoric association between the concepts of fa'iteliha and t!volo, is key to appreciating what t!volo are and represent if, as I stated in my introduction, they are inadequately glossed as devil, ghosts or spirits. The following examination of the historical origin of the term, particular case studies of t!volo involvement, attributions of t!volo motivation, and the importance of tauhi vaha'a and speaking in contextualising attributions of t!volo involvement will support people's varying ideas of t!volo as retaining personhood but with a distinctive kind of agency. 3 2 3

I assume that demon is Bloomfield's mistranslation for t!volo.

In this chapter I examine the concept of t!volo as locally signifying both an agent of sickness and particular kind of agency. See Gardner (1987) who makes a similar argument for spirits and conceptions of agency among the Mianmin of Papua New Guinea


The term agency, as it pertains 'to the nature of individual consciousness, its ability to constitute and reconstitute itself, and, ultimately, the extent of its freedom from exterior domination' (Rapport & Overing 2000: 1) is the closest term in the English language that translates for the term fa'iteliha. This follows from Churchward's translation of fa'iteliha as verb: to please oneself, to choose or decide for oneself, to do as one pleases and as a noun: what one chooses to do, one's personal decision or desire. However, the powers of the mehekitanga and the other contexts in which fa'iteliha is used suggests that while agency is the most appropriate translation, a distinction must be made. The mehekitanga's power to fa'iteliha, to impose her will, 'free of any constraint' (Rogers 1975: 270 In Douaire-Marsaudon 1996: 152) is widely accepted to have been sanctioned by 'mystical' power outside of society. The concept of agency, in anthropological and sociological terms, is usually used to theorise the relationship between individuals and social structure.4 Such distinctions in Vava'uan terms are subsumed in ideas of autopoietic personhood. People in Vava'u do not theorise social structures and individuals as discrete or separate. Relatedness rather than relationship is most important. As I argued in the previous chapter kin structures are constituted in agentive acts. There is, however, a distinction that can be made between a generalised sense of Tongan society, structured by the ideas and practices of the church, affirmed in statements about Tonga belonging to God, and what lies outside. A Tongan idea of agency is located in the interstices between living Tongan society and what lies outside. The mehekitanga's power to fa'iteliha came from 'without' whereas agency in Western terms is theorised as a capacity within persons. Both the concepts of fa'iteliha and agency suggest a freedom from external control but they are located in different places. The church has strongly demonised the mehekitanga's ability to fa'iteliha because it drew on mystical powers outside of a nation constituted in Christianity. T!volo, similarly, draw their ability to fa'iteliha by inhabiting a space outside of society/church. However, their imputed personhood still ties them to living people. As 4

For summaries and discussion of a history of anthropological treatment of agency see Rapport & Overing (2000: 1-9), Kapferer (1997) and Ahearn (2001).


I will go on to demonstrate there is a curious dialectic in Vava'u between ideas of t!volo as strongly individualistic, wayward, and negative agents and t!volo as helpful individuals who still embody personhood. Perhaps what makes them so fascinating, and why people regard them with a mixture of fear and wonder, is that in part they suggest a different kind of existence. This different kind of freedom, problematic in Tongan terms, is suggested by the stronger distinctions made between social structures and individuals experienced by increasing numbers of Tongans through the media or by actually living or visiting relatives in Australia, New Zealand and the US. In 1999, t!volo was the subject of a song by a Tongatapu band, the Kaufusi Brothers. While many older people regarded the song as disrespectful, many younger people found it very entertaining. History of the term The term t!volo seems to have originated in early missionary attempts to demonise various pre- Christian practices and deities.5 Jilek (1988), for example, claims that the 'Rev John Thomas introduced the term t!volo for evil spirit in his bible translation' replacing the ancient Tongan term for these spirits mea kehe or fa'ahi kehe (Ibid.:167). The term fa'ahikehe, which was still used in Gifford's time and which, according to Churchward, refers to a usually malignant human or supernatural being, is rarely used nowadays though villages in Vava'u still have a mythology of certain fa'ahikehe. The term t!volo continues to be used to refer to the assorted non-human scary characters and monsters in horror films. Their liminality is suggested by Churchward's (1959) assertion that t!volo can be preceded by the plural markers of fanga (usually used for animals), kau (usually used for people) and ngaahi (usually used for things). In everyday use, I was most familiar with fanga. The missionary John Thomas is widely regarded to have brought Christianity to Tonga in 1826. The current Tongan Bible remains 5

See Stewart (1991:150) for a historical treatment of the substitution and appropriation of 'devils' and 'demons' in a Greek context.


largely unchanged since his first translation. T!volo are therefore real in as much as the bible is regarded as truthful. Though the term t!volo does not appear in Mariner's dictionary, it is possible that the term existed before the missionaries arrived. Gifford explains: All of the gods are today called t!volo, which is the Tongan rendering of English 'devil'. Some informants, however, insist that t!volo is an old Tongan word, and the late Maatu of Niuatoputapu gave an interesting etymology which would appear to be a rationalization. He analysed t!volo as te 'to bring out', and volo 'salivary glands, ' referring to the frothing at the mouth on the part of the inspired priest. The proper ancient term for a god seems to be otua (Gifford 1929:289).

The term tevoro, a Fijianisation of t!volo, is widely recognised to have been brought to Fiji from Tonga by Christian missionaries (Katz 1993). Toren makes reference to Fijian use of tevoro to refer 'to the old Gods' sexual or oral desire to consume humans' (Toren 1999:154).6 This seems not a prevalent concern in Tonga. Although sexual motivation may be voiced for some of the acts of t!volo, people in Vava'u have relatively little current or historical experience or interest in 'witchcraft', cannibalism or strong village based society. Continued concern with ancient deities, no doubt, influence the use of the term tevoro in a Fijian context. However, in one important respect they are similar. In both Fiji and Vava'u there is a concern with the appropriateness of the term and its use to make pejorative comment on practices that fall outside of church teachings. As Katz argues 'but whereas to evangelicals the entire practice of traditional healing is vakatevoro, to practitioners and clients the label vakatevoro is reserved for those who have abandoned the healing aspect of their work' (Katz 1993:24) for 'witchcraft'.7 As well as poorly signifying Tongan ghosts and spirits, characterised by their indistinguishability with living people, the term also came to be used allegorically to refer to inappropriate behaviour or waywardness within church doctrine. One of the contributors in a 6

This suggests that Fijian tevoro were also attributed personhood because consumption constituted personhood (Toren 1998). 7 There is also the attributed characteristic of t!volo and tevoro that you can see air between their feet and the ground (Toren 1999:155).


Public Health Seminar on STDs in Vava'u talked about how fifty years previously the terms t!volo and fakat!volo were used to make something or an act seem disgusting.8 Fakat!volo was used to refer to the sex act and both t!volo and mahaki (sickness) were used metaphorically to refer to the male organ. He explained how some old people still use the expression, 'Oku na nofo fakat!volo' (they are living in a t!volo manner) to refer to a couple living together out of wedlock. 9 Living people may be jokingly or critically referred to as t!volo when they behave inappropriately in a way that suggests they do not wish to tauhi vaha'a with people around them. One of the local eccentrics, regarded as 'mentally ill' by the hospital, who often sat under the tree by the Catholic Church and lived a very solitary existence, would occasionally make rude comments to passing ladies. On one occasion, one exasperated lady muttered 'T!volo' in response, only to receive the reply 'T!volo koe' (You're the t!volo). Unmarried young men may also be referred to as t!volo in the sense of 'he's a bit of devil'. This may refer to both the kind of behaviour they get up to but also because, as a result of the brother/sister tapu, they are often required to live outside the house. By and large, they lead a much freer existence than their sisters. In their reticence to interact with elders, they evoke and attenuate a relatedness of low status. With their male cousins and friends of a similar age, however, their acts evoke equality and camaraderie. With younger male siblings and cousins they are typically authoritative. The metaphorical association between some young men and t!volo is in part because their response to the low status accorded to them is to constitute themselves as somehow separate from the wider society. It is, of course, a temporary and false separation, because they are still reliant on their household and the household on them. But it is enough of a distinction to support the metaphorical association between them and t!volo. 8

At a seminar organised jointly by the hospital and the newly formed Youth Congress in Vava'u. The contributor, the Neiafu District Officer, spoke about how in 1940 the term used to refer to sex was fakat!volo. Nowadays, to lots of laughter, he explained the medical term is fe'au'aki which has no sense of prohibition about it. 9 People also used a synonymous expression Oku na nofo fakasuva-(Churchward 1959). They are living in the manner characteristic of Suva (capital of Fiji). Hence nofo f., to live together as husband and wife though not legally married, syn. Nofo fakat!volo.


The many metaphorical associations of the term t!volo make it particularly open to humorous interpretation and double meanings. Girls jokingly talk about their episodes with t!volo, who to me were rarely unambiguously alive or dead, and how t!volo in some villages do not like outsiders. Slaps of t!volo explained many of the basketball injuries which occur over the Christmas period when girls basketball teams travel all over the island group playing other village teams. In October and November 1999, a group of people from Pangaimotu including Tinitini, Vava'u's most popular comedian, went on a fundraising concert around the villages of Vava'u. One of their most popular and occasionally imitated sketches revolves around a man who has suffered from fear of t!volo since he was very young.10 His wife sends him to the bush to get some food, but the dogs always seem to attack him when he returns. So they end up all going to the bush together. But night falls and they end up having to stay. His fear of t!volo does not allow him to sleep. When the dogs’ barking wakes him up he is very frightened because he thinks it is because of a t!volo. But it turns out to be only a lizard. The second time, however, they sense a t!volo. He does not know what to do so he runs away only to meet a t!volo with white face. He jumps into the arms of the t!volo, falls down and then runs in the other direction and jumps into the arms of another t!volo. He escapes but then falls down dead. The narrator then says 'You can lose your life because of manavahe (dread/fear)'. T!volo are a topic of great interest and many people across the island group are fascinated by t!volo stories. Taxi drivers especially, both because of their travelling around at night and perhaps because they hear so much gossip, when driving from place to place, have a particular penchant for t!volo stories. In a story similar to many other versions outside Tonga, there is a woman who stops cars going through her village. She asks the driver to drop her at the bridge. On arriving at the destination, however, the driver discovers she has disappeared and realises she was a t!volo.11 10 11

Hoku mahaki talu mei eku kei si'i mamavahe 'a e t!volo.

There are many variations on this theme. In another a driver stops to pick up a woman carrying an umbrella because he thinks she might want a lift. He stops to drop her off and turns around to discover she has disappeared. Later he is told that where he stopped is where the same woman died in a car accident.


Ambiguity and the inadequacy of 'belief' Belief in the gods is by no means dead today in Tonga. Good Christians occasionally see, or are afflicted by, the ancient deities (Gifford 1929:288).

In present day Vava'u one cannot make such a statement without questioning the utility of using a rigid notion of belief (Needham 1972), the implicit assumption that it is false (Good 1994) and the implicit denial of a local epistemology grounded in social action. The term that many Tongans translate as belief, tui, has a sense of both faith and belief, neither of which necessarily has to be enduring. In Tongan terms, one can believe in t!volo as causal agents in an event of sickness one day and in one context but it would not be contradictory to deny 'belief' in t!volo in another context. Statements of belief or disbelief do not necessarily reflect action. As one health officer explained: It is funny, even though we do not believe in t!volo, we still would not sleep in the hospital overnight when there are dead bodies around or not. We get the training but we still wouldn't sleep here at night.

Some nurses claim that t!volo cannot cause sickness yet will consult a healer or perform a healing procedure that assumes t!volo as a cause. Although many young people insist that people who tui (believe, have faith) in t!volo are ta'elotu (without religion /worship /prayer), this does not necessarily mean they will not explain events in terms of t!volo involvement in later years. Nor does it reflect the fact that those ladies, who are most qualified to treat t!volo caused sickness, are typically extremely active in their respective churches. The fact that attribution of belief in t!volo may be made as a pejorative comment does not preclude those same people for attributing behaviour to their involvement in particular circumstances. On several occasions, friends joked about how people from the more distant villages and smaller islands would be more likely to ‘believe’ in t!volo, neglecting to mention that many of their own compatriots would, on occasion, attribute events and behaviour to them. There is no strict association between beliefs about t!volo and particular social groups that can be made, though people will appeal to difference to distinguish themselves. There are many highly educated people who privately claim to believe in their existence or can see no 107

other explanation for phenomena they have experienced. And the contrary may be true; many young Catholic men in Falaleu distinguish themselves by using the local cemetery as a place to socialise. Are they denying belief or affirming a sense of relatedness to the resident t!volo? One particular healer, who would often treat people affected by t!volo and had joined the Mormon church, corrected my use of fakat!volo. After saying in Tongan 'we prefer to use fakamahaki; to call it fakat!volo gives the impression we believe/have faith in t!volo' she went on to explain how t!volo affect people. Belief in rigid terms seems not to be an issue. T!volo exist. The question is not whether or not they exist you have faith in them. T !volo and motivation T!volo, as persons, are attributed motivations just like their living relatives. In a weaving shed in the presence of the healer who had treated her, one lady who was ill once when she was fifteen and once again late last year explained: The t!volo can pinch you, slap you and feed you. It makes you stronger. Some t!volo are loto kovi (ill disposed, disagreeable, or malicious)12, some manako (are fond of, like, desire; fall in love with) the person who is ill. Some t!volo come during the day, some during the night, they fakavale'i (cause to act foolishly, stupefy, mislead, befool, or make a fool of) the person who they ngaahi (touch or meddle with, ill treat or attack). People don't realise they are ill, they think the t!volo is real, they think it is a real person. Only after they have been treated do they realise. If you don't treat it the 'atamai (mind) gets worse. The t!volo who ngaahi me was from the islands. He was a young man who died early last year. He died of too much drinking sipiliti (methylated spirits) and smoking dope.

Ngaahi (to touch or meddle with, to ill treat or attack) is the verb most commonly used to describe the action of t!volo on living people. But you also can get ill if you see one or talk to one, they do not necessarily have to touch you. However, people often attribute motivations of love when the t!volo is closely related or they knew the t!volo when he or she 12

Now often translated by Tongans as jealous.


were alive. The t# (slap, hit) of the t!volo can both be a sign of 'ofa and anger. The motivation for parental discipline is often claimed to be 'ofa. Girls occasionally hit boys to flirt, boys slap each other to tease and right from an early age many mothers slap their children in a teasing and loving way. Motivations of attraction or missing the person may also be suggested. A good friend once told me about a woman who had died in labour but the baby survived. She gave me the following account: The nurse at the hospital offered to breast-feed the baby herself. Later the husband of the woman who had died talked to his father-in-law and asked if he could marry his deceased wife's younger sister. The younger sister had been the one who had taken the baby twice a day to the nurse to be breastfed. At the funeral I saw a woman with what looked like a baby, which turned out to be a doll. The woman then took the doll and put it in the arms of the deceased woman. This was to stop her wandering around, looking for her baby. The woman and others then sat next to the body telling her that this was her baby and not to wander around. The saddest thing was to see the baby with the nurse at the funeral.

Sometimes people claim that a t!volo may go even further than just touching or feeding. On rare occasions a male t!volo may have sex with a girl who has just married so that she does not want to have sex with her new husband. This might be a t!volo from within the extended family or friendly with the household of the girl, if her household did not want her to get married. In the previous chapter I argued that a Vava'uan notion of personhood lies in the capacity to tauhi vaha'a. T!volo also can be seen to tauhi vaha'a in interacting with the living through their acts of speaking, friendly slaps, giving food and through reminding people they are still around. The motives that people ascribe to t!volo demonstrate that they wish to tauhi vaha’a with living individuals. However, not only are t!volo attempting to tauhi vaha'a with living individuals, but living individuals also tauhi vaha’a in their explanations of particular t!volo. This accounts to a degree for the great pluralism in ideas about t!volo. One lady, who I often spoke to in the market, contradicted all the healers I spoke to and maintained that t!volo do not cause illness. She did so on the basis of personal experience with a t!volo. In her explanation she attributes positive motivations to the t!volo 109

who helped her in a time of need and is implicitly tauhi vaha'a with him in her explanation. I have seen t!volo. I once saw a couple of t!volo with my son near the market. I knew they were t!volo because I could see air under their feet. I have always wanted to see t!volo. I would sleep on graves without fear. I used to look after the grave of the person who is buried next to my son. In a dream the man who was buried there thanked me and told me his name. I asked lots of people in the village and finally someone confirmed that that person was buried there and had died some twenty-five years ago. I appealed to him once for help because of financial problems. In a dream three days later he took me to a place and told me to fish there. I had not fished for many years. The next day I went to the place and caught hundreds of little fish. I sold them and made almost two hundred pa'anga (Tongan pound). I don't believe in puke fakat!volo (t!volo caused sickness) though. When a relative was ill this way, I just held the person tight even though they were very strong. She slept and was fine in the morning. I have never been frightened of t!volo. I even sweep at night. I try to tell people not to believe or to be frightened. People are ignorant. Because I have studied I should try to teach people. You should tell Lilopau (the healer I was working with) to stop deceiving people with her stories. T!volo don't cause illness. My mother used to do lots of faito'o (medicine, treatment). I would tell my mother to tell them to go to the hospital, lest they die. I would tease my mother. I did not believe in the faito'o. Now I am older and wiser and believe in it. There are some treatments I have for children which really work, but I still don't believe in puke fakat!volo. 13

In her explanation, she makes very clear that t!volo can help but they do not cause sickness. Many people give great weight to the remedies and advice given in dreams.14 Is Afaki's statement, that t!volo do not cause


Afaki is a very forthright and strong-minded woman who has worked for twenty years in the market. We had many conversations. She often preferred to speak to me in English. Her statement goes some way to explaining the erroneous prediction of Weiner in 1971: ‘Young people generally consider plant medicine a form of superstition and look upon its practice as not really effective, if not actually dangerous. There is no systematic schooling for transmitting these plant remedies from one generation to the next, and for this reason I believe that with the passing of one more generation little of this traditional knowledge will survive, except in occasional notebooks stored with other possessions of another age’ (Weiner 1971:448). 14 One friend was very enthusiastic about faito'o fakamisia (remedies revealed in dreams) claiming it is one of the most powerful ways of healing. He explained that if there is someone


sickness, reflective of her sense of gratitude to the t!volo who helped her and a wish not to ascribe negative motivations to this and other t!volo? T!volo can interfere with acceptable sociality and their interference can explain peoples' wish not to relate, out of the ordinary events and difficult to understand, potentially shameful events and acts. But they can also help people through dreams, as in Afaki's narrative, and through telling relatives of cures or healers to consult. At this point the inextricability of tauhi vaha'a and speaking becomes important. Because to question the reality of t!volo in the instances where they are used seemingly instrumentally (as in explanations of a bride's wish not to have sex with her husband), despite their ambiguity, is to patently tauhi vaha’a with some people and not to others. Of course, that the idea of t!volo is used instrumentally on occasion need not suggest they are not real in other contexts. I recount an event that illustrates this to a potent degree. People were shocked to hear of the tragic death of a young girl from a nearby village. Her brother was driving her to Neiafu and she was in the passenger seat. For some reason she opened the door and got out of the car while it was travelling at speed. There was much confusion as to why she jumped out of the car. Was she angry with her brother? The gossip at the time revolved around the fact that her brother had got married, and when the parents went to the US his wife starting taking control of everything. The brother was listening more to the wife and not to his sister. Within a month of her funeral in July 1999, girls had seen her in different parts of the island including where she had the accident.15 In December 1999, a friend told me that the girl's father in America dreamt of the t!volo who told him what happened. He gave me the current explanation. The girl was not angry with her brother. She was not a girl who was often angry. It was the t!volo who was angry and had pushed her. The t!volo had told her to go to Neiafu and she had told her brother to take her there. They returned and she asked him to take her there again. This happened three times. While returning to the village the t!volo told her to go back to Neiafu or he would push her out of the car. The brother, however, did not want to return and did not realise that she opened the door until she ill in the family, one of your relatives will have a dream in which an ancestor tell them what remedy to take. It is usually the patient's grandparents who dream the remedy. 15 The tragic death was reported in the Tongan Chronicle.


had jumped out. The t!volo was from her village; may be she was loto kovi (ill disposed, disagreeable, or malicious).

This case suggests people's wish to tauhi vaha'a is extremely important in accounting for the tremendous pluralism in peoples' speaking about t!volo and also contextualise any interpretation of t!volo involvement. The rest of the ethnography examines many such instances. To question the ontological status (as I had done when teasingly joking with Leisi in the first story of the introduction) of the t!volo in this case, to argue that they were using it to explain an uncomfortable and incomprehensible event, and put the blame on the t!volo through questioning the meaning or actual occurrence of the dream, is evidently not to tauhi vaha'a with those household and family members of the girl, who are potentially implicated in the blame. To then question the ontological reality of t!volo within Tonga is to make an analytic step which patently denies my claim for knowledge within a Vava'uan epistemology, premised on involvement. In this situation there is much at stake: the conflicting interpretations and attributions and regrets, the need to understand and the reputation of the household. In this particular event, the political ramifications of an attribution of t!volo involvement is very salient. The inextricability of tauhi vaha'a and speaking is also important because of the particularity of t!volo. In Vava'u it is difficult to see the term t!volo as an exclusively general category when so many of the t!volo that affect people, are well known to most people in Vava'u. Perhaps more importantly, people continue to evoke relatedness to them. In Leisi's narrative, at the beginning of the introduction, it was almost redundant to mention Paloakula's status as a t!volo, though not clear to me till the end, because his reputation was common knowledge.16 He became a well-known individual whose reputation is still seemingly important to relatives as the following explanation attests. Paloakula murdered Lingelingasi around five years ago. Lingelingasi's famili didn't like him because they didn't think he was good enough for her. Paloakula was a really nice guy, he didn't drink or smoke. He was still a 16

I concur with McGrath (1993:162) that 'a spirit that is known is most often referred to by his or her name. It is in the context of the conversation that identifies the individual as dead'.


student at Mailefihi and worshipped Lingelingasi. She was trying to make him jealous by going around with other guys. Everyone knew that they really loved each other. They were the victims of their own doing. The guy whom she saw the day of the murder looked just like Paloakula. Paloakula wasn't drunk though people said he was. People made up many stories. I got the truth from one of Paloakula's aunts. The famili didn't know they were more than just friends. She was older than him. He was the perfect kid on the block. He had known her for about two or three years. She would come around to our house. She was a really pretty girl. She worked at the Telecom office. He was always hanging around the Telecom office. Her famili treated him as if he didn't exist. The nurses saw him at the hospital after the murder. They say he came to check she was dead so that he could then go and kill himself. He changed clothes before committing suicide. Everyone talked badly about him, everyone thought something drove him to do such a thing that wasn't him. The night he killed her she went out to meet him. They would often go off and not come back till four in the morning. She lived with her grandparents, they didn't know she was outside. Paloakula and Lingelingasi often seem to appear together, they say that the t!volo hold a concert and as they move from place to place the girls there get ill.

Who can be t !volo ? Like individuals in Tonga some t!volo are better known than others. Though potentially anyone who has died can become a t!volo and be responsible for a sickness, it is by and large those individuals who died in dramatic circumstances that unsurprisingly are spoken about more than others. The above history of Lingelingasi and Paloakula is similar to another incident in which a man, Nukuafe, killed his girlfriend, Alusa, in a love tryst. These stories are well known to most people in Vava'u. Paloakula is well known for having affected many other girls. A girl from Leimatu'a who studied at Vava'u High School died of a protracted sickness after being affected by a t!volo. The t!volo responsible drowned after a fight on a boat. Two of the casualties in a dramatic car crash which occurred on the road to Mataika are widely said to be t!volo.17 Within the villages of Vava'u, people are familiar with 17

Though I omit the identity of the particular t!volo in question I was familiar with their names.


local t!volo, that visitors often will not be aware of. This was one of the explanations suggested to me as to why visitors to villages are more likely to be affected by these t!volo. T!volo may also be 'pre-Christian deities' such as Fehuluni 'who even in Christian times appears as an apparition' (Gifford 1929:292). I do not know the extent to which such deities are still seen and are able to cause illness.18 In Leimatu'a, the mythic Fehuluni is celebrated in song and dance. At the yearly song festival and Miss Vava'u competition in 1999, songs from the Leimatu'a contestants about Fehuluni featured prominently. Some people affirm the connection between inappropriate behaviour and the idea of t!volo, as in the narrative above of the women affected by the man who smoked a lot of dope. This, however, is not always the case and a guilty t!volo can just as easily be someone who led an exemplary life. That all t!volo I heard of are concrete individuals, whose reputations continue to have a bearing on members of their household, makes grouping them somewhat superfluous. Cowling (1990a) groups them into: (1) the spirits of dead family members, (2) the spirits of nobles angered at a lack of 'respect' (3) spirits into whose 'territory' the patient had accidentally strayed (4) spirits of individuals with whom the patient may have had a close association and (5) spirits in disarray 'because of the disturbance of Tongan life and culture'. Neither Paloakula nor Lingelingasi seem to fit into any of these groups in relation to the girl they affected. Most t!volo -I have already dealt with the inadequacy of translating t!volo as spirit- are dead extended family members. The only grouping I can suggest, that of people who died in dramatic circumstances, is itself artificial because it is natural that knowledge of t!volo who died in dramatic circumstances would be more widespread than others. In the cases that follow throughout the ethnography, many different t!volo affect people and cause sickness and in most cases people were aware of the identity of the individual in question. One does not get affected by an arbitrary t!volo. The current popularity of 'ui'ui t!volo (a local adaptation of the ouija board) for advice and also for consultation for illness follows from the chance to talk to individual t!volo to whom you are related. The acts of t!volo in engaging with living relatives constitute a stronger relationship with 18

See Gifford (1929:288) for an extensive discussion of these deities.


them than with other t!volo. Grouping them gives them a common identity that is artificial in relation to their greater connection with living relatives and the people they affect. Knowledge of their specificity is fundamental. The above discussion has served to emphasise the importance of tauhi vaha’a in both the interpretation of particular events of t!volo involvement and the appreciation that, in the main, t!volo are concrete individuals, to whom living relatives remain in relationship to varying degrees. T !volo and personhood To what extent are t!volo persons in Vava'uan terms? And how does their personhood differ from the personhood of living people? The personhood of t!volo is recognised in their attempts to tauhi vaha'a with living people, in people talking to them, in people naming t!volo as concrete individuals, in continued concern for their reputation and in a treatment that focuses on breaking sensory interaction with them. T!volo, free from many of the restrictions and commitments implicated in being alive, are able to do things that those who are living cannot. On occasion, because t!volo are less influenced by the interaction that constitutes personhood, they have to be chased away, repelled with strongly smelling plants, pleaded with, and on occasion their bones burnt when they do not respond. The metaphorical association between the terms t!volo and fa'iteliha in the first case study, and in the stories of wayward individuals and the fact that the sisters are evidently still alive, is key to appreciating that while t!volo retain personhood, their agency, recognised in the autopoietic notion of living personhood, is distinctive. After all, most people do not seek a relationship with t!volo, and when a relationship is established it is cause for rapid and dramatic treatment. Their evoking and attenuating relatedness with individuals is inappropriate because it takes the ill person away from constituting their personhood in acts of tauhi vaha'a with members of their household and extended family. In Vava'u the personhood of the living is autopoietic. It assumes agency and relationship. Structures manifest in the process of 115

constituting and being constituted as a person. T!volo personhood, however, forces the distinction between a society's relatedness affirmed in Christianity and a non-autopoietic individual. Few Tongans would claim not to be Christians. T!volo approach the idea of an individual outside any notion of structure; in terms of the church, neither living or in heaven. Relationship with t!volo is not assumed but emerges in the explanation of events that are not desired or are not commonplace. The existence of t!volo suggests a non autopoietic notion of personhood in which agency is manifest in a context in which individual and society can be separated. The implications of t!volo's existence in denying relatedness and affirming relationship are dealt with by the church through denial and by healers and many people through attributing them with personhood. Healers, albeit inspired by church doctrine, rather than ministers deal with t!volo. Ministers do not play an active role. The overwhelming influence of the church in funerals explains why in part there are seemingly no funerary rites that deal explicitly with t!volo as persons. T!volo in this form are denied by official church teaching which states, depending on the church, that individuals go to heaven, hell or purgatory. Ministers are usually not from the village where they serve and may not be familiar with local t!volo. Their responsibility is to maintain church principles. In the next chapter I introduce the healers who are regarded as most qualified to speak about t!volo, those women and men who people regard as best qualified to treat the results of peoples' interaction with t!volo.



Healers: Speak of the 't!volo'1

Ko e me'a mahu'inga taha i he'ete faito'o fakatonga ko 'ete tui ki ai. Ko e faito'o ko ia ko e ivi ia ‘oku faka'otua. Ko e me'a mahu'inga taha 'o e faito'o kuo u fai, ko'uhi ko e ivi i hoku faito'o ‘ikai ke fakapoto hange ko e t$ket# nau $ ako o ma'u mata'atohi ‘oku fakapoto. Ko e faito'o kuo u fai au ia, kukui, lotu pea moe 'otua mai e ivi moe ilo ke u fai'aki e faito'o. Ko e me'a mahu'inga taha p! i he faito'o fakatonga ke ‘oku faka'otua ia, kei tui kakai Tonga p!. Ko au ko e me'a ng#ue, me'a ng#ue oe 'Otua 'a'au ('a'aku), omai ‘ae ivi ke u fai'aki ene ng#ue The most important thing about Tongan healing is one's faith in it. The power of that treatment comes from God. The most important thing about the healing I do is that power of my treatment does not come from expertise like doctors who go and study and get a degree. The healing I do, I close my eyes, I pray, and God gives me the power and the knowledge to carry out the healing. The most important thing about Tongan healing is that it is divine. That is something Tongan people still have faith in. I am merely the instrument. God gives me the power to do his work.

Akosita is a well-known fefine faito'o (woman healer) in Vava'u. Her statement mirrors the heartfelt ethic of many healers that emphasises the importance of tui (belief, faith) and of being a vehicle for the power of God.2 For Akosita the power and efficacy of faito'o fakatonga (Tongan medicine) lies not in expertise but in divine 'power'3. Akosita 1

My choice of this title springs from the literal meaning of the sentence as well as its humorous use in addressing a person who one has just been speaking about. With one exception, the healers who appear in this chapter can be characterised as expert speakers of t!volo. T!volo on occasion is mis-translated as devil. I am aware this is not an original title. See Howard (1996) and LaFontaine (1998). 2 In response to the question: Ko e h# e me'a mahu'inga taha o ho'o faito'o? What is the most important thing about your healing? 3 The original was ivi. Churchward (1959) translates ivi as power, ability; influence. One explanation for why so many plants are useful in faito'o is that God fakaivi'i (to give power or ability to, to enable) them. On one occasion when describing a healer a friend attributed them


was available to heal no matter what she was doing and would receive happily any requests for help. She spoke many times of her profound trust in and reliance on God and of her wish to do his will. It was in variations of this church affiliated ethic that most healers introduced their practice to me. They spoke of the great inspiration they take from the bible and ministers' sermons. They also often quoted from the bible to explain their practice. The pure motivations of their practice, they explained, were a reflection of their personal qualities of loto fietokoni (of a helpful disposition) and loto 'ofa (kind hearted, of a kind or loving disposition). They are manifest in their claims that no matter how difficult and tiring the treatment was, they would not refuse and would always try to help. This was despite the fact that often they were so busy they had no time to attend to other economic or famili activities. Healers narrated dramatic events of illness that the hospital could not treat and how they had stepped in and saved patients when they were tali mate (waiting or expecting death). Similar stories were told by people of their experiences of Tongan medicine, of healing confounding doctors and hospital. In their explanations, some healers also betrayed a pleasure in the fatongia (duty) that initially they had resisted, but then carried out in response to people's faka'ofa (moving to sympathy or pity) and their requests for help. In the company of friends and other familiars they enjoyed the praise, the attribution of ivi (power), and the social kudos and influence they had in questions of illness. They, no doubt, enjoy the social confidence and involvement in other people's lives that their generosity and helping engenders. Their verbalised ethic evokes and attenuates membership of their respective churches and is a profound celebration of the Tongan value of fetokoni'aki (mutual help and assistance). Both inspire a confidence that requests for treatment will be met. However, while there is seeming commonality in purpose there is great diversity in the practice, conceptualisations, personality and personal histories of particular healers. The most analytically significant comment about healers' practice was made to me by Loloa, a wellwith the English word 'power' and then translated it as ivi. The use of ivi as strength and/or energy is suggested by people's use of the term when explaining the difficulty of holding down girls when they are affected by t!volo.


known retired healer in Neiafu. She explained that every healer has their own faito'o (remedy, treatment) and fakamatala (explanation) and recommended that I talk to many healers to record all their different explanations. It was one of the only analytic comments from a healer made about healers as a category. Her comments contrasted dramatically with the confident explanations of other practising healers on their practice but who betrayed little interest in the practice of other healers.4 The few comments I heard were invariably humorously disparaging of the techniques, reputation or remedies of other healers. That her comment was atypical and made after retirement is profoundly suggestive of both her current sense of responsibility to other healers and to a lack of involvement among practising healers themselves. The individuality of healers’ ways of treating and explaining their treatments suggests that they seek to distinguish themselves from each other. Their actions are directed, in contrast to those paid professionals such as ministers, teachers and doctors, not in relation to a profession shared by others and in a common training but in their own specific ancestral, religious and experiential trajectories. Even the most popular healers, though they may on occasion be given me'a 'ofa (gifts) in gratitude for their treatments, can not make a living out of their healing.5 It is a practice that often takes them away from those activities, such as weaving, which allow them to raise money and other responsibilities that they have as wives, sisters and mothers. Their healing knowledges are not shared but are specific to their families. That is not to say that there are no similarities in the practice and conceptualisations of some healers, shared by many other people in Vava'u, but that in general such similarities are regarded locally inconsequential to their practice. It is in part their local idiosyncrasy that makes them notable and worth consulting. The only times they are generalised as a group is when their practice is compared either positively, as Akosita does, or derogatorily, by many doctors, to hospital medicine. In the pragmatics of seeking healing, healers are known primarily by their particular names and secondarily as being a 4

Perhaps the fact of her retirement and the fact that she now recommends people to go to Lealiki, whose treatment she has seen once, allows her to be less partisan. 5 Many healers now claim to refuse the tukuto'o (the gift that traditionally followed successful treatment), to demonstrate the pure motivations of their practice.


fefine or tangata faito'o. A definitive translation of fefine or tangata faito'o, is neither 'female (or male) healer' nor 'a woman (or man) who heals'. In use it is less a solid marker of a profession than for example a teacher, rather more a description of what they do and the ethic they hold. Introduction In examining this perceived diversity, I follow Last's (1981) exposition of the unsystemised nature of much 'traditional' healing and of 'the importance of knowing about not knowing': people's lack of interest in many aspects of healing. Last criticised the then current anthropological notions of traditional medicine as a classifiable system, with coherent principles that could be counterpoised with biomedical understandings. Neither the diversity of healing practice nor the degree to which healers use biomedical terms and concepts have been recognised in the literature on Tonga. Other researchers have preferred to characterise healing practice on the basis of conditions (Parsons 1985), neglecting the multiple uses, understandings and on occasion lack of knowledge of the same terms. Healers' explanations have been generalised to give a seeming representative picture of Tongan medicine (see Cowling (1990a), Parsons (1984, 1985)). Parsons (1985), for example, gives the impression that 'turning' (her term for the process of waiting three or four days for improvement and then changing healer) is a general characteristic of all healers' practice; in actual fact, some healers follow this rule and some do not. No anthropological work has examined comparatively the practice of individual healers and the possible reasons for this diversity. Finau (1994) echoes Foster's (1976) personalistic/naturalistic distinction and posits a basic difference between TM (traditional medicine) and WSM (western scientific medicine) in 'the perception of disease causation' of Pacific peoples.6 TM's model of causation, which lies in 'the disturbance of relationships with gods or supernaturals, society, or the land' is contrasted with WSM's model in which causation of disease 'is an abnormality of organ function, which is a biostatically 6

Personalistic causality involves an intervening agent such as a spirit, deity or sorcerer. Naturalistic causality refers to sickness theorised in impersonal systemic terms.


defined variation from a standard, an ideal value of a species design' (Finau 1994:53). In these terms, Finau argues, TM treats illness and WSM, disease. In applying Foster's (1976) notions of personalistic and naturalistic causality of illness to bush medicine in Trinidad, Littlewood (1988) argued that 'the two types of knowledge are not incompatible, nor mutually exclusive, nor distinct' (Littlewood 1988: 129). He emphasised Foster's notion as a heuristic model to uncover the general schema of illness in Trinidad and argued that in many instances bush medicine could be seen as naturalistic in aetiology. Loloa characterised the diversity of healers in terms of their faito'o and fakamatala. This diversity has a quality closer to Littlewood's distinction than that of Finau's dichotomy. Even those healers, whose interpretations might be characterised as the most personalistic of all healers, used naturalistic explanations to explain susceptibility or how healing works. Within Foster's schema, the fakamatala of healers capable of treating t!volo caused condition varies to the degree to which they emphasised personalistic explanation (those that involved t!volo only) and explanations in which there were naturalistic features (typically some capacity of the body that made it more likely for the t!volo to affect the person). Rather than uncover a general schema, as Littlewood has done, I use the personalistic/naturalistic distinction to draw out the degree to which healers fakamatala can be attributed to their wish to tauhi vaha'a with particular individuals and institutions. The two fundamental factors in understanding the diversity of faito'o and fakamatala are the autopoietic nature of personhood and healers creative elaboration of their knowledge for their own social motives. Fundamentally, my concern with the relationship between tauhi vaha'a and their spoken explanations is born of a commonly attributed characteristic of healers. Of all the healers, the most widely known were those who were described in complimentary terms as poto he lea (skilful at speaking/speeches) or poto he fakamatala (skilful at explanation) or pejoratively as ngutu lahi (big mouth).7 This was largely 7

The pejorative comment was made of a famous healer/midwife who had died some years back and whom I had been recommended to see before arriving in Vava'u. The speaker was a nurse with personal experience of her unsanitary deliveries. Many of the women had to be


born out in the explanations I received in the extensive interviews I carried out with healers. By and large they were erudite, eloquent and powerfully convincing about their practice. Use of Tongan terms One ethnographic aim of this chapter is to introduce the healers who appear in voice and action in the following chapters. In recognising the diversity of healers, it is also important to preserve the terms they use to describe the situations and conditions they treat. These may be understood in different ways by different healers. Translation is often highly problematic and may reify a concept or condition that might be very fluid in use in Tonga. The following chapter illustrates this in reference to one term '#vanga. For the benefit of Tongan readers and those who will use this research to initiate dialogue between the hospital and healers, I preserve as many terms as possible in the original, glossing in brackets. I give brief intermediary translations based on Churchward (1959) of some of the terms that appear most frequently. Below and in later chapters I examine the problem of translation in more detail. '"vanga Te'ia

sickness caused by t!volo. to be stricken by a supernatural being or power, popularly regarded as very serious. Fakamahaki synonymous with '#vanga or fakatupumahaki-causing or producing sickness or disease. T!volo caused condition. Fakat!volo As or like pertaining to t!volo. Mahaki sickness, disease or ailment. 'Au continued discharge of blood from uterus. Kahi name applied to various diseased swellings, such as goitre, scrofolous swelling and piles or hemorrhoids. Hangatamaki boil, abscess, carbuncle or other such swelling.

treated in the hospital afterwards for infection. The healer, she said, had a big mouth and was able to persuade the people that her treatment and explanation were correct.


Treatments or Procedures Vai Tulu'i Kaukau

liquid, water, liquid medicine (short for vai faito'o). to drip medicine. healing bath or wash. Ethnobotany

I have provided Latin names for the plants used throughout this ethnography, using Whistler's (1991) comprehensive ethnobotany of Tonga. I have omitted descriptions of plants for both reasons of space and my lack of botanical training. Whistler's works (1991 & 1992) are an invaluable resource for those interested in the botanical descriptions and other medical and non-medical uses of plants in Tonga. All plants mentioned are listed in the appendix. Fefine and Tang ata faito'o What distinguishes the categories of fefine faito'o (female healer) and tangata faito'o (male healer) who treat people affected by t!volo from the many people who possess herbal remedies or particular healing techniques? Within Tonga as a whole I take it to mean that they have a reputation and are resorted to for treatment by people beyond their k#inga. I distinguish them from other healers who are more specialised, and who typically treat conditions that are more exclusively naturalistic in origin.8 Bloomfield splits practitioners in Tonga into kau faito'o faipele (card playing curers), kau faito'o fakalotu (religious curers), kau faito'o 8

There are some individuals, usually men, known as kau faito'o fasi, who treat broken bones and muscular problems. Some women and men can treat one or several kinds of kahi, sometimes translated as hemorrhoids but often encompasses conditions relating to blockage or stiffness (Bloomfield 1986:115). There are many people who have remedies and techniques for treating hangatamaki (general category for swellings, boils and abscesses), with particular techniques and plants. There are also many people, who are very enthusiastic about a particular remedy, that may have been given to them by a relative or in a dream. Some women and men are well known for a particular vai (liquid medicine usually prepared by boiling leaves, bark and fruit of tree, shrubs and plants with water) which may or may not be regarded as a panacea. Kau ma'uli (traditional birth attendants), though very popular in the past and still consulted now, play a much lesser role in the delivery of babies. Most babies are delivered in the hospital.


fakatonga (Tongan traditional curers), kau faito'o fanau iiki (Paediatricians), kau faito'o fasi (bone setters), kau fotofota (masseurs) (Bloomfield 1986:219). I prefer to call them fefine faito'o or tangata faito'o who can treat t!volo caused illness rather then assign them to a category of healer such as kau faito'o fakat!volo, because rarely are t!volo caused conditions their exclusive concern. Also, as I will go on to discuss, some healers find the label fakat!volo inappropriate. Jilek (1988) interviewed five male healers and two female healers. He suggested that since five of the seven healers were assisted by daughters and none by sons, in future Tongan healing would become a predominately female vocation. That certainly seems to be the case for Vava'u. Of the eighteen healers I interviewed only one was male.9 In answer why, the only male healer on Vava'u that I interviewed argued 'Fakapikopiko 'a e kakai tangata e fai e faito'o, tuku ki he kakai fefine' (Men are lazy and can't be bothered to heal, they leave it to the women). The most important aspect of his practice was 'Kuo loto ke fai he faito'o he oua e fakapikopiko, kapau fakapikopiko ‘ikai ke 'aonga he kakai' (To desire and consent to heal and not to be lazy. If you are lazy it won't be useful to people'). Since in his terms men are lazy as regards faito'o suggests that there are other 'vocations' open to them. There is increasing pressure for men to provide financially for their families and church which means either wage labour or long periods of time in the bush, which makes them relatively inaccessible for healing. Also, questioning the sense of healing as vocation, there is the possibility that men are simply not being asked to heal. Many healers talk about initially not wanting to heal but then doing so because people pleaded with them to help. Women in this sense are typically easier to ask. They are popularly regarded as being more talangofua (easy to ask, obedient) and more likely to be at home than men. Also, it is women who are typically in charge of the health of young children. Most women healers, who treat t!volo conditions, first mention the fact of treating women's and children's sicknesses, which may on occasion be t!volo 9

In Tongatapu, the situation is very different. In 1998 the then mental health worker compiled a list of 23 healers with whom she was familiar and who could treat conditions potentially diagnosable in psychiatric terms. Ten were male. Of the nine she categorised as exclusively fakat!volo healers, four were male.


caused. Such cases, typically, form a larger part of their practice. The most popular healers can heal because of personal circumstances which means that they are, typically, not the main wage earner. Healers' renown The first aspect of the diversity of healers who can treat t!volo caused conditions one faces as a researcher is how 'well known' they are within Vava'u.10 Some are known by their first names across most of the island group and on occasion in Tongatapu, others only within their k#inga and their and nearby villages. Their renown is not an objective measure, it is a reflection both of their supposed characteristics, capabilities and acts but also of the modes of communication (along k#inga, village, church lines) and social events that allow people to hear about some individuals more than others. A healer may be well known to many but not necessarily popular, nor the first resort in cases of illness. Church, village and household preferences and gossip often guide their popularity. Early in my fieldwork the public health nurses introduced me to one of the most charismatic healers in Vava'u. Lilopau was also one of the most outspoken healers and keen that I had the opportunity to fakamo'oni'i (witness the truth of) her treatments and remedies. The treatments I participated in, under her guidance, form the largest part of the ethnographic data of this ethnography. To my knowledge, no researcher has had the privilege of such close involvement over a long period of time. Close involvement in Tonga implies a degree of exclusivity. It thus became both enlightening and restrictive. After six months, I stepped down my involvement with Lilopau and resumed interviewing other healers. I became very familiar with another healer Akosita and her household on the other side of the island. The fact of my living apart from both healers in Neiafu prevented exclusive involvement with their kin that would have made it more difficult to appreciate both the 10

'Well known' is my working translation for the local tem 'ilonga that Churchward translates as: to show, show up, be seen, be recognizable; distinguished by a special mark or characteristic; conspicuous, outstanding, notable, memorable.


occasional buried contentiousness and diversity of healing practice. It also allowed me to spend a great deal of time at the hospital in Neiafu (which was key to following patients from hospital to healers and vice versa) and to get to grips with the process of seeking healing. With other healers I had to demonstrate knowledge of the relevant issues without emphasising the relationships from which those understandings were born. The healers In Vava'u, introductions are largely superfluous. People know each other by virtue of k#inga relationships, or their mutual involvement in church, village or school events. I follow this by introducing the five healers with whom I was most familiar in the rough order of how involved I was with them and their families. 11 I spent the most time with Lilopau and Akosita, the first two healers, and their families. We spent much time in each other's company. Both spoke of me as an adopted son and on many occasions I was castigated for not visiting more often. With these two families there was mutual help and assistance in action and word.12 Any personal introduction is an inevitably idiosyncratic reflection of a person's relatedness to that person and others. My introduction of the healers is a brief mix of how people described them, my experience of them, their most obvious local connections and, following Loloa's


This is not an order of importance or fondness. There were many healers who I spoke to on relatively few occasions about their healing for whom I had the greatest respect and fondness, but their lack of patients made too much association with them redundant for the research, though not personally. Once I had established diversity in the practice of healers I felt the need to look in more detail at the process of healing. This required more time with one healer and detailed examination of particular case studies. 12

I also had many good friends in Neiafu. There were several families in Neiafu with whom I also spent much time, in a manner similar to many young people who have relatives in many parts of the islands. Much of my time was involved in enjoyable 'eva, which on occasion lead to discussion of issues that were related to my research.


suggestion, the most salient aspects of their treatment strategies and explanations of their practice. I use pseudonyms throughout.13 Lilopau Lilopau stands out in Vava'u as a powerful, strong minded and eloquent exponent of her healing. Confident in her position as possibly the most well known healer for those affected by t!volo in Vava'u, she heals widely across the island group and on occasion in Tongatapu. As the eldest daughter of a mat#pule (talking chief) who still lives in her natal village she has considerable local knowledge and influence. Her involvement in the local Wesleyan Church is considerable. She wears the red scarf of a lay preacher in the Wesleyan church and often teaches in the Sunday school. Of her eight children, two are married in a nearby village and three go to school and live in their modest house of two rooms. She recognises the support and patience of her husband, Ifi, who will often help her with her faito'o and assist by preparing food for the children while she is away. His two plantations provide food for the household and a modest income that barely stretches to pay for the school fees and other expenses. Lilopau's weaving also provides a small income. Her mother died in 1975, and on the request of people seeking her services, Lilopau started about a year later, at the relatively young age of twenty-six.


Not naming the healer and their villages hinders analysis. There are characteristics of healers that are arguably influenced by the politics and degree of social cohesion in their villages. Some healers had no objection to being named and would have welcomed more attention and recognition of the work they do. Several, however, were intimidated or worried about the possible negative response from the hospital. This may appear to be an apparent contradiction to my focus on the particular and my mentioning other prominent individuals of Vava'u. My reason for the protection of healers' names is that I discuss concrete case studies in which there are contestations of accountability and diagnosis, situations which other researchers have typically not described, or when accountability was not an issue. In some previous research with which I am familiar, Jilek (1988) named one healer and the village he was from (he is now living in the US) and Weiner (1971) named all the healers he worked with. Katz (1993) in Fiji did not name healers 'out of respect and in accordance with people's wishes', I suspect in part because of new evangelical groups and their derogatory stereotyping of healers' work as that of the tevoro, a term he translates unproblematically as devil.


She describes herself as loto lahi (brave, bold or determined), a characteristic that is partly manifest in her lack of fear of t!volo, who she claims are frightened of her and on occasion even recommend, through the medium of 'ui'ui t!volo (a local variation of a ouija board) or dreams, that people go to see her. Her refusal to deny anyone treatment including a famous case of a lady she treated successfully when the doctors had given up, and treating patients typically many more times than other healers bears out her tui (belief, faith) and determination. She says what is most important is that she can not be lazy, when people come for her in the middle of the night she goes, she cannot stop when she is fed up, she carries on even when she sometimes does not want to. Her brash confidence brings her into occasional conflict with doctors at the hospital who have chased her from the hospital. Her confidence lies in the power of her main treatment, tulu'i and less in the terms she uses to designate conditions. She can treat 'mahaki kehekehe kae tautefito, pea lahi ange 'a e fakat!volo' (different illnesses but mostly fakat!volo ) in all ages from recently born babies to old people. The terms she uses refer to the degree of t!volo involvement. '"vanga, she says, is when the t!volo does not hit or touch you, you just see its face. Fesi'ia is body pain, in different parts of the body as a result of a t!volo touching you. Te'ia, is the most serious and is the result of a much harder hit of a t!volo.14 Not treating it will lead quickly to the death of the person. She is also called to treat babies' and women's illnesses, for which tulu'i will always be used. For Lilopau the tulu'i is diagnosis, treatment and sometimes prophylaxis. She occasionally treats herself and famili when feeling run down or she suspects that a member of the famili have seen a t!volo. Different plants are used for the tulu'i lahi (strong tulu'i) and tulu'i si'i (weak tulu'i) which are given depending on the seriousness, but not consistently. Her conceptualisation of how the tulu'i works I discuss in a case study below. She also lomi'i (presses) on the eyeballs, and gives massage on the face and body. There is also a vali (poultice) which she uses for body pain and vai (liquid medicine) for conditions such as 'au


The t# (slap, hit) of a tevolo can be both a sign of love and anger.


(vaginal bleeding or discharge).15 After the tulu'i she frequently carries out a kaukau (bath of fragrant plants and flowers) accompanied with further massage. She stresses the importance of using recently picked leaves and wiping the remedy once used under the feet or leaving it in a bush afterwards, so that the sickness does not go with you. Akosita Akosita is originally from Nuku'alofa but moved to Vava'u on marrying a mat#pule (talking chief) from one of the villages some thirty years ago. As a lay preacher and as part of a well regarded famili, she takes the responsibilities to church and their reputation within the village very seriously. This is reflected in her industriousness in raising money for the misinale (annual church collection) helped in no small part by her grown up children. When not selling in the market, where she is popular for her quick wit and ready smile, she is helping to collect coconuts to sell, making brushes, collecting and stringing mandarins or making Tongan oil. Occasionally, she will gather shellfish to sell in the market. Regardless of how busy she is at home, she will receive and answer happily the many requests for treatment and for her vai. People will on occasion give her a me'a ofa (gift) and buy from her at the market in gratitude for her help. Her reputation extends widely. She has treated a member of the royal family and requests for her vai come from as far away as Hawai'i. She is also well regarded by many of the nurses, with whom her treatments for babies and women's problems and fakamatala strike a chord. It is fundamentally in terms of her various vai that Akosita characterises her faito'o, the components of which were passed down to her by her mother. She has most faith in her vai fufulu toto (remedy to clean the blood) which she occasionally drinks and gives to household members as a tonic. She is also known for her vai for 'ate pupula (lit. swollen liver-may be used for Hepatitis), langa kete (stomach pain), 15

On my request, from the start of 1999, Lilopau kept a record of all the patients she treated. The most important details included Name, age, village, church, condition in her terms, number of treatments and start and finish treatment dates.


fakalele (diarrhoea), kahi ulufi (a kind of continuously discharging blockage) and pala (festering wound, sore or ulcer). She treats babies for mea (prickly heat), fiho (to be blocked with phlegm), pala, nounou manava (shortness of breath) with a vai to get rid of the fiho (phlegm). There are also separate vai she uses to treat women for 'au (vaginal bleeding or discharge) and in tandem with a tulu'i for tu'u mamahi (difficulty and pain in urinating). She states that puke fakamahaki (a t!volo caused condition) rarely lasts more than a week. Usually one treatment of tulu'i to the eyes and nose, a vai to drink and fotofota (massage) to the head and whole body (using leaves) and then faka'ahu (steam bath) is sufficient. It is a tui fakatonga (Tongan belief/faith), she explains, that the leaves you use tuli (chase away) the t!volo. The leaves of two different plants are used for the tulu'i and fakainu of less serious short term fakamahaki and the more serious fakamahaki kuo fuoloa (long term fakamahaki). Dietary considerations are important to her. She advocates not eating chicken from overseas because of the fo'i kemikale (chemicals) or faito'o (treatment) they have received. Lealiki Ko e me'a mahu'inga taha p! 'o 'eku faito ko 'eku fietokoni mo 'eku 'ofa kinautolu. Ko e 'otua ‘oku omai 'a e faito'o, ko au kuo fai e fekau

The most important thing about my healing is my wish to help and my 'ofa to the people I treat. It is God who brings the faito'o I simply carry out his command.

Originally from Tongatapu, Lealiki has lived in Vava'u for ten years and is married to a prominent teacher in one of the secondary schools in Vava'u. Her rapid and clear exposition has made her a very sought after healer, predominately among Wesleyans and Catholics in the area around Neiafu, though she has only been healing since 1994. She mentions occasions when she had ten people a day visiting, and visited three different villages in a day. In her words: 'Ma'u he fiefia tokoni ki he 130

kakai' (She takes great pleasure in helping people). Her mother did not heal so when Lealiki's mother's mother died in 1993 she was asked by her fa'etangata (mother's brother) to start treating. Her mother's sister also does the same faito'o but in a village in Tongatapu. She is, perhaps, most consulted for babies' problems. Many mothers are sent to her from the hospital when their babies have problems suckling, which she interprets as 'elelo nou (lit. short tongue). She treats them twice a day (morning and afternoon) with two different vai for a maximum period of a week. She insists that people go to the hospital first. She also treats mavae e ua (unclosed fontanelle), ava 'a e pito 'o e bebe (hole in the navel of the baby) and hangatamaki (boils, abscesses). Her experience of seeing a t!volo in the guise of a doctor in the hospital after the birth of her third child, at a time when the doctors said she was toto'si'is'i (low blood count) gives her great confidence in treating t!volo caused conditions. When they gave her blood, and her husband brought her some vai to drink, she did not see a t!volo again. She argues that a lack of blood, or vai 'oe toto, makes it easier to see the face of the t!volo and easier for the t!volo to fili (choose) the person. T!volo are most active at midday but continue till early in the morning. She treats fakamahaki, which she characterises as a condition of rapid onset and rapid recovery with tulu'i and a vai to drink. She tulu'i the eyes, mouth and ears. You can also tell the part of the body that is most affected by the fact of mofi (fever, heat) in that location. Those who refuse to take the tulu'i in the mouth she treats with puhi'i, a mode of treatment that involves putting the remedy in her mouth and blowing it at the person's face. She rarely treats someone with fakamahaki (t!volo caused condition) more than four times and distinguishes fakamahaki, contrary to Churchward's translations, from te'ia motu'a and '#vanga which take a long time to treat. She subscribes to what she terms a lao faito'o fakatonga (a rule of Tongan medicine), treating for three days and if there is no improvement recommending the patient sees another healer.15 She uses only one main plant to tulu'i. If it is unavailable nonu (Morinda citrifolia) or uhi (Euodia hortensis) serves as a replacement. For te'ia there is a corresponding vai and daily kaukau. 15

Lealiki was one of the few healers who claimed to follow this rule. Parsons (1985) argued that this process, which she termed 'turning', is a general characteristic of healing in Tonga.


Pisila Ko e me'a mahu'inga taha ‘oku talangofua 'a e mahaki, mo tokanga ki he faito'o ke sai. The most important thing is that the patient is obedient and pays attention to the treatment and thus gets better.

Pisila returned three years ago to her natal village in Vava'u with her husband, a minister in the Church of Tonga, after living thirteen years in Samoa. She has a very strong gaze and powerfully attractive face. She is well regarded and attributed with the ivi (power) to heal by the women in the weaving shed in whose company she is often found. She tells people to come in the afternoon, so not to disturb her weaving. She emphasises her lack of fear and the fact of some women healers dying because of fear and their ta'etui (lack of belief/faith). In Samoa, she treated both Tongans and Samoans with the same remedies she uses here. There was also one palangi (European) she treated, who was told that he had brain cancer and was going to be operated on. She chewed some specific leaves and then massaged once and he did not have any more pain. It was not cancer she says, it was fakamahaki, 'Lahi p! 'ene alu tokotaha ngaahi leva 'a e fanga t!volo' (He often went around alone and the t!volo affected him). She sees patients almost every day for a variety of conditions. She states she can treat most illnesses (fa'ahinga mahaki p!); localised pain of the stomach, back, head, and leg; mata ‘ikai lava sio (blindness), '#vanga kehekehe (different kinds of '#vanga), '#vanga motu'a (old '#vanga), 'au (vaginal bleeding or discharge), pala ngutu (mouth sores) and hangatamaki (boils, abscess) which she treats with vai tonga. She can tell immediately from the person's face if they are affected by a t!volo. '‘Ikai ke fie sio mai. Hange ko mole hono fakakaukau.' (They don't want to look at me; it is like they lose their ability to think). She treats such cases with tulu'i to the nose, eyes, ears and mouth, a vai to drink and massage and then kaukau. She massages the head and the body. Typically one or two treatments are sufficient. There are two types of '#vanga. In the first, easy to recognise type, the person sees the


t!volo. In the second type, which is difficult to tell, the person does not see the t!volo.16 Most of the people who come are of the second type. Most of the different body pains belong to this class. It is better to be the first type; it is more difficult to treat someone who has not seen the t!volo. She also treats '#vanga fale which is the kind of '#vanga of someone who does not want to go out and mix with people. She characterises '#vanga motu'a as a longstanding condition which, despite being treated all over the place, typically does not get better. Siosiofanga Sio lahi 'a e puke 'o e kakai pea u fakakaukau leva ke faito'o ke 'aonga ke he kakai

I saw the large number of people ill and decided to heal to be useful to people.

Siosiofanga was brought up in Nuku'alofa. Her mother, who also treated, was originally from one of the villages in Vava'u. Siosiofanga married a man from one of the small villages in Vava'u and has been treating in Vava'u for the last seven years. Her renown stems from a treatment that involves bathing the ill person in a much more elaborate fashion than other healers. Her sister treats in Ha'apai. She is often to be found in the market, selling vegetables. She treats predominately fakamahaki, kahi of the stomach (kahi is a name applied to various diseased swellings, piles and hemorrhoids) and baby’s conditions (especially when they cannot swallow food). On the first day of treatment, she explains: Fakat#koto p! 'a e milamila hange ha swimming pool, tuku i loto, pea tuki 'a e faito'o, kaukau'aki, pehe'i. Mei mata 16

alu ki he va'e. Tokoto p! ai fute, malohi kaukau p!, kaukau p!, mohe, hola, alu, alu 'a e mahaki.

Kalasi taha-e tala ia, sio ki he t!volo. Kalasi ua-‘ikai ke tala ia, ‘ikai ke lava sio ki he t!volo.


You lie down the person in the plastic sheeting like within a swimming pool, you leave them in there. Then pound the treatment and bathe the person with it from

head to toe. The patient may struggle, the kaukau is very strong. Bathe, sleep, and then the illness goes.

She also tulu'i the eyes, nose, mouth and ears and massages the whole body. If she presses on the eyes then she does so very gently, so as not to damage them. If the eyes hurt she knows immediately the person is puke (sick). From the second day, she treats them with a vai and vali (poultice). She distinguishes between different kinds of '#vanga and associated behaviour:

Tongan term '#vanga motu'a '#vanga fale '#vanga fafanga '#vanga tahi '#vanga kai

Behavioural description Fuoloa.

Translation of term and description. Old '#vanga: long term.

Nofo fale p!.

House '#vanga: the persons just wants to stay in the house. Mohe po'uli, sio mai Being fed '#vanga: while sleeping me'akai, kai. the person sees food and eats it. Fiema'u kai me'a tahi Sea '#vanga: the person wants to eat ataata p! only seafood. Kai 'a e kalani f#, Eating '#vanga: the person eats four ‘ikai ke fiu, kai noa ia gallons but is still not satisfied. Eats without thought.

Her treatment for the different kinds of '#vanga is the same as regards the kaukau, tulu'i and massage but each different '#vanga requires a different vai. All the different '#vanga as well as other conditions, such as te'ia and puke fakat!volo, fall within the category of fakamahaki and are of equal seriousness. Her experience of fakamahaki is that it is periodic, and is most common in December and January.


The diversity of remedies and treatments I now turn to the diversity of the faito'o and fakamatala of the five healers I have introduced and examine the degree to which they are tied to their acts of tauhi vaha’a. I take faito'o to signify both the verb (to treat, cure or try to cure by medical means) and the noun (medicine or medical treatment of any kind). The faito'o of a healer encompasses the techniques of healing and the plants used. The techniques are visible to all. The plants, however, are usually treated as ancestral secrets and are not spoken about in front of non-household members. Many healers can trace an ancestral healing lineage going back four generations and claim that their faito'o is identical to their ancestors. This is supported in some cases by pepa faito'o, books of remedies which are passed on and occasionally re-transcribed from generation to generation. Not all healers, however, write down remedies, and on occasion it is only when a healer dies that the realisation dawns that a particular remedy has not been recorded. The transmission of knowledge is most commonly through involvement and aptitude. Children of healers from an early age are sent to collect remedies from the bush by their parents and witness many treatments. Few start to heal seriously until their mother, father or other relative, from whom they learnt, can no longer treat or passes away. The procedure of fanofano, in which the healer holds the hands of his/her acolyte, and says a few words, confirms the transmission of healing power. Its shortness suggests that the essential transmission of ability has already taken place. Most people say that the ability to heal is tuku fakaholo (handed down from generation to generation/or from predecessor to successor).17 Many also claim that without the process of fanofano the faito'o would not work and that the healer has some kind of ivi ('power') which is necessary for successful resolution. But there are many healers who continue to heal, seemingly successfully, who were not fanofano by a healer, and there are some who are popular but acknowledge quietly no healing pedigree whatsoever.


The way people talk about tukufakaholo in instances of sickness, suggests that the mode of transmission for many is either through the blood or some kind of intrinsic link between relatives. I discuss this further in chapter six.


Of all the various techniques of treatment used by healers, the technique of tulu'i is the most explicitly directed at breaking the sensual engagement of a person with the t!volo. I take the diversity of tulu'i and its importance with respect to other treatments, to be emblematic of other aspects of the faito'o of healers which I have not been able to examine in depth here.18 Preparation involves either tuki (crushing between two stones or other hard objects) or mama (chewing) before putting the resulting mush into a piece of fabric which may or may not be dipped in water before use. Tulu'i, with plants that are repugnant to t!volo, is the procedure which elicits the most dramatic evidence of the power of t!volo. Affected people are able to anticipate the arrival of the healer, because of the t!volo sensing the smell of the plants that the healer is bringing. It is, thus, the threat of tulu'i that often leads to the dramatic behaviour of the affected person who will often try to escape by running to the bush. Lealiki mentioned that occasionally dogs are required to find the person. From the five healers above we see a variety of different ways to tulu'i and its degree of importance with respect to associated treatments. For Lilopau, it is the treatment par excellence, used for almost all conditions. For Akosita it is an accompaniment for her vai. All of the five healers tulu'i the eyes, though some other healers do not, for fear of causing blindness.19 Some tulu'i the nose, most the mouth, but only Lealiki and Pisila the ears. The accompanying lomi'i of the eyeballs, is extremely painful in Lilopau's treatment and explains in part why her practice is notable in her terms for eliciting the ngala (to cry noisily or loudly) of many patients, absent in some others and resembles more of a light massage in others. Most of the plants used have been referred to


For example: (1) the degree to which vali (poultice) is important, which plants are used, (2) The degree to which healers use tests such as tulu'i 'a'ahi (testing tulu'i). For fesi'ia some healers maintain that if the leaves stick to the skin this confirms the diagnosis, (3) Their adherence to the lao faito'o fakatonga that was only explicitly referred to by Lealiki, (4) The degree to which they adhere to a morning/afternoon twice daily schedule of treatments, (5) the degree of importance of the kaukau (which seems to be the key treatment in Vika's treatment), (6) The degree of difference in the components of the different vai that they use, and (7) How vital is it for patients to live with the healer? 19 Two (the only male healer and an elderly woman healer) of the eighteen healers said they did not tulu'i the eyes.


in the literature though they are regarded as family secrets.20 For example Jilek lists (lautolu 'uta (Vigna adenantha), lautolu tahi (Vigna marina), nonu (Morinda citrifolia), uhi (Euodia hortensis), ngatae (Erythrina variegata), sipi (stem) (Entada phaseoloides), tetefa (Badusa corymbifera) (Jilek 1988:168) and Bloomfield (Lautolu (tahi and ‘uta) leaves, uhi leaves, nonu (Morinda citrifolia) leaves, mo’ota (Dysoxylum forsteri) leaves, Siale Tonga (Gardenia taitensis) bark and Heilala (Garcinia sessilis) leaves (Bloomfield 1986:124). Some healers conceptualise varying strengths of plants. Akosita and Lealiki, both originally from Tongatapu, used the same two plants for both tulu'i and the vai; one for more serious conditions the other for less serious conditions. Interestingly, siale Tonga (Gardenia taitensis), widely used by many healers, was regarded as too strong and dangerous for use by Lilopau who preferred several more obscure plants that noone else mentioned. Siosiofanga, however, used the same tulu'i (but different vai) for different conditions. Fakamatala (explanation/interpretation) The diversity of different treatments and remedies used by healers is evidence of their healing ancestry. Their fakamatala, which I take to mean both the verb to explain and the noun explanation and which includes their use of terms, reflects the degree to which they are implicitly or explicitly tauhi vaha'a in the process of explaining. In contrast to faito'o, fakamatala is spoken and is therefore more likely to change from generation to generation in response to a host of social circumstances and healers' wish to evoke and attenuate relatedness with regard to different people and institutions. 20

In respect to those healers who regard their faito'o as family secrets, I do not detail the plants used by particular healers unless they were common knowledge. Some plants are popularly known to be effective against t!volo. Most ethnobotanical knowledge is not regarded as secret knowledge, partly because of a religious ethic that explains that God faka'ivi'i (puts power) into plants, a great enthusiasm for a new remedies and a sense that the healer's 'power' is instrumental to successful healing (Bloomfield 1986). There are also some countervailing tendencies. Knowledge of some traditional medicine which used to be held as family secrets, as noted above, is now more widespread as a result of healers asking people to provide the ingredients of a particular medicine instead of them getting the plants themselves.


What do healers claim to treat? Healers claim to be able to treat both mahaki and fakamahaki. Of the two terms, the translation of mahaki within the context of questions of health is less problematic but not entirely unambiguous. The translations of Churchward (sickness, disease, ailment, sick person, patient), Bloomfield (disease, patient), Mariner (mahagi- sickness, disease) broadly concur with Jilek's translation of 'illness in general, of natural causation.' (Jilek 1988:167). However mahaki can also mean: temperamental or characteristic fondness or liking, 'weakness', craze, addiction and also used to refer to the patient suggests that in use out of the hospital it is less disease in a biomedical sense than a description of a state in which the sufferer is implicated to varying degree. What healers claim to be mahaki seem more descriptions of symptoms in biomedical terms. Nor does the term puke unambiguously or exclusively refer to 'disease'. Puke can mean (to take hold of, to seize, to hold, to arrest) and also (to be sick, ill, unwell, ailing). Thus puke fakat!volo is both a description of a situation (being seized by a t!volo) and also an assertion of sickness. The above healers are not oriented towards a positivistic notion of 'disease'. There seems little confidence in the essential ontology of all illnesses as exclusively naturalistic; people and to varying degrees t!volo are always implicated in the states of sickness in which they find themselves. Fakamahaki For Churchward fakamahaki is synonymous with '#vanga or nearly synonymous with fakatupumahaki (causing or producing sickness or disease, injurious to health). Bloomfield's translation of fakamamahaki as any illness which is slow to heal and assumed to be caused by evil spirits (her translation for t!volo) (Bloomfield 1986:186), is contradicted by several healers' assertions that fakamahaki was characterised by the fact that it was quick to heal. There are evidently many ways that the term fakamahaki is used. Jilek, for example, defines it as a general term 138

for illness caused by super-natural agents (Jilek 1988:167). He also refers to Helu's assertion that 'the dichotomy of all illnesses into mahaki and fakamahaki conditions goes back to pre-Christian times' (Ibid :167). Does this dichotomy reflect a naturalistic (mahaki) personalistic (fakamahaki) distinction? Mariner's translation in 1827 of Fuccamahagi (fakamahagi) as to sicken, to disorder (Martin 1979), Churchward's previously mentioned translation and the use of the prefix 'faka', which indicates likeness or causation (Churchward 1985:253), suggests the intention of agents. Mariner's translation of 'to sicken' best captures the way fakamahaki is used, it is less condition than provenance of condition, the provenance being t!volo. A working translation for fakamahaki is thus the agency of sickness. I suspect, though, that healers would not distinguish between them, they are one and the same thing. This working translation and Bloomfield's and Jilek's translation suggest a dilemma best summed up in the question, is fakamahaki a mahaki or can the agency of sickness be considered as a condition itself? Pisila's assertion that the cancer, evidently a mahaki, of the man she treated was in fact fakamahaki, suggests that the heuristic distinction of mahaki as naturalistic, and fakamahaki as broadly personalistic, is a useful one. Same 'state', different names Lilopau, Lealiki, Pisila and Siosiofanga used different terms and distinguished between the different terms in terms of seriousness, symptoms and degree of relationship with t!volo. Lilopau makes a strong distinction between te'ia and '#vanga but rarely uses fakamahaki; she prefers the term fakat!volo as a general term to describe most of what she treats. Lealiki, by contrast, used the term fakamahaki almost exclusively. Of the patients she recorded in her database, almost all were fakamahaki. Pisila suggests two types of '#vanga of different seriousness, whereas Siosiofanga has a host of '#vanga, each with a designated behavioural symptom.21 So why are there many different terms for t!volo caused sickness? 21

The degree to which they used the terms in practice and how important they are in practice are questions I examine in the following chapters.


Lilopau, Pisila and Siosiofanga's use of terms contrasted with Lealiki and several older healers I interviewed, who argued that all conditions were essentially fakamahaki. The reply of one healer, who lived close to me encapsulates their opinion that fakamahaki was the most appropriate term. When I expressed my confusion at the number of different terms she explained: Ko e fakamahaki p!. Ka ko e kehekehe p! hingoa, te'ia, fakamahaki, '#vanga, ko ia p! , fakakatoa ko ia p!. Tatau katoa p!. Ka ko e faikehekehe p! Maika ko e hingoa. ‘Ikai ke mahino. Ko e h# e uhinga na'e lahi e hingoa ai? Lahi e hingoa? I hono ui ‘ikai p! foki 'ilo p! ko e h#, ko e kakai mei mu'a, fangakui eh, enau ui u kehekehe ae hingoa, ka koe taha p! ka ko e kehekehe p! hingoa, ‘Oku sai ange lea fakat!volo pe fakamahaki? Fakamahaki

There is only fakamahaki, what is different are the names, te'ia, fakamahaki, '#vanga, that's all, overall that is all. They are all the same. What is different, Maika (my Tongan name), are the names. I don't understand, why are there many names? Lots of names, I don't especially know why, they were named that way. People in the past, our ancestors called them different names. They are the same but they have different names. Is it better to say fakat!volo or fakamahaki? Fakamahaki .

If fakat!volo and fakamahaki are synonymous why then do some of the healers prefer the term fakamahaki? One healer, Fangupu, was extremely explicit in explaining her preference for a variant of the term fakamahaki over fakat!volo. I had come to visit her in the company of a nurse from the hospital. Fangupu is one of the older healers, originally from Ha'apai, but is now living as part of her daughter's household in one of the villages of Vava'u.


Sai ange, faito'o fakamahaki. 'Oua pehe fakat!volo.

It is better to say faito'o fakamahaki. Don't say fakat!volo.

I ask: Ngali sai ange faito'o fakamahaki pe fakatoto kovi. Faito'o fakatoto kovi. Ko e me'a tatau?

I ask: It is more suitable to say faito'o fakamahaki or fakatoto kovi. Is it the same thing?

Me'a tatau, tatau p!, fakamahaki , fakat!volo, fakatotokovi, kae ‘oku sai ange pe te ke ai fakamahaki, fakatotokovi, fakat!volo hange ‘oku ‘ikai ke tau lotu, tau tui ki he t!volo, mahino, ‘ikai, hange ke tau tui ki he t!volo , tatau pehe ko e mahaki, ko e fa'ahinga mahaki ia e taha, ko e fakamahaki fakatotokovi

Same thing, the same, fakamahaki, fakat!volo, fakatotokovi but it is better to say fakamahaki fakatotokovi. To say fakat!volo is to suggest that we don't pray, that we believe/have faith in t!volo, understand, like we believe/have faith in t!volo, the same to say mahaki. There is only one kind of illness and that is fakamahaki fakatotokovi.

Fangupu claims that fakamahaki fakatotokovi is the most suitable term. She later went on to explain how people are affected by t!volo, so evidently she is not questioning the essential cause. The term's appropriateness seems more important than its meaning. Fakatotokovi, according to a nurse, is the Tongan translation of low haemoglobin. But in 1967, at least one healer in Lapaha, Tongatapu understood fakatoto kovi as a 'kind of spirit sickness' and treated it with fakainu and tulu'i with a mixture of lautolu 'uta, lautolu tahi and nonu (Parsons 1981: Appendix C 35).22 Lealiki and Akosita both argued that fakamahaki was in part due to totosi'isi'i (lit. little blood), introducing a naturalistic 22

Healer of Lapaha aged 43 13th March 1967 Cream for fakatoto kovi (kind of spirit sickness): 8 leaves of lautolu 'uta, 8 leaves of lautolu tahi, 6 small fruits of nonu. Pound these leaves and fruits together, then wrap them up with kaka (fibrous integument at the top of coconut palms (Churchward 1959)) and tie. Prepare this medicine as usual and then give to the person to take 2 or 3 sips. After that apply the remaining medicine (as a tulu'i) on his body and put a few drops in his eyes, nose and ears. If it is effective, the person will not be frightened and will not talk to himself any more, instead he comes to his senses. He feels comfortable and wants to go to sleep. Tapu: He is not allowed to stay home by himself at any time until he is fully recovered. (This remedy is one of many recorded in Parsons (1986) that were gleaned from accounts recorded under the direction of Tupou Posesi Fanua and held in the Palace Records Office).


explanation to explain increased susceptibility, but still seemingly preserving the t!volo as the agent. What are healers then doing in social terms when using terms such as fakamahaki or fakamahaki fakatotokovi, or introducing naturalistic explanations that are understood differently by doctors and nurses in the hospital? I take Fangupu's explanation as indicative of a general ability of healers to tauhi vaha'a through their fakamatala. In positing a naturalistic susceptibility or a composite naturalistic term, they evoke and attenuate relatedness to the nurses and doctors of the hospital and draw on terms which have higher appropriateness and status by virtue of being associated with the expertise of the hospital. Fakamahaki is more suitable because it is a composite of the term mahaki which is the hospital's most widely used term for disease. Fangupu's case is particularly illustrative. She joined the Mormon church as a result of living with her daughter and son in law because they are Mormon. She is also receiving hospital treatment for diabetes. Mormon teachings do not encourage an active interest in t!volo, though they acknowledge their existence. By using the term fakatotokovi she evokes and attenuates relatedness to her new Church, her current household and the hospital from where she is receiving treatment. The term is naturalistic as understood by them, but personalistic in her terms. Fangupu does not know what the term really means in terms of haemoglobin, nor does she care to but she appreciates the ramifications of using it to tauhi vaha'a. All healers, like all individuals in Vava'u, are in constant process of tauhi vaha'a. The ethic of healers evokes and attenuates their membership to their respective churches. Their insistence that the constituents of their remedies has remained unchanged in the transmission from generation to generation reflects the value they give to ancestral knowledge. However, it is in their particular explanations for events of sickness that they most demonstrate their ability to tauhi vaha'a within the particular social contexts of the sick individuals they are requested to treat. In the following case study I examine the degree to which two healers, Lilopau and Akosita, tauhi vaha'a in their explanations of sickness. Lupe, the patient, was treated first by Lilopau and then Akosita. Both Lilopau and Akosita are well known healers, as well as 142

active members of the Wesleyan church, and yet their explanations are very different. Case study (1): Lupe On the 17th November 1998, Lilopau was called to treat a large lady named Lupe in a nearby village. Lupe’s daughters were very concerned because on visiting some relatives in another village she did not eat, just drank water, sat and slept. She had almost died, they explained, using the term mate, which can mean both to die but also to lose consciousness. Though she had been like this for a year it had never been this serious. They had not taken her to the hospital, nor had they called Lilopau before. It was only when Lilopau came, that they realised it was puke fakamahaki. Lilopau diagnosed te'ia and explained that Lupe had been seeing male t!volo who wanted to sleep with her. Another sign that she was affected by a t!volo was that she had not wanted Lilopau to treat her. Within a couple of treatments she started eating again. I joined Lilopau on the third day of treatment by which time, as several members of the household explained, she had become considerably better. Lilopau crushes the remedy with a hammer and rock. She puts the crushed leaves into a bit of muslin and then dips it into a cup of water so that they absorb water. Lupe lies back and Lilopau drips the bright green liquid first into her eyes. Lupe squints and blinks a little when it is put in. Lilopau drips the remainder into her nostrils and mouth. Lilopau vigorously massages Lupe's face and neck for about ten minutes. Lupe's eyes remain closed throughout. After a short rest Lupe sits up and drains all the liquid and mucus from her nose, mouth and eyes. The amount of green coloured mucus that comes out from her nose is phenomenal. This is the test of te'ia, says Lilopau. She explains that the green liquid coming out is not ihu pe'e (mucus in the nose) but vai kafo (a kind of pus). The tulu'i goes into the head and travels around the head and comes out as vai kafo. Do you 'believe' it now, she asks? The large amount of vai kafo is the fakamo'oni'i (proof) of her faito'o. Lilopau points out how much more awake Lupe is. One of the women comments that before her eyes would barely open but now she is wide awake. Also before she was finding it very difficult to breathe, her throat was blocked, she felt m#kona (to be satisfied with food all the time). Lupe does not participate in the conversation, though she does smile a lot more after


the session as her grandchild climbs all over her. Lilopau suggests bringing some ice cream which is easier to eat. One of the women comments that she has toto m#'olunga (high blood pressure). Lupe then moves from the house to the garden where the leaves have already been boiled for the kaukau. The mixture is tipped into a baby bath from which Lilopau scoops up some of the mixture with a small bowl and propels it at Lupe's face. Then, while I take over this procedure, Lilopau vigorously massages Lupe from the top of her head to the bottom of her back. After a while, I take over the massage for about ten minutes. Lilopau instructs me to stop. Lupe picks up the baby bath and tips the remainder over her head. She then picks off all the leaves that have stuck to her body and goes off for a shower, returning back to the room looking considerably better. Everyone remarks on the fact of her eyes being wide open. Lilopau arranges to return the following day and takes the opportunity to visit some friends in the village. When asked she confirms that Lupe is te'ia.

Lupe had actually been diagnosed with hypertension as an outpatient at the hospital three months before and returned to the hospital the day after Lilopau’s treatment. She continued to return to the hospital to be checked and prescribed T nifedopin even after she was taken, several weeks after Lilopau’s final treatment, to Akosita. By coincidence, Akosita recounted the story of her treatment on our first meeting in May 1999. I he ta'u ni na'e 'i ai ha fefine, i Tisema, na'e omai he fefine ki heni na'e ‘ikai ke toe lava , mohe p!, mohe p!. Fiu p! 'ene fanau mo 'ene fanga mokopuna, fakaholo ai o lulu. Mohe p! mohe fakailifia 'ene mohe. mohe fo hifo pehe. (teki pehe p! sino) / tangulu p!. ‘Ikai ke toe 'ilo ha me'a,alu p! ihu pe'e, alu p! fa vai, ‘ikai ke toe ilo. Omai leva 'a e fefine ki heni. Na'e ave holo, pehe ko e fakat!volo. Pe omai ki heni talange leva--’ikai--kuo 'osi fakafoki mei he falemahaki, ‘ikai ke 'ilo 'a e falemahaki pe ko e h#, kuo talange leva ‘ikai, ko e fefine ‘oku 'i ai 'a e fo'i neave hono ulu ‘oku tupu pehe 'ene mohe pehe, faito'o pehe i he efiafi ko ia, na'e omi he fefine o

tuku i apini. Omai p! faito'o pe hono # pe e fefine 'osi 11. Toki mohe 'osi hafe taha 'ua. Toe # apongipongi p! 'ai hono faito'o 'osi pe ko ia, ai leva ene ki'i pongipongi 'osi fekau ke lue ki tu'a, ke hekeheka ai, alu 'a e fefine o hekeheka i tu'a. Siosio, luelue takai, fakamalohisino, mohe pehe ko e fo'i neave faito'o ai p! heni aho e ...Tu'apulelulu, Falaite, Tokonaki, Sapate, sai aupito 'a e fefine, aho sapate, mau $ ki he lotu moe fefine, ke emau lotu, lotu he pongipongi lotu he efiafi , mau lotu moe fefine ai, aho Monite sai mau $ leva o fakafoki 'a e fefine ki hono 'api.


‘Oku omai 'a e kakai ki heni, feinga p! ke u fu'u mahino'i ko e h# 'a e puke. Omi p! he fefine te'eki ke nau 'ave takai holo 'a e faito'o pea nau omi noa nau omi p! o feinga noa p!, Pehe p! nautolu e ‘ikai ke u lava. 'Osi fakafoki mei he falemahaki, nau pehe p! ko e mate 'osi, omi p! ki heni nau talange p! ki ai, 'Ko e tui p! 'a'aku ko e fo'i neave'. ’Oku pehe ai. Sio, 'osi sai aupito. ‘Ikai ke inu ha vai ko e faito'o p! ki he va'e, ko e fo'i neave. Ko e fotofota'aki la'i akau, 'osi haka p! vai m#fana, lili, omai leva, tuku p! hono va'e, pehe p! hono va'e ki he vai m#fana, ke m#fana, ai la'i va'e (la'e va'e). ‘Ikai ke tulu'i ‘ikai ke inu e vai, ‘ikai ke ala ki he ulu. This year, in December, there was a lady who was brought to me, who was completely incapable. She just slept. Her famili was fed up with trying to get her to do something. She just slept. It was frightening. She slept face up, snored, she was no longer aware. Mucus and saliva dripped off her face, she just wasn't aware. They brought the lady to me. They had already taken her all over the place, thinking it was fakat!volo. But when they brought her to me, I told them straight away, no, she had already been sent home from the hospital, the hospital didn't know what it was, so I told them no, this lady, there's a nerve in her head and that is the cause of her sleeping. So I treated her that afternoon, they left her with us. I


brought the medicine and treated her at six. She slept till eleven and then went to bed at half past twelve. When she woke up the next day we treated her again and gave her some food to eat. I told her to walk outside and sit down. I watched her and noticed that she got up and walked around and exercised. Her sleeping was because of the nerve. We treated her Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, by which time she was really well. On Sunday, we went to church with her, to our church, both the service in the morning and the afternoon. We prayed together with her. On Monday we took her back home. When people are brought here, I try to understand completely what the illness is. They had already taken her all over the place for treatment. But their trying was futile and without result. They thought I wouldn't be able to treat her, she had already been sent home from the hospital, they thought she was going to die. But they brought her to me and I told them. 'It's my belief that it's a nerve'. And that's the way it was. You can see. Now she is completely better. She didn't drink any medicine, I treated her leg only, it was a nerve. The treatment was massage, using leaves. The water had already been heated, boiled, brought it straight over and put her leg and toes in. There was no tulu'i, she didn't drink any remedy and I did not touch her head.

Akosita's diagnosis focuses on her understanding of nerves in the body and argues that the treatment of the leg as well as exercise and going to church healed the damaged nerves in her head. She makes it clear, however, that she did not touch the head when treating. She is critical of other people's perception that it was fakat!volo. Lilopau described her condition as te'ia, in her terms the most serious of the t!volo conditions she can treat. Several male t!volo had wanted to sleep with her. On other occasions though she explained how the tulu'i to the eyes simply breaks the person's experience of the t!volo. She suggests a quasi-naturalistic mechanism for the functioning of the tulu'i. It travels around the inside of the head and emerges later as a particular kind of vai kafo (pus). For her, the vai kafo is the proof of her treatment as well as confirmation of Lupe's te'ia. Discussion Of all the healers, I had most contact with Lilopau and Akosita and, therefore, by implication know most about their acts of tauhi vaha'a. Of the five healers, Lilopau is most personalistic in her explanation, Akosita most naturalistic. Lilopau has the least confidence in biomedical concepts. In later chapters I examine her questioning the use of terms such as pakalava (stroke) and toto m#'olunga (high blood pressure). What the hospital might regard as mahaki are potentially fakamahaki in her terms, hence her great confidence in treating all kinds of sicknesses. Though she went to the hospital for treatment of arthritis on her knee, she gained little relief. She is the only healer who officially categorises her area of expertise as fakat!volo. Akosita has the greatest confidence in biomedical concepts. During the period of our association, she spoke more of how she prefers not to treat fakat!volo. Her son often asserted that she now treats the 'sino' body. Her focus on vai most resembles in form some of the treatments which the hospital gives to patients. She emphasises the importance of nerves in understanding fakamahaki cases based on a solid understanding of nerves being like 'uo'ua (muscles) and capable of breaking. She seems more popular with the nurses I knew, who respect 146

her remedies for childhood conditions. She has also been treated in the hospital for a serious illness. Akosita and Lilopau are sufficiently confident in their status as speakers within the community so that they are now creating relatedness through their fakamatala. They both have attained the status of lay preacher (kau malanga) in the Wesleyan church. Their actions, in response to peoples' requests of help, have led to them becoming prominent interpreters of illness, evoking to varying degrees their connection with the hospital. On this path they have had to tauhi vaha'a with different people. Akosita has had more contact with people who are familiar with more biomedical and scientific notions of illness and the body. She has more contact with relatives overseas, her son is a trained electrician, a daughter studies overseas. She moved from Nuku'alofa, where people are, no doubt, more biomedically aware, to Vava'u. Lilopau has spent most of her life in her village, she has great influence in her household and within the village and her perspective is rarely challenged. Her practice can be seen to be the most local as it is least accommodating of biomedical concepts. The strength of her influence, her ivi ('power') in local terms, is manifest in taking those ideas, she was exposed to, and applying them to a much greater degree than other healers. She has countered the intrusion of biomedical ideas by putting her perspective even more forcefully. I am less qualified to speak about other healers in this vein. I am not so familiar with their personal histories. In all likelihood, as social members of Vava'u life, they too are creating relatedness in a similar process, though falling between the two extremes which Akosita and Lilopau seem to represent. For example, Lealiki's marriage to a schoolteacher and experience of the hospital goes some way to explain her conciliatory explanation which stresses ascertaining the personalistic involvement of an agent and naturalistic measures to conceptualise susceptibility. The case of Lupe's treatment illustrates, however, the extent to which, though extremely different in content both Akosita and Lilopau tauhi vaha'a to Lupe's household in their interpretations. In neither explanation was there any sense of blame on the household. Explaining the sickness in terms of a broken nerve or a t!volo serves to attribute the cause of sickness outside the control of the household and Lupe. In the following chapters I will examine the extent to which, in more 147

contentious cases, the explanations of healers are acts of tauhi vaha'a to the household by absolving them of blame. This is particularly salient in more dramatic cases of t!volo involvement which form the subject of the next chapter.



'"vanga: Why pathologise interaction with a t!volo? December and January is a time of great happiness in Vava'u. In Tongan terms, it is a taimi fakafiefia (a time producing happiness or joy, a time to make merry) born of much interaction in the many social events which take place during this time. Christmas falls at the beginning of summer. From November to April, tropical cyclones are an ever present possibility, the air is hot and sticky and people seek the coolness of the sea at the wharf and beach and enjoy the temporary reprieve that a faka'uha (rain bath) brings. This time is especially happy for children for whom the school holidays allow considerable freedom from the strictures for the rest of the year. Rules forbidding school children from going to discos are relaxed, various youth groups organise events, and though some churches still do not allow their members to go disco dancing, discos are invariably full. The long school holidays allow many people from other island groups and overseas to return and spend Christmas with their k#inga in Vava'u. The Olovaha arrives laden with visitors, their belongings and gifts. This time is especially exciting for girls.1 Girls' netball takes over from all other sports. The joy of 'eva (social wandering), of seeing other villages, the pleasure of comradeship can be heard in their singing cheery songs and their occasional spontaneous dancing, as they travel in trucks from village to village. Particular pitches are inaugurated with speeches and the elaborate presentation of local valuables, such as mats and tapa cloth. Religious events also fill the holidays. In the Methodist churches, the first week of January is Uike lotu; a week of services, feasting and religious enthusiasm. In the Catholic Church, there are invariably extensive celebrations surrounding first Holy Communion and the ordination of locally born priests. The smaller churches invite preachers 1

I use the terms girl and young woman interchangeably as translations for the Tongan term ta'ahine. A girl or woman is usually referred to as ta'ahine until she gets married.


from Tonga and overseas. Often heard in local houses, in the market and occasionally on the radio, they reinvigorate smaller congregations. Both markets become busier as Christmas approaches, as more and more people spend time in Neiafu or pass through it to attend church picnics (kaitunu) which occur during the holidays. The flea market is flooded with cheap plastic toys, clothes and assorted bric Ă brac. Christmas time is also the time when t!volo are supposedly most active and the time when girls are most likely to be affected by t!volo. It is the time when girls are most enjoying the pleasure of 'eva, and when interaction between a t!volo and a person is the most likely. As netball teams play all over the islands, if a girl gets affected, there will be many people who will see it and hear about it. All healers I spoke to in Vava'u commented on an annual increase in people's interaction with t!volo and how this was invariably their busiest time.2 As Siosiofanga explained: 'Alu ki Tisema taimi ‘oku lahi taha, fele 'a e puke. Ko e puke fakamahaki ‘oku fakataimi, Tisema, tautefito Tisema. Coming into December is when you get the most, there is illness all over the place. Puke fakamahaki is periodic, December, especially December.

Many healers and people in Vava'u, however, commented on the general decrease in the number of girls and young women suffering from the most dramatic manifestation of ghost involvement. Mageo (1998) lays the blame of the epidemic of spirit possession in Samoa in the decades following world war two on the 'moral cacophony provoked by missionaries plus marines' (Mageo 1998:166). In Tonga, I have found no reference to similar occurrence in the post-war years.3 2

It is difficult to get precise number of girls affected by t!volo per year. Healers, in general, do not keep records. Girls are, typically, not taken to the hospital, and occasionally are treated by family members and not even taken to a healer. There is a sense that though '#vanga is the most dramatic evidence for t!volo, it is not particularly common. In fact, many of McGrath's (1993) informants concur that even in the past it was only the occasional girl who was affected. For the period 1999-2000, Lilopau, one of the busiest healers, only treated two cases of the more dramatic version of '#vanga, in which the girl had to be held down by four to five men in order to be treated. Most other healers were hard pressed to remember more than one or two cases which they had treated in the previous year. 3 Although some healers refer to particularly busy years in recent memory when there were so many patients that they had no time to cook for their children, there seems to be no general


Young women's interaction with t!volo is possibly the most dramatic, visible and prototypical evidence of the ability of t!volo to affect the lives of the living. Many people can recount stories of the bizarre behaviour of affected girls, their almost extrasensory ability to know the imminent arrival of the healer, their extraordinary strength, when they have to be pinned down to be treated and their falling asleep on being treated by the healer. Then, when they wake up, they describe or reveal the name of the t!volo. It is often only during treatment when sufferers realise that the person they have been interacting with, who might have given them food, was actually a t!volo. This is an understandable error for visitors or someone not familiar with recently departed villagers in an island group where t!volo exhibit all the qualities of living people. Most of the things you can do with a real person you can also do with a t!volo. Only the affected however typically see the t!volo. Introduction This most dramatic phenomenon of girls and women being effected by t!volo is known by a variety of terms such as puke fakat!volo, fakamahaki, and '#vanga, none of which is restricted in use to this phenomenon alone. In the literature, however, it has generally come to be known as '#vanga or as one variety of '#vanga. Through the work of researchers, the term '#vanga has taken on a quality of culture bound disorder, described as indigenous to Tonga, as an acute spirit possession, and as a disease which mostly occurs among adolescent females (Bloomfield 1986) (Jilek 1988).4 Most particularly, Puloka (1998), in an attempt to institutionalise and make unambiguous the terms used for mental illnesses in Tonga, has isolated a particular constellation of symptoms and created the term '#vanga musiku where musiku means 'cut too short' and refers to the sudden onset and then rapid recovery of a particular perception of historical epidemics. The only reference to a historical epidemic that I found were in hospital records for 1959 in Vava'u. They record a flu epidemic when many women were admitted for 'influenza with nervous manifestations.' 4 See Rauch (1987), published in German, for an analysis of '#vanga largely based on secondary sources.


variant of '#vanga. His acknowledgement that '#vanga can be interpreted phenomenologically, rationalistically, culturally and psychiatrically precedes his claim that '#vanga musiku does not fit in any of the DSM IV categories for dissociative disorders. Thus, '#vanga musiku is a culture bound disorder unique to Tonga with the characteristic presentation among female adolescents of a degree of amnesia, vivid companionship with a spirit, no confusion about personal identity, a desire among sufferers to run, occasional occurrence in an epidemic pattern, rapid response to a traditional healing approach and low probability of relapse (Puloka 1998). His clear definition comes despite the absence of any united recognition by healers of '#vanga representing more than a symptom, a description of behaviour, an illness in a very ill-defined form or the provenance of sickness. Few healers have a term that is as restricted in use as '#vanga musiku. The specificity with which '#vanga is represented in the literature, contrasts dramatically with the multiple, often contradictory understandings, and lack of understandings, and uses healers and local people profess. It is curious that of all the terms '#vanga is possibly the most personalistic in aetiology and implication and yet it is the term which researchers have chosen to naturalise and pathologise. How did a variably understood and often ambiguous term become a culture bound disorder in more biomedical terms? An appreciation of the inextricability of the act of speaking and tauhi vaha'a is key to contextualising how '#vanga came to be naturalised. This examination will assist in the exploration of the ethnographic questions suggested above and which this and the following chapter attempt to contextualise: why is it girls and young women who predominately suffer, why does December and January see the highest incidence and why is there a perceived general decrease? Littlewood & Dein (2000) encapsulate the mood of the currently discredited notion of culture bound disorders. They question their essential ontology but still regard them as emblematic, in their representation and use, of particular historically situated crises in individual experience with respect to the wider society. They conclude: The same pattern may be variously identified as norm, illness, aetiology, or treatment, as resistance or performance. Restricting ourselves to the local ethnography may allow us to avoid categorisation but it hardly facilitates cross-cultural comparison: surely 152

one of medicine's imperatives, as well as anthropology's (Littlewood & Dein 2000:27). However, in my experience in Tonga it is precisely that level of generalisation which facilitates cross-cultural comparison yet distracts one from the local fluidity of use of the term and the particularities of local ideas of agency and personhood. I argue that '#vanga is less a culture bound disorder or pathology than one of several interpretative labels used to explain behaviour, essentially reflective of a break with the constitution of personhood in tauhi vaha’a that has serious social ramifications. It is in the link between speaking and tauhi vaha'a that one can start to get an idea as to how '#vanga came to be defined as a culture bound disorder. Categorisation Classification is subject to differences of opinion, and difficulties arise from trying to force natural phenomena into artificial categories-to do so successfully requires a Procrustean bed to make them all fit. A classification of Tongan ailments is mostly relevant to outsiders trying to describe and analyse the system for other outsiders; the categories constructed may be useful for elucidation, but may be irrelevant to Tongans. It is doubtful whether any satisfactory system of categories could be constructed by an outsider, and an insider, a Tongan healer, would not see any need or have any motivation to do so (Whistler 1992: 31).

Whistler's suggestion implies that we should be less interested in a specific definition or explanation for '#vanga than in the phenomena of girls and young women being affected by t!volo and the process whereby particular behaviour in a particular context comes to be interpreted by some people as t!volo caused. An attribution of '#vanga is an interpretation for which there are no objective markers. In general, it is only the afflicted who actually sees the t!volo. Their behaviour is the main evidence that t!volo are involved. It is, nevertheless, useful to discuss the multiple understandings of the term '#vanga in the literature, particularly as Puloka claims that it is one of the few terms most healers have in common and is the term that is central to his translation of western Psychiatric diagnoses into Tongan, a process I examine in more detail in chapter nine. 153

According to Churchward (1959), the term '#vanga can have three meanings: (1) sickness caused (or believed to be caused) by a fa'ahikehe or t!volo (2) to be fascinated or infatuated by, or strongly attracted to, a girl (or a boy), as if enchanted or bewitched by him or her and (3) to develop a terrible craze for, as if bewitched; to be infatuated. Interestingly, Parsons (1985) sees the term '#vanga as signifying the causative agent, the illness and also the causative agent's capacity to cause the illness. She argues that '#vanga is a more ancient term for ghosts or spirits than either t!volo or fa'ahikehe.5 Following Parsons, Cowling also uses '#vanga as a label to denote ghosts and spirits. She uses '#vanga as both a general category to denote spirit caused conditions and also as the specific condition most commonly suffered by girls and young women. She attempts a general classification of the five best known forms of '#vanga. 'These are: (1) sudden onset possession (in Tongan '#vanga) (2) Chronic mental illness ('#vanga motu'a) (3) 'sympathetic' physical symptoms (also with the overall name '#vanga) (4) depression/anxiety (te'ia) and (5) mental disability (Cowling 1990a: 73). Bloomfield (1986) designates '#vanga as acute spirit possession in which the patient shouts and talks of dead people. Jilek (1988), by contrast, sees the term fakamahaki as the general category for t!volo caused illnesses with two sub-categories of: (1) te'ia (characterised by social withdrawal and lack of communication) and '#vanga (in which the 'patient is perceived by others as possessed by the t!volo and under the control of the spirit that has entered her/him' (Jilek 1988). Gordon (1996) sees '#vanga as the traditional term and puke fakat!volo as the most commonly used colloquial term. McGrath (1993) comments on the inconsistency of the label '#vanga and te'ia. 'Some individuals speak of all puke fakat!volo as te'ia (Ibid: 177). She could not discern one discrete system of beliefs but many and preferred to 'convey a sense of the ambiguity and chaos which surround these profound life experiences' (Ibid: 238). The variability and inconsistency in translation of the term '#vanga alone is, to a degree, representative of the degree of pluralism in belief and diversity of interpretation of this condition born of the diversity of 5

I came across the use of '#vanga to signify the actual t!volo or spirit only on one occasion in a school essay addressing the causes of mental illness in Tonga.


healers. But it is also reflective of the research strategies, research methodology and specific research focus of researchers.6 Parsons (1985), Cowling (1990a) and Gordon (1996) share a generalising tendency, grounded in a notion of culture where homogeneity is the dominant characteristic and knowledge is diffuse and does not need to be credited to concrete individuals. Their occasional use of 'Tongans believe' or similar, shows a lack of appreciation of the diversity of interpretation of the condition. They reify the term '#vanga and do not look at the process and ramifications of its use. Gordon's claim that ''#vanga serves to articulate individual consciousness with social consciousness, and the individual body with the historical 'bodily hexis' (Gordon 1996:73), shows her interest is more theoretical than ethnographic. Her statement is meaningless in a local context. Jilek (1988), Helu (1985, 1999) and Puloka (1998) strongly pathologise '#vanga. Helu (1985, 1999) sees '#vanga as a class of socially induced disorder covering a wide range of neuroses and psychoses. One of these, he argues, is known as 'ave-'ehe t!volo (abducted by a spirit') and te'ia (slain ie by a spirit) and is an acute psychosis, commonly suffered by young virgins and unmarried women. Though treatment is painful and there is a general acceptance that the girl should be treated, it is far from clear that '#vanga is not a desired state from the perspective of the sufferer. The vivid companionship can be, occasionally, very satisfying and meaningful as Leisi's account in the introduction suggests. Also, part of the symptomatology is the result of treatment. It is the threat of treatment which leads girls to run and possess the extraordinary strength that is often remarked on. The fact that the term '#vanga is often used in preference to puke fakat!volo (illness caused by a t!volo), where illness is more explicitly referred to, 6

Parsons' interest lay in a 'sociological comparison of Tongan and Western ways of speaking about sickness, their everyday explanatory models of sickness and their everyday actions in assisting a sick member of their society' (Parsons 1984:73). Her finding a 'surprising consistency of accounts' (Parsons 1984:73) was based on seven months of fieldwork during 1979-1980. Cowling's research in 1985/86 was wide ranging and described 'a number of aspects of contemporary Tongan life and society in order to analyse their importance as responses to concepts of 'tradition' (Cowling 1990b: Abstract). Although Gordon's prime research interest lay in Tongan Mormon identity, her aim in this paper was to elucidate '#vanga's 'historical and contemporary role in the social body' (Gordon 1996).


and that only one of Churchward's translations refers explicitly to illness, is suggestive of a local non-pathological explanation. Few researchers have gone further than observing that it is mostly young girls and women who get '#vanga. Gordon attributes the high relative incidence of women to the location of sufferers within the 'crux of social conflict' which subsequently reveals 'a whole social fabric with all its tensions and contradictions' (Gordon 1996:58). The tensions she outlines are :1) a dual descent system in which matrilaterality is structurally less powerful than patrilaterality, 2) the competition of unequally ranked kin in securing the loyalties and resources of an individual, 3) the pressure on individuals for dividing loves and loyalties among competing interests, and 4) the mutual framing of anger ('ita) and love ('ofa) within a context of loss and filial punishment (Ibid 1996:58). The yearly increase of '#vanga cases over December and January, though commented upon by almost all the healers and people I talked to, has not appeared in the literature. Speaking, tauhi vaha'a and ' "vang a narratives I have already posited the essential connection between speaking and tauhi vaha'a and the association between the right to speak and status. An '#vanga narrative, a narrative of t!volo involvement is also a kind of fakamatala (explanation), a positioned statement of fact, albeit based on personal experience, which is made in the company of others. Who is qualified to speak in depth of these matters? Who feels that they have the right to speak about these issues? The division of case studies between this and the following chapter reflect my experience of a contrast between the coaxed out, muted, rarely definitive explanation of current cases and the vivid, definitive descriptions of previous events by women and their relatives, long after the fact. I use case studies of events long after the fact to criticise current understandings of '#vanga based on similarly presented data in this chapter. In the following chapter I examine cases of a more ambiguous nature which I witnessed or which occurred while I was in Vava'u.


The importance of case studies The fact, that not only is 'possession culturally crafted through narrative practice' (Mageo 1998:167), but that it is often either crafted long after the event or by someone other than the person affected, is rarely problematised in the literature. When talking about '#vanga, case studies are a minimum requirement, in order to contextualise the production of the narrative as well as the tauhi vaha'a reflected in its telling. In Cowling (1990a) and Parsons (1985), case studies are conspicuous by their absence. Parsons (1984) only recounts a conversation about treatment. Jilek (1988) presents three case studies, accounts of possession episodes recounted 13, 12 and 17 years after the event.7 Gordon (1996) also presents three cases. The first, of a young girl (13 years old), was recounted 9 years later. The second, the case of a six year old boy, is told by his father. The third, the case of a young girl who was possessed in the United States, was diagnosed as te'ia, a designation that some healers would regard as more serious but less dramatically evident of t!volo involvement. The difficulty of talking to young girls soon after their experience is reflected in the absence of their voices in case studies. In the company of elders and the healer the young girl's respect is manifest in her deferring and not contradicting the explanation of the healer. The appropriateness of a young male researcher talking to a young girl is likely to be questioned, and even if not may be felt as uncomfortable or possibly motivated by some amorous interest by the girl. In the company of friends they are more likely to joke, lack the confidence to give a detailed explanation and this makes it difficult to have confidence in their explanations. Many girls from the smaller islands of Vava'u talk quite openly and jokingly about their episodes with t!volo. One girl from Hunga, in the company of friends, admitted to me very candidly how she had been puke fakat!volo when she was in Tongatapu, and how a t!volo would come into her room and lie on top of her. It was about four days before she told her mother and when the healer 7

Three women. One 28 year old recounted a possession while single at the age of 15. The other two, 38 and 41 years of age recounted episodes when they had just married at the ages of 26 and 25 respectively.


came to treat her, the treatment was really painful, but since then she has not had any problems. I asked her if it was a tangata mo'oni (real man) or a t!volo. 'T!volo' she replied. It is difficult to know if she was serious or if this was just banter, or both. Girls often unashamedly attribute injuries sustained while playing basketball on other islands over Christmas to t!volo unfriendly to visitors. These are injuries that the health officers would attribute to sprains in girl unaccustomed to such physical activity. The most detailed descriptions of t!volo involvement were made to me with only the person and perhaps a friend present, and rarely in an organised interview format, usually volunteered in relation to other discussions. Only Helu (1985) recounts a case of 'spirit possession' which he witnessed himself during a fundraising tour in Vava'u with a performing group from Atenisi.8 His core thesis, that these 'mental illnesses' are 'manifestation of emotional conflict between basic drives and urges and a rigid social environment' (Helu 1985:37) is oft quoted and forms one of the dominant interpretations of 'spirit possession' in Tonga. However, at a speech at the Annual Conference of the Tongan Medical Association in 1998 and in a considerable departure from this strongly positivistic and psychologically oriented explanation, Helu chose to re-interpret the phenomena, detailed in his oft quoted 1985 paper, through revealing data that he had previously considered to be unconnected to the main case study he presented. After first congratulating the TMA for choosing Mental and Child Health as the topics for their annual conference, two areas in which traditional Tongan healers, he argued, can still hold their own, he discussed the main case study. The core case study involved a girl ('A') who was '#vanga while on a musical tour of Vava'u. She had become somewhat moody after her boyfriend had started seeing a visiting female researcher from overseas. While on the beach, 'A' started behaving strangely. She did not want to come out of the water, did not touch her food and after having to be thrown in the back of the truck for the journey home, wept, moaned 8

Founded by Professor Futa Helu, Atenisi is the only tertiary educational institution in Tonga. It is independent of state and church.


and kept her eyes closed all the way back home. On arrival, she became really sick and lay on the floor, moaning and muttering the words 'Go away! Leave me'. After treatment, she told the story of seeing a strange woman while in the water who told her not to leave the beach or eat any food. The lady accompanied her on the way back in the truck, along with six men who sat on her during the return journey from the beach. Four men left during the journey but two remained and continued to taunt her from the doorway of the house. The cure was efficacious and 'A' returned to normal. Helu spoke about being plagued by an aspect of the recorded data that he had not included in the 1985 paper. The morning after 'A's '#vanga, he heard that a second woman in the area had also become hysterical in between one and two in the morning, during a night when the dogs and animals had been very much disturbed. This second woman emitted a wild cry and woke up in convulsions shouting 'the men' and 'get these men away from me.' Helu argued during his speech that there were two ways of analysing this coincidence: (1) That the two events were somehow related or that (2) While, temporally and spatially related, they were not causally related. If we choose the first, he postulated, then we must conclude there is something that science hasn't identified yet, some kind of fifth force. On the other hand, he argued, if we choose the second explanation, a Freudian explanation would be more suitable: which he found even more facile. Ultimately, Helu stated, explanation cannot do justice to the phenomenon. He then recounted another story of a different girl on a tour in Ha'apai who saw the t!volo of a man in academic dress, when only she and Helu, of all the people on the trip, had relatives in the village or to the individual concerned. Helu concludes: I have no handle on this data. I have tried to create the impression that there is still a lot to do to work out a greater encompassing theory to explain the complexity of the mind. The mind is the most complex thing in the universe.

While I would take issue with the implication that a scientific understanding is possible outside of a social, political and historical contextualisation of those claiming seeming objectivity, I follow Helu's grounding his arguments in case studies of which he can be empirically confident. The degree to which Helu's strong argument is a reflection of his intellectual position, or a philosophical and political stance that 159

supports non-biomedical Tongan healing, is a matter of conjecture. What Helu re-iterates to me through his two, temporally separated interpretations of '#vanga is the inextricable link between interpretation and tauhi vaha'a and thus the importance of the dispassionate presentation of case studies. Engaging with theoretical issues Helu's wish to engage with more theoretical issues through his discussion of '#vanga is not atypical among researchers. Gordon (1996) has made the most recent attempt to define these phenomena in Tonga. Her quasi functionalist phenomenological statements that ''#vanga serves to articulate individual consciousness with social consciousness, and the individual body with the historical 'bodily hexis' (Gordon 1996:73), reflects neither an understanding of the fluid ontology of '#vanga or an awareness of how the wish to engage with theoretical questions of consciousness buries precisely what is definitive of '#vanga; its ambiguity and instrumental use. Such large scale questions distract one from the ethnographic and social particularities of the cases. In Helu's argument we know little about the second girl and what reasons she might have to be affected. The nature of speaking and tauhi vaha'a and the production of knowledge means that explanations of particular events and more general explanations for the phenomenon often reflect different concerns and interests, though they undoubtedly inform each other. I have already discussed the importance of tauhi vaha'a in cases of t!volo involvement. How people talk about an '#vanga case of a girl in a neighbouring village is often different if the person, who is ill, is regarded as member of their household or extended family. There are multiple voiced and unvoiced interpretations inside and outside the household. If a girl is ill because she is 'ita (angry) rather than genuinely t!volo affected has ramifications for the image of the household to others. The value of fakamatamatalelei (to put on a pleasant or friendly look which is not genuine) means that the ramifications of an interpretation are inextricably linked to choosing an interpretation in the first place. That locally, peoples' claim of relatedness to others, 160

opinion and ramification are merged into one, is best examined through specific case studies. General interpretation, however, around the three ethnographic questions I start to ask in this chapter differ, in that people's tauhi vaha'a is of a different quality, less particular and more related to concerns born of church membership. Most people find the specific cases more interesting because they have particular social ramifications, whereas the general questions I ask, typically do not. Why is it that typically girls and young women are '#vanga? Most explanations that involve t!volo revolve around girls having weaker bodies and the fact that they dress up and are therefore more attractive to t!volo. Even though on occasion some obviously unattractive girls or boys get '#vanga, this does not generally affect the oft repeated perception that some male t!volo like young, attractive, girls with long hair, particularly those from Vava'u high school. That t!volo do not like non-villagers, or that non-villagers do not recognise the t!volo, is an explanation often suggested for the possession of women or girls when they are in villages other than their own. When a couple marries in Vava'u, the bride is more likely than the groom to end up living in a village away from her natal famili. Why do more girls get ill over Christmas? For some people, Christmas is a time when both people and t!volo 'eva (wander). An elderly man, from one of the villages, suggested that it might be the 'ea m#fana (warm weather) that made t!volo more longomo'ui (energetic, active, lively or dashing). Girls and young women travel a lot more over Christmas, are more likely to be in houses and villages, other than their own, and as a consequence are more likely to do things that either offend or attract t!volo. There are also many relatives coming from overseas. There are many church events, much feasting, and celebration and a lot of nightlife. It is only during the Christmas holidays that schoolgirls are officially allowed to go to discos. Why has there been a decrease in the number of girls getting '#vanga? The most common explanation to the perceived decrease is a religious one: 'Kuo maama a Tonga'. (Tonga has become spiritually enlightened). Maama means light but it is used figuratively to mean enlightened both 161

spiritually and mentally. Also, people say that there is more lotu (prayer, worship, religion). Many young people argue that people who believe in t!volo are ta'elotu (don't pray, worship, without religion), that one should not fear t!volo, only Jesus Christ. The existence of t!volo is not necessarily questioned, only that they can affect the living. For one woman from Neiafu, there are fewer '#vanga cases because the t!volo sleep, because of more lotu (prayer, church). A 60 year old man from Neiafu, commented that there were more puke fakat!volo in the past, but now there is more maama (light, enlightenment) and so people don't believe in it so much anymore. He explained: 'People die and they are dead and stay dead. In the past people would think that, let's say I was dead, that I would wander around and touch people and they would get sick. Maybe it is because people are more enlightened now'. According to Akosita, one of the healers I introduced in chapter three, more or better lotu explains the decrease of '#vanga because people when they die then go to heaven and do not wander around affecting people. Gender bias? It is difficult to discern any strict gender distinction of interpretation which can be separated from the social contexts of joking and bantering and the responsibilities of female members of the household, in which they are made. One could make the assertion that women are more likely to speak about t!volo and attribute sickness to their involvement. But then, most healers for t!volo caused conditions in Vava’u are women, and women tend to be responsible for dealing with the sickness of their children. Women also weave together and thus share a great deal of knowledge about sicknesses. The tendency for men to be more suspicious of '#vanga and see it as evidence of k#k# (deceitfulness) on the part of girls and remarking on incidences of girls who were later found to be pregnant, is both the result of their lack of involvement in such questions of illness, a mode of bantering interaction and a lifestyle that allows them to witness many goings on which, on occasion, suggest deception. Men, as young boys, are likely to have seen things while wandering out of the house with friends and know of illicit relationships. Also, it is only the very occasional man who will kai luva 162

(lit. eat louvres, but meaning peeping Tom). But men will also acknowledge their bafflement at some of the coincidences and knowledge some ill girls demonstrate as well as their extraordinary strength. It was only a male friend, however, who said that the best treatment for '#vanga was loholoho'i (a beating with a coconut frond). The case studies The cases studies I present reflect my friendships within Vava'u. I learned of them by being recommended through other people or by virtue of being with other people when the case study was talked about. They were all coherent and volunteered narratives. My confidence in their veracity follows from my long involvement with and confidence in the people who recounted their narratives and those who introduced me to them. They can all be characterised by distance, in temporal or social terms from the event itself. The first, a mother's account of her daughter's sickness happened some thirteen years before. The second and third case studies were recounted by women who had been ill themselves some six and nine years previously. The final case is of a boy who was ill while I was there but whose account and experience is filtered through a healer who treated him, a teacher who spoke to him and people who heard about the event. This distance from the event is characteristic of narratives about '#vanga. It informs much of how people themselves learn of such situations in Tonga. All those who spoke were confident in their social position and thus confident in their right to give an explanation, they also had a sympathetic listener whose social connections were clear. Case study (2) Iloilo In the company of a mutual friend Litea speaks about an episode that occurred to her daughter, Iloilo, some twelve years before when she was about 17.


Iloilo had lived overseas until the age of 14.9 My family is Mormon, we don't really believe in t!volo, nor does Iloilo, but my experiences have made us question. Iloilo was already acting a little strange, when my sister's cousin dreamed that she would get sick and told my sister to tell me. The first night that Iloilo got sick my sister also had a dream about a man with a bandage around his head who attacked her with a spear for telling me about Iloilo. I was concerned by Iloilo's strange behaviour. Sometimes she sat in the kitchen eating sandwiches, staring at the bottom of the sink. Her eyes were half closed and she would talk and mumble words to herself. Twice she spoke with a voice that was not her own. On one occasion, when she threatened me, her voice was extraordinarily deep. She didn't seem to know anything about the people she talked to. When she came out of the shower I would tell her to put on a tracksuit, because someone told me that when girls are '#vanga they run and sometimes hurt themselves. When Iloilo slept in the afternoon or at night I could hear her talking to Alusa and Nukuafe, two people she couldn't possibly have known about. Nukuafe is related to the family. (In a case of thwarted love Nukuafe shot his girlfriend Alusa more than twenty years ago and then committed suicide). It seemed as if Alusa was in the room and Iloilo was telling Nukuafe to stay outside because Alusa was in the room. In her sleep she reached out and gave Alusa a drink. When Iloilo woke up she did not remember her conversations and still doesn't remember them. When I left the house, Alusa and Nukuafe would come over to visit. One day Iloilo said to me, ignorant of what had been happening or what I had been doing, 'Mum please don't let them drop liquid down my nose'. She didn't know the word for tulu'i. One day she came back from school and told me how sad the funeral of Nukuafe was. I asked her who. There was no-one by that name who had died recently. What's her surname, I asked. She responded with the surname of the girl who was murdered by Nukuafe. How did you know, I asked. She said she met a man on the street walking on the way back from school who told her about it. Her description of the man who walked with her matched Nukuafe's description exactly. I asked the girls who walked back with her if they saw anyone. They said no but they said that Iloilo was hanging back behind them. I was really worried about her. She was going meimei fakasesele (almost crazy). When we finally treated her, she really hated the treatment and had to be held down. One time the healer put nonu (Morinda citrifolia) and uhi (Euodia hortensis) leaves under her bed. She


I have edited Litea's narrative in English from notes. She is a highly proficient English speaker.


refused to sleep in the room because the smell was so repellent to her. Eventually though she got better.

Nukuafe killed Alusa in the early sixties. It is a story very similar to that of Paloakula and Lingelingasi that occurred in the late eighties/early nineties that I examined in chapter three. Both couples died in dramatic circumstances and are remembered by many people in Vava'u. A supposed mix of love and jealousy led to men killing their sweethearts and then killing themselves. Most people know the story of how Nukuafe went to Alusa's house early in the morning and, after whispering to her to come out, drew a bushknife through her. He waited around the hospital to confirm that she was dead before hanging himself in a big mango tree. Case study (3) Hiva Lilopau was particularly friendly with another lady in the village, Kakatu, who often called for her help in cases of illness in her household. Their knowledge of my friendship with Lilopau led to my being able to talk of particular instances of t!volo involvement within Kakatu's k#inga. Kakatu was the oldest of nine siblings, five sisters and four brothers. She is married with four children. The other four sisters had married and no longer lived in the village. Two (Tangimana and Hiva) lived in Neiafu, one in Tongatapu (Faasisila) and one overseas. Tangimana, when living in Neiafu once saw a t!volo with black skin and hairy arms and had frequent experience of the light outside the house exploding, which was attributed to t!volo. Her husband also has many t!volo stories. A constellation of circumstances had led to their k#inga having experience of t!volo and a particular penchant for t!volo stories. One of Kakatu's brothers was married to Kami who is the subject of the second case study. Hiva lives and works in Neiafu with her husband and children. Kami is her sister in law.10 I was ill in 1993 at the age of 23 while living with Kami in a house very near to Loloa. It was around March, the hot time of the year. It was a Sunday. I 10

Her narrative has been translated from the original in Tongan.


had just eaten food from the earth oven and was just lying in the bedroom with the door open. I saw a young soldier with a hypodermic needle who wanted to kill me. He touched me but didn't say anything. I saw him for about five minutes. I then felt very strange and had a headache and body pain. He tried to inject me. His hands were warm. He blocked the door when I tried to get out. It was a normal Sunday. I wasn't familiar with the t!volo. He is buried in the cemetery opposite the chicken farm. Loloa treated me. She didn't tulu'i me. She only massaged my head and back. After two treatments I was fine. Loloa told me the soldier died in Masilimea and often appears. I ask her 'Why did he appear to you?' Her first response is 'No idea', but she then reconsiders. The man was angry with me, I should have cut my hair. He brought the hypodermic needle to kill me. I was angry at the t!volo not frightened. The famili didn't see him. My sickness, however, was only a small one. You should go and talk to my sister in law, Kami. She was really sick.

Case study (4) Kami Kami now lives in Neiafu after recently returning from New Zealand where she had been living for the last two years. She was happy to return to Vava'u though, preferring the more relaxed lifestyle compared to New Zealand. Her recollection of her t!volo experience seemed fresh in her memory and very clear. 11 It happened about nine years ago, in February. I had been married five years when my husband died. Three weeks later in his village, at night, I was alone at home in the kitchen when I saw him standing in the doorway smiling at me. He stood there for about five minutes. I felt frightened. Hiva's father happened to come by and the t!volo left. One week later he came back for me because of his 'ofa. It was a rainy night, it was really pouring down. I was alone in the kitchen. He appeared at the door again. His clothes were wet. He smiled and said 'Let's go to my village'. My body felt very strange, I didn't want to go. I just stared. Hiva came from the house, she didn't see him, she saw me and knew something was wrong. Hiva grabbed me and asked me if I had seen him again. He walked away. Hiva called Tangimana straight away and then guided me to the house. Hiva shouted at her brother to go away. They stayed for a long time just 11

The original was in Tongan. I have translated some of the more ambiguous Tongan terms in the narrative and used pseudonyms for people and the village. I have attempted to preserve something of her style of narration.


chatting in the house. I was sitting down, then he appeared again, he came into the house. This time he was angry. They could see from my face that I had seen a t!volo. He was angry, and said again 'Let's go to my village'. I stood up and followed him as if I had lost all will, he was stronger than me. Hiva and her mother shouted to hold me, I started to walk, five people held me down. I shouted 'I'm going'. I felt very strange. He fakavale'i (to cause to act foolishly, to stupefy, to mislead) me. I couldn't stop myself. The five people pushed me down to the ground. Tangimana shouted to Alipate (Hiva's brother). Sitaleki and Molohau the other brother were also there. They held me down, maintaining contact with me while I scratched and spat at them. An unseen force was pulling me. He entered into my body. I just stayed put on my back. Alipate went outside to pick some leaves of nonu (Morinda citrifolia) and fiki (Jatropha curcas) to toss around. Another boy ran over to Talau to call Pele to come and treat me. She went to find some siale tonga (Gardenia taitensis), but mysteriously it had disappeared from its usual place. Meanwhile I rested. What were you thinking? My mind was blank, I wasn't thinking of anything. But then I felt that the lady was coming. I felt strong again. When the lady came with her remedy I jumped up again and pushed and resisted them. I spat at the lady. I felt very angry with her. They tried to make me lie down, they got sick of trying because I struggled hard. Finally they managed to pin me down. Pele tulu'i siale Tonga in my eyes, nose, mouth and ears. It really stung. When they tried to open my mouth I bit the lady's hand. They had to use a bit of wood to open it. When they pressed on my eyes, it really hurt. My throat became really dry. I fell to the ground and felt very weak. After that I fell asleep. I slept for about half an hour. When I woke up the woman was sitting next to me. She asked me who it was. I told her it was Fihiaki (her deceased husband). Why did he appear to you? He asked me to go with him. She came the following day and did the treatment again. It was then that I felt it was my body again, whereas before I felt it was a different body. She tulu'i again and again it stung and my eyes got really red. My body really hurt and I was injured in many different places. All in all they did three tulu'i. I sometimes feel strange now but I haven't seen him again. How did your husband die?


Someone hit him while they were drinking hopi (homebrew). He fell straight down and didn't regain consciousness. People though he was mate kona (dead drunk). A boy called to him but he didn't come to. They told me he had an accident, they thought it would be too much of a shock for me. I only discovered what happened when I asked the nurse at the hospital where he was and she told me he was in the morgue. I wanted him to be buried in Vailevu, but his uncle wanted him buried him close by, because he was old and faka'ofa. His real father was in Australia and could not come back for the funeral, it was too far. I went with him to talk to Fihiaki in his grave, to tell him to stay where he was and not to go hither and thither again. The first time I was ill was while I was married and living with my husband some 12 years ago. The t!volo was a man called Tino. He died a long time ago. How did you know it was a t!volo? Because he got up so quickly onto the house. It was very dark, I had been married about a year. I hadn't given birth yet. I was alone in the house when he hopped up on the door with his guitar. T!volo are really bad. I just looked at him and felt afraid but couldn't speak. He knew that my husband would come back soon so he went away. He appeared later on. I saw him in the corner of the room, while Fihiaki was sleeping. I just sat, I couldn't sleep. I didn't tell Fihiaki, because the t!volo told me not to tell. I could feel when he was coming. He would come into the house with some wrapped up food for me to eat. Once, when I told him I was already full, Fihiaki heard and woke up. He asked me why I was talking like that. I told him nothing happened and lay down and pretended to sleep facing the corner. He asked me again, he knew I was ill. Fihiaki's sister is Kakatu, she guessed I was ill. Lilopau treated me. She tulu'i siale Tonga.12 That was the first time I experienced siale Tonga. She tulu'i my eyes, nose, mouth and ears. She stroked my throat, and massaged my head and face. That was just a small illness. Only one person held me down. I was treated twice, with the same medicine. My mind went blank, I felt strange, I felt really cold and I shivered. Lilopau told me that if I had eaten the food I would have been sicker. I felt ta'elata (not to feel at home, to feel uncomfortable) in Fihiaki's village, I was living there on and off. I felt repentant. 12

There are two interesting contradictions. Hiva had said that Nita, Lilopau's sister, had treated her, yet Kami maintains that it was Lilopau. She also mentions that Lilopau treated her with siale Tonga a plant that Lilopau maintains that she never uses.


Case study (5) Longo It is unusual to hear of boys getting puke fakat!volo. While passing through a particular village in October 1998 with some nurses from Public Health and the health inspector, one of the nurses pointed out the village healer and tells me that the 16 or 17 year old son of the local minister was puke fakat!volo last night. He had gone to pick mangoes and he saw a t!volo that told him to go up in the tree. It took four boys to hold him down and treat him. He also had similar puke fakat!volo in December in Tonga. The healer had said that it was a t!volo from Tonga that was causing the trouble. The opportunity to talk to the healer did not come for another ten months, when he, among other things, explains the series of circumstances that led to him treating Longo.13 Efiafi puli mei hono 'api. Kumi ia, ma'u ia i he funga 'akau, alu mama'o. Mate'i vale p!. Taime puke, lele, kaila -'t!volo 'eni'. ’Ikai lava puke tokolahi. Tokolahi ke puke, tulu'i. 'Osi p! taime tulu'i fakamanatu tupu'anga. Kakai Tonga na'a nau fiema'u au ia ki Tonga. 'Osi p! tulu'i ki'i mohe, # hake. 'Api o Peni na'a tulu'i ihu, telinga., Longo, fakamatala ongo me'a mei Tonga ke


nau $ ki Tonga. 'Ita 'a ongo me'a, t# 'a Longo. In the afternoon he disappeared from his house. People looked for him and they found him at the top of a tree, he had gone a long way up. He had a mad expression on his face. When they tried to grab him, he ran, and shouted 'here's the t!volo'. A lot of people tried to grab him but couldn't. Finally they

I was asked if I wanted to go and talk to the healer at the time. My occasional experience of the presence of nurses inhibiting conversation gave me a sense that my association with them might restrict conversation. In reality, it was less the fact of them being nurses, than how well they got on with or whether they were related to the person in question.


got him, and we tulu'i him. The tulu'i made him remember the origin of his illness. It was some people from Tonga(tapu), they wanted to take him to Tonga. After the tulu'i he slept a little, then woke up. In Peni's house we

treated him again, tulu'i his nose and ears. He explained about the two people from Tonga how they wanted him to go to Tonga and how they were angry at him and hit him.

Longo had also recounted his experiences to a teacher at his school. The teacher did not doubt his story and sincerity, though she had seen other people in a similar state and at the time rejected it. Now however, she acknowledged, she was trying to understand and explain it. I recount some of the details that he told her. It all started when he was very young. The t!volo were three men who died in Tongatapu and are buried on the top of Sia from where they used to come to visit him. He has a mark on his hand from when he was a child and the men marked him. While walking home on the day he felt a power inside of him, he wasn't scared and went to look for mangoes. Three men came and took him and said they'd take him back to Tonga. They made him climb a tall tree to hide himself while the men went to get the boat. He sat on a very small branch and then when he saw another man under the tree who said 'Come down, we'll go to 'Ofu', he jumped down but didn't get hurt. When he ran, he felt incredibly fast. He has seen the men again, they keep coming back to him and have been since he was a child. He felt powerful. His body felt different almost as if there was some kind of unseen spiritual force. Once he saw himself as a one-year-old. After the tulu'i though he became better. At school he was an average student, very quiet and quite introverted. The eldest in the family, his parents are both well educated. His mother was largely absent from his life, she had stayed in Nuku'alofa when his father came to work as a minister in the village.

The ease of categorisation and the nature of narratives The four case studies I have presented above suggest many avenues of exploration. In local terms they are all powerfully convincing of the existence and actions of t!volo. For the purposes of clarity I have resisted making other comments that would draw the narrative into other areas of discussion since their ramifications would go beyond the present use. I now turn to an examination of how narratives and the 170

association between speaking and tauhi vaha'a has made it easy for '#vanga to be reified and naturalised. The people who speak with authority about t!volo are typically people whose interpretation is respected. They are mothers, teachers, healers, lay preachers, older women and people who by virtue of their status are allowed to talk about these things. They give convincing narratives based on their own distanced experience. Contentiousness and multivocality are buried in definitive concrete accounts of particular t!volo, particular physical evidence and the revelation of information that could not have been known by the sufferer. Their tauhi vaha'a to church, household and to the people who helped them is clear. The particularity of description, especially as regards those individuals participating in the whole process, is striking. Notice Kami's narrative in which she named many people and their role in her treatment. This is reminiscent of the way people thank others in speeches. One notes that those who speak tauhi vaha'a with older people. What they say typically does not mirror the concerns of the unmarried youth. The interpretative distance is also reflected in the fact that explanations from those currently affected are given little weight. As I examine more in the next chapter, even if their attempted explanations are ambiguous, they typically do not challenge the narratives of healers and older women. Causality lies almost exclusively with the t!volo. There is little mention of increased susceptibility due to social circumstances. It is Kami's dead husband who makes her ill not the fact of his death; in her previous episode her ta'elata (to feel ill at ease) is only mentioned as an aside. Leisi's and Hiva's insistence that they were happy at the time goes against an explanation that prioritises a social stressor of some sort. In fact, my very question as to whether they were happy at the time revealed an implicit assumption that the t!volo did not cause her sickness. Equally, in local terms the fact happiness or unhappiness might make someone more likely to see a t!volo can still reinforce the agency of the t!volo in recognising the unhappiness of someone and wanting to do something. Kami's statement of her t!volo husband's presence 'ha'u ko e 'ofa mai' might equally be translated as he came because of his pity rather than love for her.


Categorisation In the broadest terms, all these case studies are examples of a short term relationship or interaction with a t!volo that was resolved on treatment, what Puloka terms '#vanga musiku. Puloka has made the most concerted effort to define the phenomenon. My critique of Puloka’s categorisation acknowledges the necessity to categorise is born in part of his need for action as a psychiatrist. My analysis is less refutation of categorisation as a route to understanding but rather looking at how the inextricability of speaking and tauhi vaha'a affects data. I find Puloka's (1998:73-76) characterisation a useful locus to discuss this. Puloka categorises '#vanga musiku on the basis of broad experiences sufferers all share. On the basis of the above case studies and previous discussions of speaking and tauhi vaha'a I make comments about each in turn. Puloka categorisations appear in italics: they are not atypical to the comments contained in some of literature dealing with culture bound disorders. (1) Their memory is affected; some may have total amnesia of the whole period of their experiences, whereas others may have deficits in memory, but be able to recall a spirit experience. In fact, partial amnesia of the experience is a common characteristic of '#vanga musiku. One needs to know at what point they talk about it; it depends on when you ask-the above cases exhibit seeming vivid memory, though people may have told them after the fact. There is, of course, the possibility that they are told later what happened and then what they hear becomes their story. On the other hand, seeming amnesia may be more a case of showing respect, not wishing to talk, or not knowing how to talk about the experience. (2)

There is an apparent vivid, imaginary companionship experienced by the sufferer in which the companion is the spirit who commands the sufferer to do certain things. They may sleep together, eat together, bathe together, and walk together. The sufferer may exhibit passion and love or hate and disgust for the companion (spirit or external figure).


It is imaginary only to the extent that other people usually do not see the t!volo. Also, it depends whether you have confidence in the essential ontology of t!volo or not, which, as I have dealt with in chapter two is one of the enduring themes of this ethnography. On occasion '#vanga, as one of Churchward's (1959) translations suggests, may reflect an unemotional fascination for the t!volo rather than passion, love, hate or disgust. (3)

Usually the companion or the external figure is single (not multiple).

Leisi, for example, saw a couple of t!volo at the beginning of her sickness but then her relationship became exclusive to one until the end. Iloilo called out to two t!volo. Both Hiva's and Kami's experience was of individual t!volo. Longo, however, had an enduring relationship with three t!volo. 'A', the girl in Helu's case study, saw a large number of men and also a woman. The case studies and other stories of t!volo involvement in other island groups suggest that the singularity of the t!volo is not a characteristic that defines '#vanga. (4)

The external figure is usually perceived by the sufferer as someone who has died, but who was unknown in real life.

Leisi knew of the t!volo, but did not know them personally. Kami clearly knew her husband. It is not clear whether the perception, that Puloka refers to, occurs during or after the events, since the result of the treatment is to name the t!volo. It is not necessarily true that during the event the afflicted know that the individual is a t!volo. One of the reasons for recently arrived girls increased susceptibility is their lack of familiarity with local t!volo. (5)

The disorder usually occurs among female adolescents.

No healer was willing to agree that '#vanga was exclusively a female or female adolescent condition though they acknowledged that many more women were usually affected. Leisi, Iloilo and Longo were in their late teens. However, Hiva was 23 and Kami in her mid twenties when they became ill. Children and occasionally older women are treated for '#vanga. The association between marriage and '#vanga, and 173

the fact that marriage typically happens after a women has come of age at 21, which I examine in the next chapter, suggests that '#vanga, in a broad sense, cannot be restricted to adolescence. (6)

The disorder entails no confusion about personal identity or assumption of new identity.

In '#vanga musiku there is no loss of identity to the possessing agent. The sufferer is aware of the presence of the external force--spirit of a dead person as a companion in this context but the sufferer in still aware of her real name and identity. (Added in unpublished paper) This is the basis for Puloka's assertion that '#vanga is not a possession disorder, an assertion that I agree with wholeheartedly. If one has to make a general statement, then '#vanga is less spirit possession than t!volo interaction. In contrast to pre-Christian times, there seems little desire for t!volo to inhabit people's bodies for the purpose of divination or other reasons. Only Kami speaks about the t!volo entering her body. Treatment also suggests interaction, it is less sealing orifices than preventing a person's sensual experience of a t!volo through their eyes, nose, mouth and ears. However, biblical stories confuse this distinction, and, stories of Jesus casting out 'devils', undoubtedly contribute to some people's, but to my knowledge, not healers', perception that laumalie uli (black souls) can enter an individual body and need to be cast out. (7)

There may be a desire or an irresistible urge to run.

Though this may be one of the most dramatic aspects to '#vanga which makes it memorable in many peoples' minds, not all people have this urge to run. In Leisi's, Kami's second experience and Longo's case it was particularly dramatic. Hiva, however, did not need to be held down. Though Litea mentioned her fear of Iloilo running and hurting herself, she does not mention whether in fact she did. (8)

Generally a person with '#vanga musiku per se does not have the typical auditory hallucinations passivity experience, and loss of ego boundaries that can be experienced by a person who suffers from schizophrenia. 174

Both the definition of 'avanga musiku and schizophrenia are problematic and contentious. Comparing them on one further level of abstraction, is contrary to the emphasis of this ethnography which is to investigate terms as much as impossible with respect to their local ramifications of use. The final two chapter investigates cases in which on occasion the term '#vanga may be used to label a psychiatric diagnosis of schizophrenia. (9)

'"vanga musiku sometimes occurs in an epidemic pattern, usually in a village setting.

This is common perception. Litea mentioned how t!volo sometimes hold a concert. Helu's re-analysis of his most dramatic case was based around the coincidence of such a minor epidemic. I heard no stories, in recent history, of a large number of girls getting ill at the same time. (10)

In most cases the condition does not relapse, there are very few relapses.

Is one likely to be told about relapses? In general consultation with healers and doctors there is little discussion about previous treatments. Re-occur is perhaps a better word, relapse gives the idea of the illness somehow being intrinsic to the person. Instead of considering this as a condition that relapses it is better to view it as a social situation that leads to similar experiences. In this sense, both Longo and Kami had repeated experiences with t!volo, in Kami's case with different t!volo and Longo seemingly with the same ones. (11)

The disorder is usually an acute condition and resolves in response to a traditional healing approach within several days or a week; some patients respond quickly to a short course of high potency, antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol, in conjunction with a traditional approach.

This description seems to imply that psychiatric intervention and local intervention are similar in the sense that treatment reveals what the condition is; which means that an individual may be '#vanga until treatment for '#vanga is unsuccessful. It also raises the question of which intervention is likely to be more successful. Perplexingly, this 175

may be whichever treatment is carried out. Chapter seven examines this conclusion within an examination of the attribution of efficacy. It is rare to find someone who will talk about an unsuccessful treatment of '#vanga. One lady spoke of simply holding the girl down all night, one doctor of giving a sedative. However, resolution seems more immediate and definitive and the catharsis more striking with an approach involving tulu'i. Such treatment includes many people, thus placing causative responsibility far away from the sufferers themselves. Not seeking treatment may be interpreted as implicitly critical of this assumption, and cast suspicions on a girl's motives. Conclusion If you regard '#vanga as an interpretative label, it is not surprising that it seems to defy general categorisation. The case studies in the literature and the detailed case studies I have collected of '#vanga episodes in the past suggest a great fluidity of use. Diversity of ideas about t!volo is reflected in the multitude of terms which exist to explain certain behaviour. Case studies suggest that what is named as '#vanga is less spirit possession than t!volo interaction. Only rarely do sufferers talk about the t!volo entering their body. The treatment of tulu'i, which explicitly addresses the sensual appreciation of the t!volo through dropping leaf extracts into the eyes, ears, mouth and nose, is also suggestive of the t!volo existing outside of the person. The scale of interaction ranges from extremely vivid companionship, present in all the above cases, to merely having been seen by a t!volo. Also, the degree to which the t!volo is known, varies from case to case. Sometimes a particular t!volo known to the whole island group is involved, at other times the t!volo will not have a name and will be described in other identifying terms. Though mostly girls and young women are treated for this condition, on occasion older women (very often returning home from overseas) and young men also are treated. Neither is membership to a particular church a possible predictor. Even girls in the Bahai church get '#vanga, despite official denial by the church that t!volo exist. In some cases there is a social stressor of some sort in others sufferers insist they were perfectly happy and content at the time. The perception that girls rarely have 176

another episode is probably linked to the fact that they would rarely see the same healer; Kami saw two different healers. Two of the six detailed case studies I recorded were of girls who had at least two episodes. The inextricability of speaking and tauhi vaha'a makes us question what people are doing when they narrate their experiences. They are not merely describing, they are describing their experiences to a certain person and making a statement of their relatedness. There are problems with relying on case studies of '#vanga episodes which happened some time ago, particularly ones recounted ten years after the event. An '#vanga narrative though it may be told in many ways, does not acknowledge the multiple voices and interpretations existing at the time of the event. Narratives are not only commentaries of past events, they are also interpretative and justificatory tools for current events. Fundamentally, they are easy and entertaining to tell. The next chapter examines how looking at current cases and at the process of healing, reveals both a great deal of ambiguity and creativity of interpretation.



Living and dead t!volo: Faking and false attribution

'T!volo mate, pulia. T!volo mo'ui, oho' Run away from dead t!volo but act rashly with living t!volo In a conversation of great hilarity, following a visit to a village in which there had been a recent case of '#vanga, and elicited in part by my earnest enquiries about t!volo, a male health inspector quipped 'T!volo mate: pulia, t!volo mo'ui oho'. A certain degree of the poetry and humour of the sentence is lost in the process of translation. Literally, however, it means: dead t!volo; disappear (run away), living t!volo: act rashly or precipitately. Playing on the ambiguity of the term t!volo, he alludes to the fact that some t!volo are real individuals, living 'devils' if you may, and that some girls' sicknesses are a clever way of hiding an illicit affair. An old run down house in the village was talked about as a place where the t!volo hang out, conveying the message that couples met there. I had rarely heard a conversation that elicited such double entendre and metaphorical allusions. Was this a comment on a state of affairs causing great embarrassment in the village? The participants in this heady banter were either nurses or health officers and inspectors, some from Tongatapu. Their attributing ulterior motive and questioning the reality of t!volo caused sickness evoked their common profession as hospital employees and perhaps also expressed some condescension towards to the villagers. Their suspicions, however, are not entirely unwarranted. They are influenced both by the knowledge of embarrassing events that come from working in the hospital and their exposure to an alternative epistemology that premises naturalistic causes for illnesses. 178

Nevertheless, the fact that it was so hilarious suggests in part that a degree of ambiguity remains. That girls can fake episodes with t!volo is common knowledge and a subject of humour and the ambiguous value of k#k# (deceptiveness). McGrath (1993:186) repeats a story about a girl who would run off into the bush and then appear on a relative's grave, seemingly t!volo affected. It turned out she had been meeting her boyfriend in the bush and faked episodes in order to justify her being there. Clearly though, the attribution of faking is also linked to people's wish to tauhi vaha'a, but at the same time relies on the acknowledged reality of what you are faking. According to a social worker in Tongatapu, who had studied sociology in New Zealand, there are so many stories and gossip about 'possession' that most girls, if required, could put on a good performance. She explained that some girls use it to distract their famili from things they have done. For example if they are caught with a boy, they fake '#vanga and then people are concerned and forget what they have done. Girls know that it is usual to shout dead people's names. During a conversation with one healer, her daughter, a nurse at the hospital, interjected quietly 'loi e fakamahaki ia' (T!volo caused illness is a lie/false). Then later, when I asked why more girls became ill than boys, laughing under her breath, she explained: Tupu mei mahalo fa'a lahi 'a e pau'u kakai fefine, anga lelei 'a e kakai Tangata, lahi 'a e pau'u kakai fefine.

It comes perhaps from the mischieviousness and naughtiness of women, men are well behaved but women are very naughty.

This is a contentious and possibly ironic statement to make, bearing in mind that there are different standards of behaviour expected of girls and boys. Is it that since boys are typically expected to be naughty, girls' naughtiness is more noticeable? The statement also evokes her status as a nurse in the hospital. True or not, the possibility of naughtiness as a reason for more girls getting ill exists. Is '#vanga then occasionally punishment by t!volo for their naughtiness or faking to hide their naughtiness? By contrast to some illnesses, where there is a sense of punishment for wrong doing, the result perhaps of breaking a tapu (prohibition) or singing near a cemetery, in narratives of '#vanga there is 179

little reference to punishment. It is more a case of unwanted attention. That this nurse also says that fakamahaki (t!volo caused sickness) is a lie, implies that hiding is her suggestion. Some healers say they can tell when a girl is faking or when the reason for her behaviour is less the result of t!volo than something happening within the famili. One healer from Neiafu, for example, says that on occasion, 'Mamahi ha me'a 'a e ta'ahine i he famili, valevale lau' (Something is hurtful to the girl in the famili and she talks to herself or talks gibberish).1 She can tell from the girl's response to the tulu'i if she is puke (ill) or pukeloi (faking illness). It is, however, too fakam# (shameful) to tell the famili. She simply does not go back, leaving the famili believing in the genuineness of the girl's episode. Other healers are strongly of the opinion that when girls exhibit these symptoms they are ill and deny the possibility of faking. Families themselves may suspect other reasons for a girl's behaviour, and may choose not to call a healer, even if, as in one case I heard of, the healer lived across the road. However even if some girls fake a relationship with a t!volo this does not mean that all girls do. Ultimately, aside from a rare admission of guilt from the girl concerned, it is very difficult to be truly confident of people's suspicions of faking. Introduction In contrast to the definitive narratives of '#vanga of the past which I looked at in the previous chapter, an examination of the process of healing more current cases of '#vanga reveals a great deal of ambiguity, contentiousness and agency. Faking an episode is a demonstration of agency. Saying that someone is faking, because it invariably implies that a girl has done it to cover up something worse or for some other ulterior motive, is in affect casting an aspersion of agency. In the same way that the fact of pukeloi (faking illness) assumes that puke (ill) is real in some way, the fact of a girl faking a t!volo episode need not lead to people questioning the reality of t!volo themselves. Interestingly, the stories of faking that I heard, corroborated the idea of '#vanga as an 1

Valevale lau can also mean to jabber unintelligibly and to talk in one's sleep or in delirium.


ambiguous term. For when girls faked, they typically faked dramatic experiences with a t!volo and not '#vanga per se. In contrast to the term puke loi (false, faked illness), I never heard of the term '#vanga loi. This chapter examines case studies in which it is unclear whether agency is manifest in a faking or false attribution that is intentional or whether the need to help and attribute causality leads to the misapplication of a fluid term. The inextricability of tauhi vaha’a and speaking is again important. One cannot ultimately know the motivation of people within these case studies, only the motivations that are attributed to them or by them. An aspersion of agency (of deception) in some cases is a kind of slander that will be welcomed by some people and not others, depending on whether they wish to tauhi vaha'a with the sick person and the household in question. An examination of these factors will lead to a clearer appreciation of the ethnographic questions posed in the previous chapter: Why girls, why Christmas and why the perceived general decrease? Case study (6) Paongo & Lose. Feitam a fak at !volo I start with two case studies of girls treated for feitama fakat!volo, a condition that literally translates as 't!volo caused pregnancy' which bring into sharp relief questions of motivation, false attribution and the fluidity of terms that suggest similar processes in attribution of '#vanga. Singh et al (1984) translates feitama fakat!volo as false pregnancy caused by '#vanga (in this sense meaning ghosts) or ghosts.2 A nurse from the family planning centre explained, however, feitama fakat!volo was a term that was applied to a variety of biomedical conditions associated with pregnancy, ranging from a delusion of being pregnant to a rare congenital condition such as a hydatidiform mole. This position was expressed in a public health broadcast on October 21, 1999, on Radio


As the following cases confirm, feitama fakat!volo does not refer to an 'illegitimate pregnancy' as might be suggested by the presence of the term fakat!volo which in the past, as detailed in chapter three, would have been used to metaphorically describe sex or a unmarried couple living together. No healer would publicly diagnose such a shameful situation if it meant this locally.


Tonga which encouraged women to seek help at the hospital for such conditions. In October 1999, Lilopau treated two fourteen-year-old girls for feitama fakat!volo. Paongo was from one of the more remote villages. Lilopau had been treating her for three weeks. The second, Lose was a relative of her husband. She lived in a household in Neiafu with other people from their island and had been treated several times over the past week.3 Both would have about thirty treatments each. A male member of the household picks up Lilopau from home in a minibus. It is a good half an hour's drive over potholed roads to get to the house, which sits in the middle of the village. Lilopau has brought the flowers for the kaukau (healing wash) in her bag. We sit in the outside kitchen in the shade, while Lilopau chats to Paongo's mother, Tulimafua, about different relatives and about building an extension to the back of the house. We then move to the main room of the house. Paongo seems unmoved by talk around her. She is an attractive girl with an understated dignity and quiet purposefulness reflected in her obedience to the instructions that her mother gives her. Tulimafua is very open about the whole series of events. She talks about how most people in the village thought that it was a real pregnancy. They thought if it had been a feitama fakat!volo, Paongo would already have died. Paongo's father's sister died of a similar illness in 1978 at the age of 21. Paongo's illness started about four months ago. At the beginning, they just thought she was getting a little fat from eating so much, but after two months they started looking for treatment. They heard about a man in a village near to Neiafu who treats fakamahaki. He massaged her with oil, gave her a remedy to drink and leaves to put on the skin. After two and a half weeks with him they then went to a healer in a nearby village. He just put leaves on her. They finally went to another male healer who treats different illnesses but especially feke.4 Then they were just about to go to Akosita, when friends told her to go to Lilopau. Paongo had wanted to go to Akosita. Lilopau had treated a girl in the same village seven months previously and it is likely that Paongo had heard of her style of treatment. Lilopau admits that the first time she saw Paongo she thought that she was really pregnant but did not say anything to Tulimafua. But then, after she gave her the test of vai fua (a 3

I do not mention the names of their schools nor of their villages. Both would have been highly significant in local gossip, but would make identification considerably easier. Paongo (14/09/99-29/9/99, 30 times). Lose (1/10/99-18/10/99, 36 times ). 4 Literally octopus: a stomach condition which feels as if you have an octopus in your stomach.


liquid remedy) to drink, and then when Paongo did not vomit, she knew she was not really pregnant. They have not been to the hospital yet. They do not seem bothered by the specifics of the t!volo who affected Paongo. Tulimafua mentions that Paongo dreamt about the boy, but they do not know his name. There were many signs that Paongo was pregnant. Her skin went very white, it is now getting brown again. The veins on her face and body became more prominent. A week after drinking Lilopau's treatment, brown mucus (vai felofelo) started to appear and she started to bleed (kamata ke 'au) but not in big clumps or anything like a period. A white liquid (vai hinehina) started coming from her breasts. Later Lilopau explains how hard her breasts are, but she tells me they were even harder before. Tulimafua explains more. The hair of her eyelashes disappeared and the palms of her hands became really white and thin. She had headaches, sometimes felt dizzy and had wrinkles over her body. She also had problems defecating and urinating. During Lilopau's massage of Paongo's stomach, she stops to indicate how much her stomach has got smaller since she started treating her. Paongo seems totally unperturbed. Then Lilopau does the kaukau at the back of the house. Paongo sits while Lilopau showers her with cup after cup of hot water infusions.

That same afternoon Lilopau goes to treat Lose. While Lilopau waits for Lose to return from school with her mother, she chats amiably with relatives of her husband. Lose finally arrives with her mother and after being told to go and wash she comes back and lies on the floor. In the meantime, Lilopau and I eat the food that we have been offered. Lose lies down and pulls up her shirt. Her stomach is distended by a couple of inches. She explains that her period started in January of this year. She missed periods in February, March, and April and then resumed again in July, August and September, which was her last. She experienced pain during her periods, which she describes as 'í'í. 5 Lilopau gives Lose a long massage with oil that is occasionally painful when Lilopau presses hard on her lower abdomen. After the massage she has to drink a remedy which Lose describes as fifisi (hot or pungent to the taste). The atmosphere is very congenial with much joking and discussion. Lilopau talks during the whole treatment about everyday and family affairs while giving explanations to me about the treatment. Occasionally, neighbours pop in to watch and chat. Lose is cheeky and does not act at all as if her stomach is the result of something extraordinary. They talk openly 5

'í (of the stomach), to feel empty, weak, or painful as the result of hunger, vomiting or a punch.


about Paongo and about Paongo's mother hitting her to find out who the man was. Lilopau confirms that it was not a real pregnancy but a feitama fakat!volo. The liquid coming from her breasts is not milk it is vai felofelo (mucus). She confirms that, as a result of her explanation, the mother does not hit her anymore.

This is merely a snapshot of the whole period of treatment of the two girls that serves to highlight our particular area of interest. I left convinced that Paongo had some kind of 'hysterical/false pregnancy'. However, a further conversation, six weeks later, with someone in Paongo's village revealed that, though many people also had a similar view, opinion was far from being united. I was gently castigated for not telling Tulimafua to go the hospital, as others in the village had done and falling for Lilopau's loi (deception). The person joked that her stomach was getting bigger, not smaller. Tulimafua continued to maintain that it was a feitama fakat!volo. I raised this question with the public health nurses in the hospital. Though all pregnant women are required to go for regular tests at the hospital, they had no record of Paongo. The situation posed a dilemma, for both the nurses and myself. How were we to separate the implied slander of saying it is a real pregnancy, if indeed it was, from the need to give Paongo medical attention? How could I hide the involvement with the nurses that might be interpreted as a break in allegiance with Lilopau? How much weight to put on my castigators' insistence that it was a real pregnancy? Thankfully, no action was required as soon after Tulimafua brought Paongo to the hospital. A pregnancy test was carried out. The test was positive. Some months later, according to rumours, she gave birth in Tongatapu over the holiday period. I hypothesise about the rest of the story. I do not know if she returned with the baby, but in all probability relatives in Tongatapu would have been asked, or they themselves asked, to adopt the baby. The reputation of the famili and Paongo is partially intact. Going to Tongatapu for the holiday period would not have appeared out of the ordinary. Famili members would have known of the pregnancy. Other villagers would perhaps be concerned about the reputation of the village with respect to other villages and might be circumspect in their talking about it. Lacking the concrete evidence and depending on their particular relationship with the famili, some people would agree with the diagnosis. Those spreading contrary gossip would run the risk of 184

being labelled ngutu lau (gossip) and be criticised for kaunoa (meddling, interfering). Maintaining conviviality is more important than the questioning of Paongo's pregnancy. I heard no more of Lose. I assume that either the problem resolved itself or, eventually, assistance was sought at the hospital and she was treated. I am confident though that Lose was not pregnant. Neither Paongo nor Lose were diagnosed as '#vanga. There are, however, stories of girls who are '#vanga and then nine months later give birth to a baby. Some people say a girl fakes an episode so that when she gets discovered later, the pregnancy can be attributed to a t!volo and not to the boyfriend. This assumes that it is not her misconduct only discovery of pregnancy that is the motivation for the faked episode. There are also cases of girls whose pregnancy were only discovered by their families on the day they gave birth. A girl giving birth is confirmation that she was not suffering from feitama fakat!volo after all. Curiously, treatment for feitama fakat!volo does not involve any tulu'i. There is no need to break the vision, smell, taste of the t!volo, because presumably the t!volo has already gone. The implicit or explicit t!volo involvement is, however, suggestive that attributions of '#vanga also have an element of saving face. Here we have two diagnoses of feitama fakat!volo. One, which turns out to be a real pregnancy, the other, because of the symptoms, is unlikely to have been a real pregnancy. I have already talked about the fluidity of the term '#vanga. To what extent was Lilopau's diagnosis and Tulimafua's collusion intentional fakamatamatalelei (to put on a pleasant or friendly look which is not genuine) and obfuscation, the application of a diffuse category onto a situation that begged positive interpretation or based on knowledge of the possibility of a girl exhibiting all the symptoms of pregnancy yet not really being pregnant? Lilopau's statement that the girl was not pregnant was based on not vomiting after ingesting a remedy (vai fua) and the response to her treatment over almost a month. According to Lilopau, the liquid coming out of her breast was not milk but a liquid or mucus. Both Lilopau and Tulimafua had openly acknowledged their initial feeling that it was a real pregnancy. The fact that she had not died in fact supported the contention that she was pregnant, because a famili member had died of feitama fakat!volo before. How then to explain this 185

change in interpretation? Was it simply the fact of how convincing Lilopau was and that, despite being beaten, Paongo had not revealed the name of the guilty party? Does the wish to help on Lilopau's part and the need to protect the reputation of the famili occlude the reality of Paongo's growing stomach? It is difficult to imagine though how during thirty treatments, Lilopau could argue that the stomach had decreased in size. There are, however, recognised biomedical conditions in which many of the symptoms of pregnancy are present without the presence of a foetus. It is, ironically, biomedical information that most supports the possibility of Lilopau's diagnosis. Pseudocyesis or Pseudopregnancy is a disorder that mimics many of the effects of a real pregnancy, such as enlargement of the uterus, cessation of menstruation, morning sickness and even labour pains at term. A physical cause, such as the growth of a tumour or hydatidiform mole in the uterus or emotional cause may be responsible. A hydatidiform mole is the abnormal growth of the outermost vascular membrane that would typically enclose the embryo but in this condition is either absent or dead. The mole is a collection of cysts that resembles clusters of grapes. On rare occasions, such moles can develop into highly malignant tumours, known as choriocarcinomas. Galactorrhea is excessive flow of milk from the breast not associated with childbirth or nursing. In a woman who has never been pregnant the condition is termed the Ahumada-del Castillo, or the Argonz-del Castillo syndrome (Encyclopedia Brittanica 19941998, Whitfield 1995). Any aspersion we may cast on the agency, manifest in a motivation of hiding a shameful event, is embedded in our very own wish to tauhi vaha'a and constitute knowledge. That Paongo seemingly was pregnant in the end is not relevant to the attribution of feitama fakat!volo at the time. Based on the information that Lilopau had it was entirely reasonable for her to argue she was feitama fakat!volo. There is no doubt that the scope of applicability of the term feitama fakat!volo allows it to be used instrumentally in cases where reputation needs to be preserved. To what extent then is this also the case for attributions of '#vanga and puke fakat!volo? This case study reinforces the importance of looking at the process of healing. Narratives always occlude because of the inextricability of speaking and tauhi vaha’a. To what extent can we see some cases of attribution of 186

'#vanga as one way evoking and attenuating relatedness within the household either through putting the blame on t!volo for uncomfortable events or girls faking to preserve their reputations and interests? The following case studies examine this. Case study (7) Maiepuho My association with Lilopau led to being present at the treatment of two young women who are related by marriage to Kakatu. Over Christmas 1998 Kakatu's sister Faasisila had come over specially from Tongatapu to both visit and receive treatment from Lilopau for a stomach condition that had proved unresponsive to treatment at the hospital and by a large number of healers in Tongatapu. She had pain and found it difficult to defecate. Lilopau had diagnosed her condition as '#vanga and had treated her with tulu'i, a stomach and back massage and a remedy to drink. On one occasion, while treating Faasisila, Faasisila's nephew Atalua, was with his wife, Maiepuho, in the room. Lilopau noticed that Maiepuho's face was grimacing slightly when she smelled Faasisila's remedy. T!volo are supposed to dislike the remedy and, by implication, so do the people who are affected by them. Maiepuho's response to the tulu'i during the first treatment confirms this diagnosis. According to Maiepuho she had been ill like this once before, while in Tongatapu, and had also recently suffered a miscarriage (auhia or t$) after getting married in June. The house is a hive of activity to which the process of healing Faasisila and Maiepuho seems almost subsidiary. Kakatu and her mother laugh and joke while all the kids run around playing. Lilopau's husband Ifi sits pensively smoking in the corner. When Lilopau arrives, Maiepuho is sitting quietly looking at a book of photographs. The video showing on the television does not distract Lilopau from her treatment. Maiepuho lies down in the middle of the room facing up. Lilopau has already chewed the remedy and put it into a piece of fabric. Holding the top of Maiepuho's head she squeezes the juice into Maiepuho's eyes, nose and mouth. Maiepuho cries out loud, waves her hands in the air and shouts oiau! (interjective-in this instance expressing pain) and mamahi (pain, suffering), but does not interfere when Lilopau's presses and massages her eyes. Every time Lilopau presses down with her thumbs, Maiepuho writhes in what seems like agony, stretching her arms out vertically in front of her. Only Lilopau touches her.


Her crying is met with amusement by the children. Even when she cries for her husband Atalua, he remains watching impassively by the doorway. When I ask Lilopau later on why Atalua remained by the door, she says that she ordered it that way. She says that no one but her can touch Maiepuho while she is being treated. On later occasions however Atalua sits with her and holds her hand. The tulu'i that went into her mouth induces her to vomit. She sits up and retches into her clothes. It is good that she cries explains Lilopau then to Maiepuho in a quieter voice, 'Sai ange 'a e tangi, fiemalie 'a e 'atamai '(It is good to cry, unburden your mind). While doing the tulu'i, Lilopau repeatedly asks, 'Na'a ke fa'a sio ki ha taha?' (Did you often see someone?). Maiepuho denies having seen anyone but then after Lilopau threatens here with a tulu'i lahi (a big tulu'i) she admits that she saw a tamasi'i hinehina (white boy). After the tulu'i, she is supposed to go into to the shower room to have her kaukau. This part of the treatment involves throwing cups of a hot infusion of fragrant flowers. She is frightened and refuses to go. Atalua has to hold her and keep her there while Lilopau soaks her with the infusion of fragrant flowers. She sits dejectedly in the corner of the shower and cries, 'Atalua, Atalua'. After the shower she emerges in new clothes, and seems almost normal again. Lilopau massages her stomach with oil. She puts her finger into her navel and says she can feel the pulse of a baby, about two months old. It is good that she gets treatment now or the baby will be born ill or die. Lilopau knows now for certain that Maiepuho is te'ia or '#vanga, confirmed by her response to the tulu'i. She explains someone who is not '#vanga or te'ia will not cry and scream like that. They cry because of the 'ofa they have for the t!volo. Maiepuho's third treatment takes place the next day. Everyone is sitting outside when Lilopau arrives. There is a pot, containing all the medicinal leaves, boiling in the outhouse. Maiepuho's seeming improvement the day before is contradicted when her crying is even worse in response to Lilopau's tulu'i. This time Lilopau claims she is very ill, te'ia. This calls for more drastic action. She will have to do a special kaukau faka'uku (a healing wash) at three o'clock the following morning. This is a time when the t!volo are very active. Lilopau talks openly about Maiepuho while she is there. She says there is something wrong with her 'atamai (mind), it is not right. By contrast to the tulu'i, her response to the kaukau faka'uku is passive. She makes a short comment about the water being too hot. Only her and Lilopau are in the closed space of the shower room. After the kaukau faka'uku, Lilopau gives her a strong all over massage which lasts about five minutes. The following evening she does not cry in response to the tulu'i nor to the healing wash. In discussions afterwards and in the familiar territory of


her husband's relative's house, she again denies having seen a t!volo and this time does not change her opinion. Lilopau gets me to stick my finger in her navel. I can feel a pulse, but does this mean she is pregnant? It is stronger than the one I felt when Maiepuho was being treated in Lilopau's house. Lilopau decides her improvement warrants the final treatment of a kaukau tutuku (closing wash) on Saturday. Atalua and Maiepuho give me a lift home. On the way Atalua shows me a picture of his wife before her sickness. He comments how then she was sino (plump) compared to now when she is far too skinny. Maiepuho smiles. In between other casual conversation on the way home, I ask her about her reasons for crying when she was first treated. She does not know. She mentions that she has been sick this way before. When I ask her whether she really saw a t!volo, she avoids answering. The next day, when she is treated again, she does not cry at all. Atalua is much happier and more enthusiastic in conversation. He comments that she now eats more and she is getting bigger. Maiepuho concurs. 'I am eating a lot more of everything now', she says. Maiepuho is very complimentary about Lilopau's healing. The final treatment takes place on a Saturday, eight days after the first treatment. Lilopau has a basket of uhi (Euodia hortensis), pua (Fagraea berteroana) and other flowers that she combines with warm water and mixes around until the sweet smell is almost overpowering. Both women are naked in the bathroom for the kaukau tuku (final healing wash). Using one branch for Maiepuho and two for Faasisila, since they have different conditions, she sweeps them over their heads saying how the sickness has now gone. As the door to the bathroom opens, a powerful waft of flowers passes into the room. After Faasisila and Maiepuho have both returned to the room after showering a gift of a two big jam pies and a plastic bag of clothes are given to Lilopau. Faasisila looks marginally better. Maiepuho is just quiet. Lilopau gives a short formal speech, expressing the desire that Faasisila and Maiepuho will be better now and thanking them for the gifts. Faasisila gives a short reply and then Lilopau recites a long prayer.

One month later, Maiepuho still seems better and is enthusiastic in interaction. She is still complimentary about Lilopau's treatment, and comments that she has been ill twice and on both occasions it was thanks to the treatment that she got better. She denies being pregnant. Six months later it is obvious to all, and common knowledge, that she is pregnant. In November she gives birth. This suggests that she was not pregnant when Lilopau said she was, but allowing nine months gestation she got pregnant after about a month of finishing her treatment. 189

How do we account for Maiepuho's assertion of seeing a t!volo, resembling a white boy, that she later denies? Initially, there was really no means whereby she could have maintained a contradictory stance. This would have been interpreted as being caused by the t!volo and led to more painful treatment. In that situation, Maiepuho either lies or creates a t!volo out of her memories of the last weeks. As t!volo are often indistinguishable from living people, she thinks, may be that white boy whom she saw from the van was a t!volo. And then, through revealing that bit of information, that white boy whom she saw or may be did not see becomes a t!volo. In what sense was Maiepuho actually ill? For her husband, it was her failure to eat and put on weight that was of key concern. Eating, however, is fundamentally about social interaction, not to want to eat also reflect a wish not to interact. It is extremely rare for people either to eat alone or to refuse food. Most healers would attribute the wish not to eat to be the result of being fed by a t!volo. All important social events are marked with feasts and the pleasures of eating together. Her second denial is surprising in view of the fact that Lilopau's presence reinforces a particular, established discourse and leads only to certain interpretations within the healing setting. For example, her miscarriage is never mentioned as a possible reason for her lack of desire to interact. One would expect younger girls to acquiesce to Lilopau's interpretation. It seems Maiepuho is not content with the one interpretation she is offered to explain her vague symptoms and sense of unhappiness and the implicit denial of other possibilities. She does not, however, voice any other possible explanation for her current situation, either because she does not consider them or because they may be inappropriate in this setting. However, the fact of her critiquing the t!volo interpretation is a sign of her improvement. Maiepuho's reluctance or inability to conclusively admit to me that she had not seen a t!volo must be partly related to my ambivalent situation. Lilopau had introduced me to her extended family and so it made political sense not to contradict her opinion. Since I knew both Maiepuho and her husband quite well, she may have been reluctant to lie to me. Or she simply may not know. No doubt, the strong emphasis on t!volo explanations among her husband's maternal aunts had some kind of influence on her. 190

The following case is of a girl whom I had met on a few occasions and to whose wedding I was invited by a mutual friend. Ironically, my lack of involvement in the healing process of the case of Sisipipine, and the fact that I had little connection with any of her relatives led to a more conclusive definition of her being treated for interaction with a t!volo, despite not having seen one. Case study (8) Sisipipine Sisipipine is the eldest daughter of a local businessman. After spending a couple of years studying abroad, she returned to Vava'u to spend some time with her family. Many young men were interested in her but also intimidated by her status and the fact that she had studied abroad. One boy of a humble background, Lapukai, was persistent and visited her regularly at the family shop. They fell in love. Her parents had hoped she would return to finish her studies. Knowing that her parents would not approve of the marriage, they approached a popular Wesleyan minister who is well known for marrying couples who run away together. He had just transferred from his previous post in Sisipipine's village to the village where Lapukai lives. Heartened by their wish to marry and do the right thing within the church and not run away together, as many young couples do, he tried to convince Sisipipine's mother and father that this was the right thing to do. They listened, but their disappointment was evident by their absence at the wedding. During a sermon in which he railed against pau'u (naughtiness) and fakalielia (indecency), he praised their choice to marry and sanctify their love within the church. Eventually, people commented, Sisipipine's parents would come around to this way of thinking. After the wedding service in Lapukai's village, people waited for a long time for some of the pola (tables of food) from the bride's village to arrive. There were a variety of clever, pointed, impassioned and comic speeches. Lapukai's household's lowliness (ma'ulalo) was brought up in an emotional speech by his aunt, who spoke about his goodness, but also her wish that somehow Sisipipine's family would help augment their humble position. Others made admiring reference to their 191

marriage taking place in December 1999 before the new Millennium. Possibly the funniest speech was given by a lady from Lapukai's village who encouraged some of the unmarried men to pursue some of the still unmarried women in the village. The marriage was much discussed in Vava'u. Some people felt she had let her parents down, others wondered how Lapukai had managed to get her to marry him. But many younger people regarded her higher status as unimportant in relation to their love for each other and their wish to be together. Some one and a half months later, I meet her by chance in the market. She is curious to know how I came to be at her wedding and what I am doing in Vava'u. I had been invited by a mutual friend. Our conversation then moved, by chance, to puke fakat!volo (t!volo caused illness. Synonymous with 'avanga). She recounts how, just after the wedding, her new household thought she was puke fakat!volo, even though she did not see anything. She wanted to stay in her room and not be with people. She preferred to sleep in the afternoon, which people said was a sure sign that she was ill or about to be ill. After being taken to a healer in her village they finally took her to Lilopau. Treatment was painful, but she felt better afterwards. She was only treated once with tulu'i, massage and the healing wash with the sweet smelling flowers. Lilopau told her that if she had not gone to her she would have got much worse. She asks me if I think it was a good thing for her to marry. I do not know why she is asking. But suspecting that either she is a little disappointed or has taken to heart the many criticisms of her marriage I naively respond that their respective statuses is not as important as their love for each other and the enjoyment they have from being together. Sisipipine had not seen a t!volo. I do not know to what extent everyone agreed she was '#vanga or puke fakat!volo. Having lived and studied abroad, she was probably more used to being alone. She was not bitter about being wrongfully treated for the treatment had been of some benefit. It had shaken her out her inclination not to relate and interact. Sisipipine's story is not unusual. I heard of many similar cases. One was of a very independent Tongan girl who was working for Peace Corps on one of the remote islands in Vava'u. Her wish to stay in the house and not mix with the local girls was interpreted as '#vanga. Her treatment was only prevented by a non-Tongan colleague who 192

explained her behaviour was typical of her. Another case was of a young American woman working for Peace Corps in the remote Niuatoputapu. She found herself laughing uncontrollably about a peculiar situation she was in and realised that if she did not stop acting like this people were going to treat her for puke fakat!volo. In both cases however, there was diversity of opinion with some people seeing the behaviour as characteristic to the person and others as the result of t!volo interference. It is difficult to argue that either Maiepuho or Sisipipine faked an episode. Neither of them claimed to have seen a t!volo. They also had little say in the diagnosis. They are both married, Sisipipine only recently so. There seems little motivation for hiding anything from their perspective. If anything, their agency implicit in personhood had been denied by the claim that it was now partly influenced by t!volo. Maiepuho's agency is manifest however, in her quiet protests that she had not seen a t!volo: made with the greatest vigour when she was well on the road to recovery. There seems something qualitatively different about the context of married women's '#vanga that seems very different from the '#vanga of younger, unmarried girls, who are often taken as exemplars of faking. Marriage and the denial of relatedness Recently married women seem over-represented in cases of '#vanga. Of the three case studies Jilek (1988) presents, two of the women got '#vanga shortly after getting married. One friend, the son of a healer, maintained that most of the women who marry into his village get '#vanga or puke fakat!volo when they first move to the village. This is also reflected in many villagers' perceptions that their t!volo are not friendly to outsiders, as outsiders, particularly recently married women seem to get ill when they first come to live with their new household. Stories from other islands seem to confirm this view. It is also significant that Christmas is the most popular time for marriage. This is the time of 'ave kaarti when men with the support of their k#inga bring cards and/or presents to show their serious interest in certain girls. Girls are supposed to reciprocate with valuables of mats or tapa cloth. Is it, however, only the fact of marriage or just being in a new social 193

environment that is key? The two cases in Helu's (1985,1999) paper are of unmarried girls, away from their households. Leisi, Iloilo, Kami, Longo, Maiepuho, Sisipipine all found themselves in new social environments, but only Maiepuho and Sisipipine had recently married. Is marriage itself not as important as the possible attendant experiences? Are recently married women more likely than other women to be ta'elata (ill at ease, homesick) as Kami described herself to be, and in a situation where their new household might not know their particular personality quirks? Sisipipine, for example, having lived and studied overseas would have got used to and maybe enjoyed spending time by herself, behaviour that her new household might not be familiar with. In Niuatoputapu, people comment that teachers or government workers from other islands, who may be married or unmarried, are more likely to get ill than local girls. I also heard of older women getting ill on returning to Vava'u from overseas. There is a particularly dramatic story of two married women getting puke fakat!volo while with their teacher husbands in Niuafo'ou. This is an edited account of the several versions of the story that I heard from several Peace Corps volunteers who had worked on the island. Niuafo'ou is the most remote inhabited volcanic island of the Tongan archipelago. They had been in Niuafo'ou for several months before the episode occurred. One night, the husband of one of the women woke up to find his wife trying to climb the wall of the bedroom. He called the Deputy principal who helped to hold her down. A healer came and treated her and her story was revealed. On arrival, Auka had met a couple of men at the airport. When her husband was away they would come around to visit and chat and keep her company. She was very homesick. One of the men was older and called Fehi while the other had wire around his head. For months she would chat with these men. She had very little contact with other people and did not participate in the more traditional women's activities. She is Mormon and there are only three Mormon families on the island, with whom she had little contact, except on Sundays. On the night of her episode, the younger man tried to touch her hand while she was in bed with her husband. Only on treatment did she realise that the two individuals were t!volo. The woman healer identified the two t!volo, one of which was a previous member of her household. Fehi had died the year before. The man with the wire on his head had died in a car accident some twenty years before. People commented on how there was no way she could have


known about these two individuals. Even after the treatment, people described her as having no emotion and glazed over eyes. For days after she was still looking as if she was puke fakat!volo. The next day, the other married woman had a similar episode precipitated by the same two t!volo. People suspected, however, that she faked an episode when she realised that she would be sent back to Tongatapu like Auka. Paiakatau, was six months pregnant and neither she nor her husband had wanted her to be in Niuafo'ou. Both women have now gone back to stay in Tongatapu.

Only one dramatic event precipitated treatment and a realisation that she was not happy in Niuafo'ou. The authenticity of the first woman's case is affirmed because of her knowledge of people she could not possibly have known about. However the context of the second woman's episode suggested to many that it was not authentic. She had wanted to go home and took the opportunity of Auka's episode to fake her own, perhaps knowing of the idea of t!volo travelling from place to place. The importance of the act of recognition '"vanga and puke fakat!volo are interpretative terms used for a variety of behaviour that reflect a break with the acts that constitute personhood. These have serious ramifications because of the value people place on satisfying interaction. A break in interaction is effectively a denial of relatedness. Evidently, some girls are treated on the basis of their behaviour even when they claim they have not seen t!volo. '"vanga is not self evident, it requires the active diagnosis by someone whose opinion is respected. Leisi, in chapter two, talked about her laziness and not wishing to relate to others. However, she was like this for weeks before it was recognised by a relative. In Maiepuho's case, it was likely that she had been like this for time before Lilopau recognised her condition. Her husband commented on her not eating which was also reflective of her lack on enthusiasm in socialising. Sisipipine wanted simply to be by herself. Relatedness can seemingly 'officially' only be denied because of the interference of a t!volo. Maiepuho's and Sisipipine treatments were successful in the sense they returned them both to personhood 195

constituted in tauhi vaha'a.6 Whether they believed that the t!volo was the reason for their discomfort or not is not clear; however, both Maiepuho and Sisipipine acknowledged it had done them good. The reality of the t!volo did not seem to be as important to them as the fact of re-establishing and attenuating their relatedness to others. Why is it then that young girls are attributed with a greater susceptibility to suffer this experience denies relatedness? And why are they most likely to do so over Christmas? The possibility of faking and seeming false attribution needs to be addressed in our answer as does the fact that '#vanga is behaviour that needs to be recognised. To what extent is the annual epidemic the result of a greater concurrent likelihood of occurrence and recognition at Christmas? Girls and young women are more likely to experience a change in social environment and manifest it in the symptoms that are recognised as '#vanga. The contrast between the more restricted lives of girls compared to boys and young men hints at why some might experience a change in social environment, at particular times in their lives, and manifest it in '#vanga. Also, since girls and young women spend more time at home and in the company of both healers and friends of healers, who are mostly women, such behaviour is more likely to be recognised. The Christmas holidays is a time of high visibility, when people are most exposed to each other and likely to be in a new place and where the behaviour of '#vanga is most likely to be recognised. It is also a time when girls may experience the greatest freedom in making new relationships and meeting new people. This also the time when they are most likely to need to fake episodes for some ulterior motive, and most likely to be in a place where personality quirks, familiar to their own intimate household be interpreted as t!volo caused by more distant household. The question whether the higher incidence over Christmas is real or just perceived because of the higher visibility and likelihood of recognition can be further examine by focussing on the contrast between the description of past events and those in the present.


In chapter seven I examine in more detail how healers judge the efficacy of their treatment.


Comparing current events to past events There is a dramatic contrast between the definitive, often dramatic, narratives of '#vanga in the past, and the often ambiguous, undefinitive and contentious description of '#vanga in the ethnographic present. Is there a process whereby ambiguous events of t!volo involvement, such as Maiepuho's and Sisipipine's, become definitive over a period of time or in the process of gossip? Or is it that just current episodes of '#vanga are just more ambiguous than before? How was Leisi's episode reported at the time? Is it that that there is always a spectrum of confidence among different cases, and Sisipipine's and Maiepuho's cases are atypical in some way? Sociality in Tonga requires that, when you are of a certain status, you are confident in the narratives you make, narratives that establish the reality of '#vanga and puke fakat!volo. The ambiguities of real current events are experienced, but not typically expressed in a context in which they might be construed as criticism or lack of respect because of the inextricability of speaking and tauhi vaha’a; because either those, who are most qualified to speak of them, cannot speak, rarely speak, do not want to speak or feel that they should not speak or will not be listened to. These questions should inform our ethnographic questions, for not only is reality perceived but we also have to hear about it. The three ethnographic questions can be answered on the basis that they are real, or on the basis that they are spoken about to be real. One needs also to consider that asking such general questions forces interpretation into the realm of wider debates and not the very particular and local concerns that people tend to deal with and speak about. This can be illustrated by two conversations from two people from the same village about '#vanga and puke fakat!volo in their natal village. Pau was brought up in a village near to Neiafu but now lives in Nuku'alofa where she works as a teacher. I once asked her, jokingly, in Nuku'alofa if she had ever been puke fakat!volo. She replied she had not but, by coincidence, she had heard of a 19-year-old female friend who had been, though she was better now. She was not particularly interested in the whole episode in contrast with the other girls because of previous experiences. She feels that her friend might have been putting in on. She knows about four girls who have been puke fakat!volo. When still living in Vava'u, a female relative had come to live with them


from Ha'apai and had become puke fakat!volo. Pau had been responsible for running around getting the healer and medicines and thus was not that happy about her relative being ill. Also she did not really believe her relative, partly because she hadn't believed the things she said when she was well. She felt that she was attention seeking. Her relative was, however, very happy when sick and on one occasion ran into the ocean singing and went deeper and deeper as the men tried to get her back. She would also often talk to herself in her room. She was happy living with them. Pau was surprised that her relative was able to sense the arrival of the healer before anyone else could. Now she is a nurse and is back in Ha'apai. Seven months later, in Vava'u, we had another conversation. This time she argues that not many people in her village believe in puke fakat!volo, they will laugh if you use that as an explanation. She agrees that there are more educated people living in her village, and if there are two living in a house then that is enough for the house not to believe in puke fakat!volo. When I bring up the name of the healer who heals in her village, she remarks she is from a village i 'uta (in the bush) where lots of people still believe in puke fakat!volo. In her village, by contrast, there are a lot of government workers. I ask what happens if someone appears to be puke fakat!volo here? She replies, then people won't interpret it as puke fakat!volo.

Evidently she is making a claim for not being from the bush, evoking and attenuating her relatedness to those more educated urbanites as well as reflecting her personal experience of a rather ambiguous event in her household. It also, perhaps, reflects a lack of allegiance to her relative who was ill. Her explanation contrasts with that of a fellow villager, Lauola, who is a government worker for one of the ministries and lives as a permanent resident in the same village. In a long conversation that begins with a discussion about how many doctors look down on healers because they are not educated, he confirms that there are cases of puke fakat!volo in his village, which are interpreted as such and that they are mostly girls. He, himself, witnessed a case of puke fakat!volo while drinking kava in a neighbouring village. He once tried 'ui'ui t!volo (ouija board) with his future wife and younger sister before they were going to get married and asked the t!volo if they agreed with it. His deceased great-grandfather turned up and told him to go ahead but also to go to church and sing more often and not be drunk so often. He affirms the importance of tui (faith, belief); his auntie is ill with cancer and she is now seeing the fifth healer.


Both are from the same small village and yet have very different interpretations about t!volo. Their statements reveal different experiences and wish to tauhi vaha’a. Pau's statement is a claim for reality but also a social statement that evokes the relatedness to people she wishes to attenuate. They highlight the need to bring out not only the distinction between seeing '#vanga as a real and perceived phenomena that needs to be communicated, but also the social ramifications of claiming to perceive it in a certain way. This is particularly salient in questions of the perceived decrease, illustrated by the most common explanation 'Kuo maama a Tonga' (Tonga is now enlightened), connecting the decrease with an increased religiosity. How then do we contextualise statements of a perceived decrease in '#vanga? Evidently, that t!volo cause less illness is a sign to some people that Tonga is more enlightened. This must certainly affect some people's faith in blaming t!volo for sickness, which will also influence girls' faith that faking such an episode will achieve its desired result. As the most dramatic episodes are also, potentially, the ones most likely to be faked, and if these kind of episodes are the ones that most influence people's idea of a decrease, then it is not surprising that less faking leads to a perceived decrease. Girls' lives have changed unevenly over Tonga. Those villages, more remote and traditional than the more urban centres, still seem to have proportionally higher incidence of '#vanga cases. Girls in Neiafu have more freedom than in other villages, and so many may have less need to fake. There is also less shame than before in those acts that girls might need to cover up through faking. People observe that women are also getting married later, wanting to enjoy the freedom of 'eva for a longer period before they get married. When they do get married at a later age, it is possibly at an age, when a change in social environment will be experienced as less traumatic. There are few healers that are rigidly personalistic in explanation as Lilopau. Many are using more naturalistic ideas in their interpretations. If there are fewer healers recognising the condition, and treating it in a way that often elicits its prototypical dramatic symptoms, as well as fewer healers talking about such events, it is inevitable also that the incidence will be perceived to decline. Maiepuho's and Sisipipine's sickness can be still regarded as behaviour supporting the annual epidemic of t!volo caused conditions. One could however imagine 199

situations, perhaps in Nuku'alofa, in which they might have gone untreated and unrecognised. Conclusion We have established that there is an increased susceptibility for '#vanga and puke fakat!volo associated with marriage and the Christmas period, reflective of a break with the behaviour that constitutes personhood born of being in a new social place. It is, however, not a causal relationship. Few healers, I imagine, would question an occasional association between ta'elata (to feel ill at ease) and '#vanga but would insist on there being an agent that precipitates the episode. The agent is either a t!volo for a genuine episode or the girl for a faked episode. Susceptibility is not a complete explanation because not all girls who get married become ill nor are all girls affected over the Christmas period. I have also proposed several processes that might explain a perceived decrease in '#vanga over the past years. The above discussion suggests the need for a phenomenological treatment that focuses on the particularities of young women's experience in contrast to young men's as well as the changing experiences of young women over the past decades.7 While the justification for such a phenomenological approach is powerful (see Jackson 1996), the problematic questions as to what constitutes reliable empirical data in a Tongan context and how to model it remain. The contingencies of communicating experience are too bound up in the play of tauhi vaha'a for us to access them or to have any confidence in them. One can examine the nature of the context in which '#vanga arises, but not point to causes. They are beyond any sense of objective knowledge, they lie in experiences, whether of t!volo or not, and cannot 7

Several recent medical ethnographies (Csordas 1994a, Devisch 1993 and Desjarlais 1992) have attempted phenomenologically based descriptions of the experience of illness and the process of healing. These seek in part to address the lack of ‘detailed, ethnographic accounts of illness experience and theoretical vocabulary for the study of illness as human experience’ (Good 1994:117) but also serve to unify current theorising into the self, the body, emotions, experience and agency.


be severed from the ambiguities and acts of tauhi vaha'a inherent in representing or claiming to represent them. There can be no satisfactory answer apart from the need to deal with problematic experiences, or a denial of relatedness that bias their interpretation. In this chapter, by focussing on faking and false attribution, I may have given the impression that there is no genuine experience of t!volo. I did so because it reveals another interesting aspect and possible answer to the questions I initially posed, questions incidentally that are not a pressing issue for most people in Vava'u. There is, however, a wealth of narratives that are extremely convincing of t!volo interaction. To argue in public that a girl is faking, or that '#vanga is falsely attributed, is patently not to tauhi vaha'a with the healer or the girl. It is, at the same time, a statement of analysis but also of membership and association. What becomes more interesting than the existence of t!volo is how particular people demonstrate the efficacy of their personhood (that in Vava'u might be regarded as their ivi or power) to use ideas of t!volo to understand and affect their social world.



Help, healers and the hospital There was a girl who turned twenty-one. Her brother and household members were trying to kill pigs for her birthday feast. One boy threw a spear through a pig. When the pig tried to run away the protruding spear caught the brother. He died. He is buried in the cemetery on the way to the airport. A lot of girls at Vava'u high school, often the most attractive, get puke fakat!volo because of him. In the 1980's my mother's best friend's daughter got puke fakat!volo. Her famili went to his grave, dug a hole and then poured a remedy and boiled leaves into it. This is supposed to be very painful to the t!volo and persuade him to stay where he is. When this did not work, they took the skeleton out of the grave and dried it in the sun. The famili of the t!volo took the people who exhumed the body to court. They apparently did not have permission. The famili argued that they had treated him like an animal.

The story of this dramatic and tragic death of the young man was told to me by a close friend. Her friend had been affected by the t!volo in question. The widely known circumstances of his death no doubt made him a likely candidate for the many girls who get puke fakat!volo (t!volo caused sickness) at Vava'u High School. The story also demonstrates the powerful need to attribute and deal with illness in the way in which one household risked condemnation by the extended family of the t!volo in order to deal with sickness within their own family. That the drastic intervention in the above case is rare is evident in its attraction as an oft-repeated story; I heard many exaggerated variants. Most treatment at the grave is less political and less implicitly critical; either because it is carried out by members of the same household or k"inga in the case of wandering t!volo or because, in some cases of sickness it follows from a powerful, though variably evoked, sense of continuing intrinsic connection between living and dead relatives that is suggested by a Vava'uan notion of personhood. 202

In the early stages of many cases of illnesses, members of the household may go the grave of a particular suspected t!volo and ask them quietly to stop bothering the ill person. They may also sense that the discomfort of a relative in the grave may be causing illness in a living relative. The failure of biomedical and Tongan treatment for vague pains and other intractable conditions will, on occasion, lead to the exhumation and inspection of a relative's skeleton. Most people are buried on sand in open vaults into which roots from surrounding trees and plants can grow. Roots that wrap around bones of a skeleton can cause pain in the same anatomical place in living relatives. One of the most powerful treatments is known as ta'aki akafia (lit. pulling roots) which is the process of removing such roots.1 Other disturbances, such as an accumulation of water or dampness in one part of the grave or a bit of wood leaning on bone, may all be the cause of illness in living relatives. Such is the general confidence in exhumation that it is regarded as one of the most powerful treatments and may be resorted to by people of all social standing and degrees of education. Even some nurses, typically critical of the practice of traditional healers, will embrace this treatment. This assumption of relationship manifest in an enduring psychophysical connection between relatives is powerfully convincing and much less controversial than treatment for '"vanga or puke fakat!volo, where there is the ever present possibility of faking. It also follows from a sense that illness can be passed down ancestral lines or parts of the body can maintain a link to living relatives or their descendants. In many cases of death by 'ate popula (hepatitis), doctors were and are asked to remove and destroy the liver before burial. Similarly, the placenta of new born babies is often buried in a special place and when the baby is ill someone is sent to stamp on the ground to keep it firm.2 Many narratives of ta'aki akafia mention long, unsuccessful biomedical treatment. Bloomfield (1986:37) recounts the story of a middle aged woman who was suffering from bad headaches in New 1 2

See Collocott 1923:137 for a general account.

Afterbirth is buried in a hole which was specially dug and warmed with fire. This is usually done where people frequently walk so the earth is kept firm, thus preventing the baby having hiccoughs or general discomfort. When this condition occurs, someone is sent to stamp where the placenta is buried to keep the earth over it firm (Bloomfield 1986:101).


Zealand. Medical specialists and a large number of healers she visited, on returning to Tonga, could not help her. Finally, she went to a card playing healer3 who suggested they exhume the skeleton of her dead father. They opened the grave, cleaned the skull and whole skeleton of tree roots and then oiled and rewrapped it in ngatu (bark fibre cloth). She said she could almost feel the pain removed bit by bit from her head at the time that the roots were being cleared from her father's skull. She has been free of headaches ever since. Confidence in exhumation will not be dented, even if the person eventually dies. In one case of an older man, the fact that he had experienced some alleviation of symptoms of pleurisy was enough evidence to confirm the efficacy of treatment, even though he died a year later. Exhumation had revealed an accumulation of water under the ribcage of his father's skeleton which was then drained. On occasion, exhumation may be unsuccessful for one person but be unintentionally successful for someone else in the extended family. In one case of a woman with bad headaches, roots were found near the skull and femur of the skeleton. A cousin of the woman had pains in her leg. The headaches of the woman remained but the cousin's leg pain disappeared. Lilopau once exhumed the skeleton of her father for pains in her knees which the doctors had diagnosed to be the result of arthritis and which had prevented her from walking comfortably. Her claims of miraculous recovery, as a result of removing a piece of wood from the bone of her dead father's knee, was much commented upon. But within two weeks she was evidently experiencing the same pains as before. The person, whose skeleton is examined, may be regarded as an unwilling agent of illness. It is the only way by which their discomfort can be made known; a manifestation more of 'ofa than any sense of anger. Exhumation is typically carried out last for a host of conditions that already have been defined and often treated biomedically because people try and exhaust all other, easier avenues of help before they turn to the time consuming and labour intensive act of exhumation. Typically, it should be carried out at night or early morning and it requires male assistance to lift the cap stone of the grave. 3

A healer who uses playing cards to diagnose illness (cartomancy).


Introduction On the basis of surveys and interviews, Bloomfield (1986) contrasted the preference for modern medicine in terms of its quickness, the superiority of doctors' knowledge and the cleanliness of hospital facilities with the greater approachability and speed of assistance of traditional healers. She also commented on the perception that there are Tongan and palangi (Euro-American) illnesses which could only be cured by their respective practitioners. Among illnesses that modern medicine is supposedly unable to treat she includes 'paralysis of the right side of the face, diarrhoea, Tongan fever, teething, boils, breast abscesses and aching limbs without inflammation' (Bloomfield 1986:159). This chapter examines the degree to which these, seeming objective, preferences and a perceived split between Tongan and palangi (Euro-American) illnesses (Parsons 1985) can explain peoples' actual practice of seeking healing. This chapter focuses on three case studies of sickness that are manifest, in contrast to episodes of '!vanga, in concrete bodily symptoms. The three individuals were diagnosed in biomedical terms and in terms of t"volo involvement. The longest case led to treatment at the grave. They demonstrate how the practice of seeking healing confuses the above distinctions and questions the value of using such distinctions to predict people's resort to treatment. The powerful assumption of relationship among living relatives and an enduring one between living and dead relatives is reflected in both the ability of deceased relatives to cause illness in living members and also in the ease and confidence with which living relatives can ask for help from each other. One of the greatest markers of the value of tauhi vaha'a is the way relatives and friends are able to kole each other. Kole means to make a request, to ask or beg for. As an act it manifests and constitutes relationships of precedence and equality (see chapter two). From an early age, children realise that they are able to kole from their tu'a (lower) relatives and that their 'eiki (higher) relatives will kole from them. There is rarely a sense of imposition, unless the kole is particularly large or people feel that an individual is abusing a particular privilege. The process of kole both draws on the idea of privileged 205

relationships but also constitutes them. I recall one incidence that, for me, was particularly memorable. A friend and I had just finished drinking kava in the famous kalapu in Leimatu'a. It was three o'clock in the morning and we had no way of getting back to Neiafu. The whole village was quiet except for the odd man stumbling back home. My friend had a good friend who had a car, so despite my protestations we went around to his house and tried to wake him up. After several insistent calls of his name outside his house we learned that he was sleeping elsewhere. At this other house, my friend finally managed to rouse him. He seemed not in the slightest way put out, was happy to see his friend and chatted contentedly on the way to Neiafu. They dropped me home. Later I learned they had taken the opportunity to go and drink kava elsewhere.

Healers often take people's kole tokoni (requests for help) to extraordinary lengths, whether or not they can identify a family link to the person they are treating. The process of requesting help and healers' answering these requests are vital to understanding why people go to either the hospital or healers for treatment. I take this process to be more fundamental than what might be regarded as a cultural need to attribute illness to an agent. It is also vital to contextualising notions and attributions of efficacy. My style of presentation focuses on process, changing interpretations and attributions of efficacy. These are aspects of Tongan medical ethnography sorely lacking in the literature and that will be drawn on in the following chapter. The structure of this chapter is influenced by the salience of fanongo talanoa (hearing talk) that is often mentioned by patients to explain their choice of healers or doctors. It would frustrate the only private western doctor on the island that patients, who had been with him for years, would come to him for the reason of fanongo talanoa (hearing talk) and not some intrinsic confidence or faith in his ability. By presenting the case studies in a processual way, I wish to communicate that people hear news at various points and from various people during the treatment. Though this often informs their decisions to seek assistance from a particular healer or doctor, it also illustrates the degree to which attributions of efficacy, as acts of speaking also reflect people's wish to tauhi vaha'a. This issue I examine in the following chapter.


Case study (9) January is often a busy month for healers. Other than the t!volo who are supposedly more active this time of year, there are many people coming back for the holidays and visiting relatives who take the opportunity to see healers in the places they are visiting. January 1999 was particularly busy for Lilopau. Within three days Lilopau started treating three patients that took up much of her time for the following four weeks. 4 All received treatment at hospital, either before or after Lilopau's treatment. Lilopau ascertained t!volo involvement in all three illnesses. The initial biomedical diagnosis, Lilopau's diagnosis and my tentative prognosis were confounded by a totally unexpected and unfortunate outcome in one case.5 Toutouofa (a young married woman with a swollen face) While on other business Lilopau came across Toutouofa. They had met before, Lilopau has a brother who lives in Toutouofa's natal village on the main island of Tongatapu. Lilopau noticed that Toutouofa was not as communicative as usual. She tried to conceal the swollen and crooked right side of her face that was causing her much embarrassment, and which Lilopau described as hipa 'a e mata (lit. face was crooked). Lilopau felt that it was her fatongia (duty) to treat her and asked her to come to her house for treatment. Many people comment on Toutouofa's anga lelei (good character, well behaved, kind) which is perhaps most manifest in her 'ofa ('love') for her two young children and husband. Toutouofa lies on the floor with Lilopau sitting cross legged at her head. Lilopau holds her head in her left hand; her other hand holding the piece of 4

Toutouofa (10/1/1999-26/01/1999), (12/01/1999-08/02/1999). 5




There is, however, artifice in their amalgamation. They have been separated from the flux of patients that Lilopau saw at this time, as well at the flux of social life they participated in. I had privileged access, but only through my association with Lilopau. For the most part I only saw them when Lilopau did.


fabric that contains the crushed leaves already dipped into water. Lilopau squeezes the bundle and tulu'i Toutouofa's eyes, nose and mouth. The bright green liquid seeps out of her blocked nose. The swollen right side of her face is made all the more visible when Lilopau cups it with her strong hands to start the twenty minute massage. For the rest of the treatment Toutouofa's repeated moans of 'oue and 'oiau! accompany Lilopau's light and strong massage of her face.6 When she presses on the side of the nose, Toutouofa is more visibly in pain, the frequency and volume of her moans rise and she stretches out her arms and legs. Then Lilopau cups her hand behind the ears and pulls up. Toutouofa lifts her arms up in pain and stretches her fingers out. Her hands move towards her neck as if to nurse her neck. She starts to cry and shouts 'ouau!.' When Lilopau starts to massage elsewhere she breathes out a sigh of ''oue' in relief. The massage finished, Toutouofa goes out into the garden and sits on a plastic sheet while Lilopau goes to fetch some cold water which she adds to the mo'ota leaves which have been stewing in hot water. She laughs when Lilopau first showers her with the mixture and then tries to keep her face facing Lilopau as she continues to be showered. When a large number of the leaves have stuck to her skin, and the water has almost run out Lilopau starts to massage her face with the leaves for several minutes. She then pours the remainder of the mixture over her head and then leaves Toutouofa to change into new clothes.

Pouanga (an elderly man who had recently suffered a stroke). By coincidence Lilopau was asked to treat an elderly man in a nearby village on the same day. Pouanga and Toutouofa were often treated after each other. Occasionally Toutouofa was treated at Pouanga's house, or Lilopau was ferried down the road to treat her in the comfort of her own house. Pouanga is well known in his village. His industriousness and tireless work, providing for his household, is perhaps most manifest in the large well kept house where he lives with his daughter. Even in his seventies he worked in the bush. He was a sprightly fit seventy-six until he suffered what the doctors diagnosed was a pakalava (stroke) in September or October 1998 which left him blind and confused. The nurses remembered his four weeks in the hospital. They commented 6

'Oue, 'oiau!-interjective expressing surprise, astonishment, pity, regret, disappointment, or annoyance (in this case pain). (Churchward 1959:564).


that despite his slurred speech and mental confusion he rarely got irate. He was sent home after the doctors realised that they could do nothing more for him. His ever patient, good humoured and unmarried daughter, Panuve, looked after him, dealing with his confusion and bedwetting with humour and love. Pouanga's eldest sister is a wily old lady who had been treated by Lilopau many times. She has real confidence in her power and little in the hospital. As Panuve's mehekitanga (father's sister), and the person of highest status for Pouanga and Panuve, she suggested that Lilopau treat Pouanga. Lilopau is also very friendly with her daughter Lotulelei. They are neighbours, used to belong to the same church and occasionally weave together. On the first day of treatment, Panuve describes Pouanga's inability to recognise people and how, if she is not constantly close at hand he will shout out her name at regular intervals. Sometimes, she responds to him, sometimes not. He spends most his time lying on the bed in the corner of the house. His wife died about ten years ago. In 1990 he had his first puke fakamahaki (t!volo caused sickness) and then the second in 1997. He was treated by another healer about two months ago. Lilopau stands closer to him to study his behaviour. They talk about his good physical shape and how strong he is. She questions the biomedical diagnosis of pakalava (stroke), 'Why isn't he paralysed down one side of his body like other people with strokes?' Panuve says that occasionally he gets up and talks as if he is going to the bush to work. Panuve and a friend creep up on Pouanga and hold him down while Lilopau does the tulu'i for the first time. His violent protests, insults of 'tenga mimi' (swearword. Lit. bladder) and accusation of how fakam" (shameful) their treatment of him are, meet with laughter. Lilopau strongly massages his eyes. When he tries to sit up Lilopau massages the top and sides of his head. They comment on his great energy. Once the treatment is over, he cries and continues to swear. He sits on the edge of the bed, blowing his nose and spitting all over the place, sometimes hitting people, sometimes not. Smiling, Vina and some of Pouanga's granddaughters clear it up. Vina tells him to be quiet otherwise the police will come and take him away for causing a disturbance. When Pouanga talks more about the treatment being faka'ofa (sad, pitiable), she tells him that he is faka'ofa and that they want him to get better. Lilopau describes the mucus that comes out of his nose, as vai kafo (lit. liquid from a wound). She explains how the tulu'i goes around the inside of the head and can change mental illness (lava o liliu 'atamai vaivai). Lotulelei, Pouanga's sister's daughter, suggests that we come tomorrow


morning and afternoon and agrees that he is suffering mentally, using a less loaded term ('Uesia hono 'atamai). Lilopau says she will treat it for a week or two and see if the illness improves. They also talk about how Toutouofa's face is already getting better and discuss some of the other cases that Lilopau has recently successfully treated.

Lalao (a middle aged man experiencing pain in the lower abdomen) Lalao is a fifty four year old man from the same church as Lilopau. Their teenage sons are good friends. In the second week of December, Lalao started experiencing pain in his lower abdomen near to his groin. The health officer he went to see at the hospital sent him home with a prescription and told him to come back after a week or so. 7 Despite taking the pills, he has not been able to walk properly for about four weeks. His mother requested Lilopau's help. Lilopau and her husband suspect Lalao's deceased wife is responsible. She passed away some three years ago of 'ate popula (lit swollen liver-hepatitis) and is occasionally seen by people in the village. She and another woman are claimed to be responsible for the hitchhiking t!volo episodes, often recounted by taxi drivers. Some nurses in the hospital, however, suspect that he has hepatitis like his deceased wife. Lalao lies on a mat with Lilopau sitting at his head. His mother and three related children sit watching. Lalao grimaces and seems to choke when Lilopau tulu'i him. Lilopau calmly retorts, 'folo' (swallow) in the curt way that parents address their children when they want them to do something. Then, when Lilopau starts to press on his eyeballs, 'Oiau!, mamahi, Lilopau, te u fulutamaki'ia '(Oh, what pain, Lilopau, I'm going to suffocate) he moans. 'Sai p! ia' (It's ok), Lilopau replies. 'Oue, Lilopau, te u mate' (Oh, Lilopau, I'm going to die) he moans as his face starts to contort before he starts crying. His crying is unusual, Lilopau comments later, men are usually good at controlling themselves. Again, Lilopau comforts him and stops pressing and starts to stroke his closed eyes. He seems to want to vomit. 7

Valium (5mg) and Naprosyn (250mg).


'Oue, te u mahaki'ia (Oh, I'm going to die), he groans again. 'Ai ke ke sai eni' (you have to get better), Lilopau replies, not changing her massage, with the implication that it is for his own good. Her gentle massaging of his eyeballs continues for about a minute until his quiet sobbing subsides. A massage of his stomach follows. Lilopau uses baby oil to massage both sides of his stomach, using regular downwards pushing movements. Then Lalao sits up as Lilopau massages his right upper leg from the knee to the groin in strong squeezing movements. His head hangs to one side dejectedly. She looks away from him as her hand progressively gets closer to his groin.8 Just sitting seems painful to Lalao, and as soon as the massage is finished he pulls himself to the doorway and retches out into the garden. The leaves of masikoka (Glochidion ramiflorum) for the poultice have already been prepared and, after adding oil to the crushed leaves, Lilopau gets me to vali'aki (smear) his legs and stomach on the left side. I am told to press hard where it hurts the most. I press deep and imitate Lilopau's squeezing and pressing movements. But it is tiring and I am obviously not pressing hard enough. So when he turns over, Lilopau takes over and massages really deeply. He moans in pain but does not directly stop the massage.

Tulu'i as diagnosis During Lilopau's initial treatment for the three patients there was little talk of the specific condition. When pressed, however, she uses a combination of three terms to designate the degree of seriousness of their conditions: '!vanga, fesi'ia and te'ia. '"vanga, she explains in Tongan, is when the t#volo doesn't hit or touch you, you just see its face. Fesi'ia is body pain, in different parts of the body, as a result of a t#volo touching you. Te'ia, is the most serious and is the result of a much harder hit of a t#volo.9 Not treating it will lead quickly to the death of the person. She diagnoses Toutouofa as te'ia, Lalao as a combination of te'ia and fesi'ia and Pouanga as '!vanga and te'ia combined. Lilopau routinely tulu'i most of her patients whether or not they claimed to have seen a t#volo. T#volo can be very devious and make the ill person lie. She chooses between a tulu'i lahi (big tulu'i) or a tulu'i si'i 8

She comments later that she often gets her husband to do the massage when it involves getting too close to a man's private parts. 9 As I stated in chapter two the t! (slap, hit) of the t#volo can both be a sign of love and anger.


(small tulu'i).10 Different plants are used, depending on the seriousness of the condition. For te'ia she will routinely use a stronger plant. The first tulu'i is also regarded as a tulu'i 'a'ahi (testing tulu'i) which confirms whether or not the person is affected. Typically, she will use the plant that makes up the tulu'i si'i. Whatever tulu'i she uses, the first treatment will, invariably, be painful and cathartic for the patient. Both Lalao and Toutouofa cried and seemed to unburden themselves when Lilopau treated them. Toutouofa Toutouofa's face seems less swollen on her third treatment in Lilopau's house. Lilopau points out that her eye is in a better position than yesterday. Toutouofa comments on how the tulu'i makes her body feel mokosia (cold), vaivai'ia (weak) and ma'ama'a (light). Also her eyebrows feel numb (mate ngaahi kemo) and how her body from the waist up feels mofisifisi (tingly, like the feeling of prickly heat). After the treatment she lies prostrate for a long time, mumbling to herself. If I did not treat her she would die, says Lilopau again, her condition is fakatu'utamaki (dangerous). After the treatment, Toutouofa tries to avoid having another treatment. She is busy, she has to be home tomorrow for her husband. Lilopau says she will come over to her house as she has to treat Pouanga tomorrow morning. The next day Toutouofa does not manage to hide her low mood, despite her seeming enthusiasm. Though her face has got visibly worse since yesterday, Lilopau says it is better and points out a black spot (which I cannot see) on her eye that has got better. She receives another tulu'i lahi but Lilopau does not press hard this time, just light pressure with the thums. Toutouofa does not cry or scream. Lilopau is vague when I ask about the t!volo responsible. A soldier, she says. While receiving the wash with the leaf bath, Toutouofa complains about not feeling her teeth, so Lilopau massages them. Then follows the healing wash, which Toutouofa says makes her ongoongo lelei (feel good). 10

Another reason for calling the treatment tulu'i si'i or lahi, is that it keeps the remedy itself secret. Her children all know what plants make up the tulu'i si'i and lahi so she can easily tell them to fetch the requisite plants without patients or other familiars finding out the remedy.


The treatment on Wednesday follows treatments on both the Monday and Tuesday. Lilopau dozes, while she waits for the hot water and leaves to be prepared and to rest after treating another patient earlier in the day. Toutouofa sits pensively, her two children either hanging on to her or hiding in the folds of her dress, while she explains to me some other symptoms.11 Though she did not see him, people have told her that the t!volo responsible is a man who slapped her while she was walking through a nearby village. Because of Lilopau's treatment, she says, the feeling on her face is better, though the face itself, she acknowledges, is still swollen and occasionally itchy. She offers a chronology of her illness. After a posting in Tonga, her husband was sent to Ha'apai for six months, which Toutouofa really liked because they lived in town where she had more contact with people. Here she is more ta'elata (homesick, ill at ease), she has few relatives in Vava'u and does not really like being so far from town. Her problems started some four months ago. After having a tooth extracted at the hospital, she experienced pain and could not feel one side of her face. When she returned to the hospital she was disappointed that the doctor only took her blood pressure, didn't touch her face and told her it was the result of her high blood pressure. The pills she was given brought her blood pressure back to normal and she now no longer takes the pills. We talk casually about how life is changing in Tonga and about people we are both familiar with until the water and mo'ota leaves have been prepared. Lilopau wakes up. She bathes the swollen part of Toutouofa's face, dabbing the now limp leaves on her face. Toutouofa then continues the treatment herself. Lilopau's tulu'i, followed by light massage of the eyes, elicits no visible distress.12 Only when Lilopau presses under the ears does she wince a little. A week later, Lilopau mentions that she has finished treating Toutouofa and that she will also soon finish treating Pouanga. I hear no more about Toutouofa for several months. 11

My suspicion of her having Bell's Palsy are not born out. She has no loss of taste around the front two thirds of the tongue, no problems closing the eye on the affected side nor does she hear unusual noises. 12 When I asked why she didn't lomi'i Toutouofa's eyes, she says, because it was a new treatment, and her eyes were already better.


Lalao I return to the day after Lalao's first treatment. He reveals more about how he went to the hospital, how the health officer told him that his pain was not the result of a hangatamaki (abscess, boil). For three weeks his body has been wasting away. He has no appetite or sense of smell and neither eating or smoking gives him any pleasure. Lilopau compares Lalao to another patient, Tomasi, who is ill in the same way but is now better.13 When Lalao expresses his fear of the tulu'i. She persuades him that the treatment is for his own good and that Tomasi also said, 'te u mate' (I'm going to die) but then he got better. Lalao protests calmly that the tulu'i is kona (bitter, poisonous) and mamahi (painful). Lilopau responds that the tulu'i she did yesterday must have fo'i (failed). She continues that she gave him a tulu'i lahi straightaway because she didn't need to check because he has a puke lahi because of the length of time he has been ill. She comments 'tutui a Lalao' (Lalao is opposed to the treatment) and that fo'i e tulu'i (the tulu'i fails) when they say 'te u mate', and if they are frightened.14 Lilopau continues with the treatment and then gets me to massage him at the spot where it most hurts near his groin. I am instructed to press as hard as possible, even when Lalao writhes with pain, both he and Lilopau tell me to continue. We return after lunch to treat him again. Again he talks about being frightened of the tulu'i. 'Ilifia 'a e tulu'i na'a sai' (He is frightened of the tulu'i lest he get better) his mother retorts with the implication that Lalao does not really want to get better. Conversation during the treatment then continues between the women. Lilopau talks about how faka'ofa (sad, 13

Tomasi had recently returned from the US, where he worked long hours as a welder to send back money to his family. He had developed curious muscular pains down one side of his back. Lilopau had been treating him with tulu'i and massage for the affected area. Pills from the hospital have had no affect. He had not sought medical treatment in the US because of the cost. 14 One interpretation I received was that the tulu'i failed because he could not resist the pain. He has to resist the pain for it to work. The implication of his not resisting, is his preferring the pain of his condition to the pain of the treatment that will make him better.


pitiable) the household was over Christmas because of Lalao being ill and not being able to get any decent food for them. The next day Lilopau returns and treats him again. She gets him to stand up and walk bent double to show us how he walked before and then walk normally to show us how much better he is. He accedes to Lilopau's request but grimaces slightly when he has to walk normally. The treatment continues for several more days, for a total of five days, until he is taken back to the hospital by his immediate family. Pouanga Pouanga's treatment was unique. It lasted more than a month and involved in the region of thirty treatments. Among the nearly eighty patients Lilopau treated over the year, there was nobody whom she treated more frequently or for a longer period of time. 15 The frequent attendance of Pouanga's sisters and their daughters, who took a close interest in his progress, turned many treatments into minor social events. As they were 'eiki to Panuve's household, they could fa'iteliha (please themselves) and feel very relaxed in Pouanga's home. Their status also demanded that they be treated appropriately and so often large quantities of food were served on a table cloth after treatments, giving the impression that this was an important social occasion. Male relatives played a low-key role in the house. They frequently ferried Lilopau for the half hour drive from her village to Pouanga's house and lent assistance with treatment at Pouanga's deceased wife's grave. They rarely appeared in the house. Their faka'apa'apa (respect) to their sister and father's sisters was constituted in their respectful avoidance. I have condensed the story of Pouanga's illness by focusing on the seeming progression of the illness, discussions of causality, Lilopau's interpretations and the treatment at the grave. Both Panuve and Toluhama took the opportunity of Lilopau's presence to ask for treatment for longstanding stomach problems. Rather confusingly to me, she diagnosed them as '!vanga and treated them with stomach 15

The two cases coming closest were two cases of t"volo caused pregnancy that I discuss in chapter five.


massages with Tongan oil and a remedy to drink. For the sake of clarity I have omitted references to the occasions when they, as well as Pouanga, were treated. I introduce the main protagonists in Pouanga's treatment, but omit the many children and relatives who did not take an active role. Nai Panuve Tolonga Lotulelei Kata Toluhama Paula Falefa Sitaleki Semisi

Pouanga's deceased wife and Panuve's mother. Pouanga's daughter Pouanga's eldest sister, Panuve's mehekitanga Tolonga's daughter and Lilopau's neighbour Lotulelei's daughter, Pouanga's niece. Panuve's female friend and companion. Living in the house and helping in Pouanga's care Pouanga's eldest son Pouanga's son, Pouanga's son Falefa's son, Pouanga's grandson.

During the first couple of weeks Lilopau treats Pouanga, on average, every day. The atmosphere is convivial with every treatment, an excuse for discussion not only of Pouanga's illness but other matters of the day. Though Lilopau continues to use the tulu'i lahi, her treatment becomes progressively less painful as she presses less hard on his eyes. On his fourth treatment, after a rest day to allow the household to see his progress, Panuve comments on how much better he is; he sleeps more and shouts less. His eyes also seem to be more open and active. His sentences, though still confused, are longer and he makes reference to people he had not spoken about since before his stroke. His elder sister is so happy that she goes and holds Pouanga's head and says a few words to him and reminds everybody that he is her brother. His improvement continues. He seems more energetic and even after an extra strong tulu'i on the seventh treatment to carry him over to a day when Lilopau will not treat him, he recovers much quicker from the treatment.16 A week later, after regular daily treatments, Lilopau 16

His improvement is not only judged behaviourally but also in his response to the treatment. Part of his improvement in the latter sense, I feel, can be attributed to Lilopau's altering the treatment. Her pressing on the eyeballs changes to light massage, which is far less painful and


comments that his rapid improvement, how he does not shout at all in response to the tulu'i and is easily led to the bathroom, means that she will finish the treatment soon. At the end of January, most of the children have returned to school and the house is noticeably less busy. Though Lilopau had planned to finish the treatment within a few days, a new problem has arisen and is discussed. Despite a great improvement in his eating, drinking and speech he has started to resist the tulu'i again. Panuve and Toluhama talk about Pouanga being fakapikopiko i he tokoto, referring to his dislike of lying down, and that in the early morning he does not want to get up and go to the toilet. They suspect his deceased wife is responsible; he has been calling out her name and talking and reaching out to her during the day and night. Toluhama has also seen her a couple of times, on one occasion she stepped on her hand. On a busy Sunday, two days later, the house is full with relatives and there is much discussion. While treating Panuve and Toluhama for their stomach problems, Lilopau gives a short speech to confirm her intention to treat Nai's grave and then Pouanga; so that in future he wakes up when he has to go to the toilet. If he then does not get better then she will admit that it is a pakalava (stroke) and stop the treatment and the fakamamahi'i (to give pain to, to hurt) of the famili. She is confident, though, that it will work and Pouanga will stop talking to his wife and other deceased relatives. Treatment at the Grave On Tuesday night, everyone is asleep and the house is dark and quiet when Falefa delivers Lilopau, Lotulelei and her two daughters. The van lights illuminate the sleeping figures of Tolonga, Falefa's wife and Pouanga who is sleeping deeply, with one arm outstretched. An explanation of how they got there, the reason for their lateness and a little joking precedes discussion revolving around Pouanga's improvement over the last few days. Panuve seems to think he really does know what is going on around him and gently accuses him of being fievaleloi (pretending to be inept) and k!k! (devious, deceiving). Toluhama, who sleeps on the floor near to Pouanga, awakes last, goes to the toilet but cannot be urged to return. less likely to elicit the dramatic responses of before. However, another interpretation would be that now he is better, he warrants less severe treatment.


Lilopau says a long prayer, asking God for help for the difficult task ahead; how our intention is simply to stop Nai visiting Pouanga; we do not want to hurt her. She emphasises the famili connections, that Nai is Panuve's mother and that she, Lilopau, is just the vessel for God's work. Her only aim is to help the famili so that they can live fiemalie (contented). Most of our heads are bowed, except for Lotulelei's youngest daughter and her friend whose eyes are wide open and looking straight ahead. Lilopau's seriousness of purpose is balanced by Kata's humour. Her cheeky jibes about me getting eaten by a t!volo, prompts Panuve to ask me if I am afraid. I joke, 'no, only of the palangi t!volo, besides, Tongan t!volo don't want to touch me. I ate lots of garlic before I came. I smell disgusting'. Falefa and his son, Semisi, load the metal hoe and a big red bucket containing the powerfully sweet smelling remedy into the pick-up truck. It is a short drive to the road below the cemetery. Nai is buried in one of the best kept and fenced graves in the cemetery. We enter after opening the gate. Lilopau does not want Falefa to break the concrete and instructs him to dig a hole with the hoe on the left corner of the grave facing us. He digs into sand, it is easy. Their shapes, silhouetted by the light of the full moon, make an eerie sight. 'Fakamolemole' says Lilopau quietly, asking for Nai's forgiveness before emptying the first bowl into the first hole. Three holes are dug each side, in each some of the very powerful smelling mixture is poured. Once the six holes have been filled and then refilled, Lilopau wants to do the same to another relative whom Pouanga has also been calling. We sit down while Semisi goes back to find out which grave it is. Falefa and I hear strange noises from the direction of the road and suggest they are caused by dogs or pigs. Lilopau says they are neither, but does not expand. The many other strange animal noises are a good sign, she says. We sit in silence next to the grave and wait. Semisi returns with Sitaleki, who shows us which grave it is, but stands on the periphery while Lilopau repeats the same treatment. We return to Nai's grave. Falefa hears a faint noise and tells us to crouch down. He has good hearing. A minute later, a couple of men, returning home from the kava club, appear on the road. Lilopau digs a couple more holes near the feet and the head with her hands and then pours some liquid in. As we sit, she listens and points out noises. After checking that no-one is about, we return quietly to the house. Panuve and Kata turn on the lights when we return. They also heard animal noises and talk about them as signs of the t!volo. Of particular


interest were the sikot! (kingfisher) type noises.17 The girls do not participate in the conversation. After a veritable feast of bread, milo, kumala (sweet potatoes), keke (deep fried dough balls) and fried eggs with much discussion and joking, Falefa drives Lilopau, laden with food for the children, back home. It is two in the morning and in two hours she will preach at the early morning Wesleyan service. The night treatment Lilopau returns at two o'clock the following morning for Pouanga's night treatment. Her impromptu explanation of her motivations for treating people are met with Panuve's and Lotulelei's nods of agreement. She talks about how she does not ask for gifts, like other healers, that she is happy with food which she can give to her children; sometimes she is so busy that she has no time to feed them. Some healers want lots of koloa (valuables), she does not. Her work is for God. There was one healer, she says, who healed for koloa then she developed a big growth on her nose. She concludes with an affirmation of her trust in God and answering the finangalo (will) of God. She reaffirms the importance of the fanofano (wiping hands) at the end of the treatment so that the illness does not go with her.18 Lilopau puts the flowers and leaves, which have been laid out on a piece of fabric, into a big tin bowl. Falefa adds hot water and stirs the mixture. After adding lolo Tonga (Tongan oil) she stares intensely at the pattern that has been made.19 Panuve wakes Pouanga up, walks him outside and sits him down. When Lilopau showers him with the mixture, he comments mokomoko (cold). She then massages his head. Panuve comments on his obedience, he does not resist or complain. His leg is also massaged though he refuses to put his leg out straight. Panuve dries him off and dresses him in new clothes. It is half past three in the morning when we finally leave. Lilopau returns to treat Pouanga on four more occasions at the same time in the morning. 17 18

Kingfishers are popularly regarded as harbingers of death.

This refers to rubbing any remainder of the remedy onto the soles of one's feet so that any association with the illness is stamped into the ground. Also, what is left of the leaves of the tulu'i has to be disposed of in a suitable place, preferably in the bush so that the illness now associated with the remedy does not affect anybody else. The term fanofano is also used to describe the short process of transmission of healing power when the healer takes the acolyte's hands in theirs and gives them the power to heal. 19 Later she explains that the fact of the oil mixing well with the mixture was an indication the treatment would be successful.


The final treatment On the journey to Pouanga's house, Lilopau talks about how she instructed Kata to do the kaukau (healing wash) every morning during the last few days, while she was away at a funeral. Lilopau explains she will decide whether to kaukau tuku (give the final healing wash) when she sees him; if not she will try another treatment. Everyone is surprised and pleased to see Pouanga walking around when we arrive. Kata puts her arms around him, but he thinks she is Tolonga. '‘Ikai ke ifo 'a e nofo,' (Life is no longer pleasurable) he says a few times, before bursting into tears in a rare moment of seeming lucidity. As he sits and talks and as a result is attributed with a sharper mind and k!k! (acting deceitfully) the women prepare the flowers for the final treatment. I see him laugh for the first time when they joke about his k!inga from another village. All the flowers are put into a big tin, then water is added and lolo Tonga (Tongan oil) and then finally hot water. Although he cannot see her, when Kata (Lotulelei's daughter) is standing next to Pouanga, he somehow feels that she is there and holds her, she crouches down and then sits next to him. Pouanga cries because, as Ifi explains, he is lower in status to the children. He feels 'ofa for his k!inga and cries when he realises his eldest sister and his niece are there because they are 'eiki (higher status) to him. There is much merriment and joking. Panuve, Pouanga, Falefa, Lilopau's two daughters, Paula, Ifi, Lotulelei, Lilopau, Toluhama and myself are all seated in a circle as Lilopau gives a long prayer followed by a short one from her husband Ifi. Several times during the prayer, Panuve has to tell Pouanga to close his eyes and be quiet although occasionally he gives the appropriate responses. Paula, then stands up to give a formal fakam!l" (vote of thanks). He starts and is choked with tears and needs to gather himself together before finishing quickly. Panuve leads Pouanga outside for the final treatment. He does not want to take off his tupenu (male skirt) and gets angry when Panuve tries to put shorts on him for the kaukau tutuku (final healing wash). Ifi explains, this is because of his faka'apa'apa for his sisters, whom he thinks are there; another sign that he is a lot better. Pouanga becomes a little troublesome when he is supposed to sit down but he does not swear. The smell is overpoweringly fragrant. After the healing wash Pouanga walks, supported only slightly, back into the house. Several days later, though Lilopau insisted she didn't want any gifts, Panuve's brother arrives at her house with a mat and a small live pig.


Lilopau's investment in time, even allowing for some exaggeration on her part, was considerable. On the 30th of January Lilopau worked out that she had treated him 30 times. That worked out as an average of twice a day over 15 days.20 During the times she was treating Pouanga she was not able to weave, one of her few sources of income. Treating at night meant that very often she went without sleep. Rarely though, did she complain of the treatment being fakahela (tiring), which she did, occasionally, with other patients. First Impressions Of these three patients, only Pouanga was treated all the way through to the final healing wash. Lalao was persuaded by his household to go back to the hospital. Lilopau had managed to get him to walk but his nausea and pain had not got better. What was the general impression left after this period of association with Lilopau, people in her village and her household? Toutouofa's treatment had been efficacious, she had simply stopped receiving treatment. Lalao had been helped but he had returned to the hospital. Pouanga's behaviour and interaction in his household had improved considerably, embodied in part in the gifts presented to Lilopau. If I had only associated with Lilopau and her friends and household I would have been left with one impression. However, my association with the hospital allowed me to follow up patients' treatment in the hospital. But it was mainly through friends and popping in on social visits some months later that I learned more about what happened to Toutouofa, Lalao and Pouanga. Toutouofa Toutouofa returned to the hospital in Vava'u on four occasions after her initial tooth extraction in October, 1998. On the second occasion, she was referred to a doctor for re-assessment. She returned at the end 20

I estimate less. Lilopau typically exaggerated the number of times she had seen patients. But even allowing for this, her investment in time had been considerable.


of November when her double vision and numbness were seemingly improving. Lilopau's treatment lasted from the 10th to the 26th of January 1999. On the 25th January she returned to the hospital again. Her general symptomatology was noted but seemingly little more was done. News of Toutouofa came via a friend who lived close to her. At the end of May 1999, I heard that she had been sent to New Zealand to be treated for cancer of her jaw. As soon as a doctor examined her in Vaiola hospital in Nuku’alofa and diagnosed an invasive tumour he immediately requested treatment for her in New Zealand. Two weeks later, to my great surprise and sadness, I heard the news that she had passed away in the hospital in Nuku'alofa and the funeral had taken place the previous week. The doctors in New Zealand had decided that the cancer was too far advanced and sent her back to Tonga. A friend had gone to visit her on the Wednesday and talked about her joking and good humour. She commented that, other than looking a little thinner, she did not seem ill. At one point she lost consciousness, and her husband had to shake her to bring her back. On the Thursday, surrounded by her family, she died. Her husband has moved to where she came from in Tongatapu, so that the children can be looked after. My friend says that may be if the Tongan treatment had been continued, she might now be alive, that it was the strike of the t!volo that was to blame.21 Perhaps because she had little k"inga in Vava'u, few people seemed to know of her death. On hearing the news, some suggested that the cancer had been caused by a t!volo. One healer, Pisila, said her only problem was going to the hospital, what she needed was more Tongan medicine. She stated with real conviction, 'They should have brought her to me, hers was a definite case of fakamahaki'; she would still be alive if she had been brought to me.' 22


I suggest may be it was a bad tooth extraction, thus revealing my state of mind at the time as to the cause of her cancer and my inability to foreground a t!volo explanation. It is unlikely that a tooth extraction would precipitate a cancer, though it might have speeded up the growth of an already existent cancer. Nurses at the hospital were well aware that some cancers are best left alone and if touched their growth can speed up. 22 Translated from the Tongan.


The dental assistant who had extracted her tooth was very surprised and saddened to hear of her death. Typically, if a tooth comes out too easily they suspect another problem and do an X ray. With Toutouofa, however, they did not take an X-ray. Though he remembered Toutouofa, in view of the large number of patients they see, he could not remember her exact details. Both the dentist and one of the health officers concurred that no-one is likely to be blamed. Very few people saw the pulling of her tooth as the cause of her problems. Blame is rarely ascribed to living people in Vava'u. The preservation of good relations and the importance of faka'apa'apa takes precedence over any seemingly 'objective' notion of the true cause of her illness. If anyone was to be blamed it was the t!volo from the neighbouring village.23 Pouanga The intimate connection between speaking and tauhi vaha'a meant that association with Lilopau and her famili and friends left a certain impression. Lilopau's treatment had been undoubtedly very useful, but it was Pouanga's sisters who suggested that Lilopau treat him. In a conversation with Panuve some months after treatment had finished, she revealed that she had been perfectly happy and comfortable with another healer, Lealiki (see chapter three). Pouanga's sister's intervention meant that Lealiki's treatment stopped the day Lilopau's started. Panuve explained that Lealiki treated Pouanga from September until the morning before Lilopau started in the afternoon. A friend had recommended her. Panuve discovered that she was distantly related to Lealiki's husband. Lealiki had become a good friend of the family and had visited several times during the time that Lilopau had treated. Panuve really liked Lealiki's treatment particularly as it was responsible for Pouanga starting to eat. After Lilopau's treatment, however, they didn't approach any other healers. She thought that Pouanga had had 23

I was really surprised and saddened by her death. Of all the patients, I expected her to get better quickest.


enough of suffering treatment and drinking vai kona ('poisonous' or strong remedies). 'He won't get any better,' Panuve says, 'after a while you have to stop the treatment and let Pouanga have his peace and quiet and nofo fiemalie (live contentedly free of pain or discomfort)'. In a conversation some six months after Pouanga's treatment, Lealiki explained how she had treated him from when he left the hospital until the day before Lilopau came. At several stages she said she would do the kaukau tuku (final healing wash) but then they asked her to continue. She was happy when Lilopau took over when she did. The important thing is if she can help. Ultimately, she explains, God is responsible for healing; they are just doing the will of God (Fai e finangalo 'oe 'Otua). She had felt, however, that Pouanga's smoking had a lot to do with his blindness and she had recommended that Panuve and Toluhama stop his smoking. She had also told one of the brothers to go to Nai's grave to tell her to stop talking to him. Lalao It was common knowledge in Lalao's village that he went to the hospital in mid February and was operated on, though few people knew the diagnosis. The doctor drew out a cup of pus from a large abscess in his lower abdomen and put him on a course of antibiotics. Some three months later, he pressed a small boil that had developed on the back of his head. Several boils grew in its place over a period of two weeks until one of them burst on reaching the size of half a small orange.24 Despite being successfully treated for the abscess some three months previously and the obvious frustration of the local health officer he did not return to the hospital. He and Lilopau interpreted my entreaties for him to go and take antibiotics for his boils as a result of my fietokoni (my wish to help). He listened patiently to my explanations and how he can continue to accept both traditional and hospital medicine but in the end continued with the treatment from a very quiet 24

I discuss the degree to which hangatamaki (boil, abscess) can be regarded as a quintessentially Tongan condition in the next chapter.


and unassuming woman who has long treated hangatamaki (boil, abscess) in his village. I enquired frequently about his health. Slightly more than a week later, his boils were considerably smaller, less inflamed and exuding less pus. He elaborated more on his reason for staying with the healer who was treating him. He explained that he ongo'i lelei (felt comfortable) going to her, if he had not he would have gone to the hospital. She had told him about all the cases she had successfully treated and how her treatment and hospital treatment fepaaki (clash). Within a month his abscess had healed completely. Though he was now better, he was still concerned about his wife causing sickness and talked emotionally about the time she died. I do not know the degree to which he believes that she is responsible for his illness, on no occasion did Lilopau explicitly mention her involvement in his illness; nor necessarily, as the next chapter will demonstrate, does his successful treatment in the hospital free her of some degree of responsibility. As a widely known t!volo in the village, it is likely that some peoples' sicknesses will be attributed to her. In fact, Lilopau told him that she is currently treating a husband and wife in the hospital who were affected by her when visiting the village. Conclusion Why did Toutouofa, Pouanga and Lalao go to either the hospital or healer? To what degree did a sense of the skills of doctors and healers, or a categorical split between palangi (Euro-American) and Tongan illnesses play a role? Toutouofa went to the hospital first because she linked the paralysis of her face with having her tooth pulled. Pouanga's stroke landed him in the hospital first, and Lalao went because of the very vague nature of his complaint. How did Lilopau end up healing them all? I gained the impression that Toutouofa had little choice; both the power of Lilopau's conviction and wish to help left her little room to refuse treatment. Also the hospital had done little to remedy her situation. Lalao was in a similar ambivalent situation, hospital treatment had had little affect and also his mother insisted on Lilopau's help. Pouanga, as I discovered later, had been treated for some three months before 225

Pouanga's sister's household decided that Lilopau should treat him. Panuve had little option but to acquiesce to this request from her mehekitanga (father's sister). Why did they return to the hospital? Lalao's return to the hospital was prompted by his close family, possibly initiated by a nurse living in the village. Toutouofa returned to the main island, where, no doubt, her connections helped in her cancer being recognised in the main hospital. Despite the fact that the operation to remove the abscess almost certainly prevented him from getting seriously ill, Lalao did not return to the hospital when he developed another abscess, this time on the outside of his body. Pouanga, as far as I know, did not have any need to return to the hospital or to another healer. Panuve called a halt to more treatment. Neither general perceptions of the skills of healers or doctors or a seeming cognitive split between Tongan and Euro-American illnesses can explain the development of these three case studies. The Tongan/Euro-American illness dichotomy does not serve as an explanation. Firstly, it is a variable distinction held by some people, but not by others. Bloomfield (1986) posited paralysis of the right side of the face as a Tongan condition and yet Toutouofa, suffering from this condition, first went to the hospital. Definition of sickness in biomedical terms at no stage precludes interpretation in terms of t!volo. The biomedical category may not encompass what people regard as the requisite symptoms. Lilopau questioned the reality of the biomedical diagnosis on its own terms when she asked 'how can he have a pakalava (stroke) when he is not paralysed?' On occasion, even the biomedical category may be questioned, as Lilopau did for Pouanga's stroke, or the causality of the condition posited as personalistic. Pisila claimed Lealiki's cancer was a clear case of fakamahaki (t!volo caused sickness). The three case studies suggest that in many instances people are not confident in either interpretation. Both Lilopau's and the initial biomedical diagnoses for Lalao and Toutouofa can be characterised by vagueness. I had to encourage Lilopau to tell me what condition they had, she seemed unconcerned with a precise definition, treatment was her main concern. If diagnosis is confirmed through action towards resolution then the fact that healers and doctors concurrently treat sickness, questions the designation that everyone agrees that it is a Tongan or a Euro-American condition. 226

One might focus on some attributed intrinsic quality or special skill of a healer or doctor which leads people to choose them and this might explain why, on occasion, some people are told in dreams to go to a particular healer. Certainly, in Lilopau's case, the amount of time she dedicated, her potent presentation and gravitas, her degree of involvement and local knowledge, would suggest why many people had 'heard talk' about her. At the same time, however, such statements cannot be separated from people's tauhi vaha'a. Such intrinsic qualities certainly feature in people's justifications for choosing a particular healer or doctor while being treated by them, but do not explain why they go to them in the first place. The characteristics of doctors or healers or diagnosis in biomedical or t!volo terms in this sense are secondary to the process of kole tokoni (asking for help). The associations of household members plays a strong role, both instrumentally and as a way of fanongo talanoa (hearing talk); one hears stories about healers from people with whom one tauhi vaha'a. In Pouanga's case, his sister's household intervened. Their friendship with Lilopau was manifest in their wish that she treated Pouanga. People tend to prefer to go to someone they know or are related to for many reasons, or at the very least will have someone who knows the person to introduce them. This springs, perhaps, from the confidence that you will be treated well, feeling comfortable about asking for help in the first place and the likelihood that the interaction with the healer will be enjoyable. In many cases, the very proximity of a healer leads to requests for help from other household members. Both Panuve and Toluhama sought help of Lilopau while she was treating Pouanga. In the last chapter, on one occasion, while Lilopau was treating Paongo for feitama fakat!volo (t!volo caused pregnancy) another household member requested treatment for a waxy-like growth on her breast. Maiepuho's illness in chapter five was only spotted when Lilopau was treating someone else in the family. Similarly, people may go to see a doctor or health officer in the hospital simply because they are visiting a relative there or a friend lives nearby. One particularly dramatic instance of this was of a young man, with a one centimetre splinter buried in his foot, who explained to the Health Officer that he waited for three days to come to the hospital and only then because a friend happened to be driving past. 227

There seems to be an underlying confidence in the process of seeking healing, but less in the names given to diagnose and interpret a sickness. Each diagnosis is provisional and dependent on the person who is currently giving help. At each stage, the condition may be given another name, depending on the expertise of that particular healer. That people, typically, do not discuss details of a previous diagnosis, healers and treatments voluntarily in front of the current healer or doctor is reflective of a general sense it is both not important and that it is inappropriate. To acknowledge the help of the person who is not currently helping is by implication to not to show consideration and tauhi vaha'a to the current healer. Panuve, for example, did not reveal the full extent of Lealiki's involvement. Lilopau rarely enquired about previous healers or doctors, it was I who typically asked such inappropriate questions. In most cases, if there seems to be no change in the sickness, the person is taken to another healer or hospital until some resolution occurs. This may take a long time or on occasion may never be resolved. To go to a particular healer, health officer or doctor, despite their personal characteristics, is one step of many along a chain of finding healing (McGrath 1999). Bloomfield suggests as much when in reference to the perceived failure of medicine to treat some illnesses she states 'In most of the cases, there seemed to be an underlying assumption that it was not the modern medicine that was at fault, but its practitioner' (Bloomfield 1986:159). That kole tokoni (asking for help) is fundamental explains the absence of any attributed blame to the healers or doctors involved. Even in Toutouofa's case, people acknowledged that blame is unlikely to be attributed, or diverted by those still maintaining that it was t!volo caused. Questions in Lalao's case, as to whether it was a failure of the hospital to recognise his condition or his failure to return, are unlikely to be asked. The fact they cannot help means that the condition is not curable by them. How could blame be attributed to those patently acting out of pure motives of 'ofa ('love') and doing God's work? Thus, the assumption of relationship that makes kole tokoni (asking for help) possible is also reflected in the seeming implicit conspiracy against blame. Tauhi vaha’a is more important than an 'objective sense' of what caused the illness or who is at fault. However, while blame is rarely attributed, other than to t!volo, efficacy is always claimed or attributed. This forms the subject of the next chapter. 228


Notions and attribution of efficacy

The trouble with the Tongan practitioners is that they have little or no idea of diagnosing a complaint. They just try one thing after another, and the massage, excellent as it is, is frequently employed where it is not only useless, but even dangerous. Diagnosis is replaced by a series of trials and failures; as the Tongans say, 'We'll have a try.' If one thing does not show quick results, try another. A man went to the missionary and asked for medicine for a little girl.' She is very ill indeed', he said, 'yesterday we gave her seventeen sorts of medicine and she is not better yet'. One medicine man, or woman, after another, tries his cure, till one is found which gives promise of success, which shows a 'sign', or until death cuts short the experiment, and gives a verdict which is accepted with pious resignation as the will of the Lord (Collocott 1923a: 137).

This rather condescending view of Tongan healing practice at the beginning of this century is echoed in the opinions of many doctors in modern Tonga. One Tongan doctor recounted his experience of Tongan medicine in Vava’u: It is worse here, there are so many women healers in Vava'u. People go to the healer first and then to the hospital. Sometimes it is too late especially with diabetes sepsis. I don't want to get rid of them all, but they should stop interfering with diabetes and stop treating the skin conditions and strokes. People smuggle remedies into the hospital. There is nothing you can really do about it as they hide it and give it to the patient when no one is looking. For people with gastro-enteritis, such remedies will often worsen their diarrhoea. The best treatment is to give rehydration liquid. People still believe that the fontanelle should be massaged to close it. They don't realise that it is natural. People expect improvement very quickly. They also do not tell you if they went to one of the other Health Officers the day before. So, for example, they go to the Health Officer on Monday. If there is no immediate improvement they come and see me the next day or Wednesday.


His comments are representative of many doctors’ opinions of Tongan medicine. Many recount cases in which healer caused delay led to death or more serious pathology. The three case studies in the previous chapter, however, suggest that people do in fact go to the hospital first, and for the many reasons discussed previously, then are taken to a healer. The sharply polarised statements of doctors are reflected in the opinions of many nurses and health officers but not necessarily in their practice. Some doctors and most nurses and health officers have taken Tongan medicine themselves as children. While there is an official, institutional position against healers in Vava'u treating within the hospital, this is often mitigated by the fact that many nurses and hospital workers tauhi vaha’a with particular healers. Patients and their families often request healers' assistance in the hospital and the few doctors can do little to prevent it, if they are not there at the time. Some nurses recommend that patients go see particular healers, if they feel the hospital cannot help them. Not believing in Tongan medicine is like not believing in t!volo. It may be less a statement of principle than of a particular act of tauhi vaha'a to the person one is speaking to. Some nurses supposedly do not 'believe' in Tongan medicine, but, nevertheless, use it and have been cured by it. For example, one hospital sister recounted an event that happened many years before: I do not really believe in Tongan medicine. But once I had a really bad pain on my arm. For about three nights I could not sleep properly. I took Panadol. My daughter eventually persuaded me to go see two old ladies who lived next door. They laughed when I came in. 'A nurse', they said, 'and we thought what we do is ki'i loi (a little lie)'. They sent someone to get some leaves from the nuns at the Catholic Church. They crunched them up and then with Tongan oil gently massaged my arm. It was like gripping it, then releasing it, from one hand to the other. Then I lay on my back and the other woman carried on from the front. I fell asleep. I woke up and was embarrassed. The women told me to go home and sleep, the next morning I felt great. I had a total of three treatments. They told me it was a kind of hangatamaki (abscess) called m"lefua. I gave them some food and something else as a tukuto'o, a gift to ensure that the illness would not come back.

Blame is rarely ascribed but efficacy is almost always claimed. The hospital claims efficacy and ascribes blame to healers, whereas healers typically only claim efficacy and rarely ascribe blame to anyone other than t!volo. In Vava'u, apart from the occasional frustration with the 230

limited number of medications prescribed-many people joke they are prescribed Panadol for every complaint- there is little obvious criticism of the hospital. The dentist at the hospital, Nifoloa, had a nuanced understanding of traditional medicine, based partly on the experience he gained while working nine years at the hospital in Vava'u. On a health visit to one of the islands, he talked about the psychological factors that were important in healer's practice and acknowledged the naivetĂŠ of a mutual friend who focussed exclusively on the pharmacological properties of Tongan remedies. He mentioned the way healers welcome you when you arrive and the general way they look after you, also the fact that they provide a name for your condition. He argued that a lot of the pains people come to the hospital for are psychological so he feels justified in prescribing Panadol for different conditions for their placebo effect. He encourages patients to use both hospital and traditional medicine, but not to rely on just one method. Sometimes, he stated, illnesses are polysystemic; a traditional healer will try to treat a patient with an abscess and not realise that he or she has diabetes and needs to be treated at the hospital. He sees the traditional healing to be effective in the area of pain relief. He acknowledged people's need for treatment but also to understand the cause of the illness in local terms. He recounted how his wife developed a pain in the elbow after sweeping the garden. He gave her a painkiller, but she still wanted to see the healer. So she went to see a local healer who told her that she had fesi'ia (body pain as a result of the slap of a t!volo) massaged her and told her to come back the following day to be told who slapped her. The next day his wife returned and was told it was a man who committed suicide or died several years back and who used to visit the household quite a lot. It was just a friendly slap, the healer said. Despite his appreciation of the psychological effects of traditional medicine, he still argued that biomedicine is often responsible for the perceived success of much of Tongan medicine. He claimed that the efficacy attributed to healers is frequently the result of hospital treatment of the underlying pathology. He gave an example of a boy with an abscess going to the hospital and receiving antibiotics. After three or four days, his household might not see a huge improvement and then would take him to a healer. Thanks to the antibiotics, the abscess is just ready to burst and does so initiated by the 231

treatment of the healer. The antibiotics are responsible but the healer will get all the credit. Similarly someone will come with painful teeth, he will be given Panadol, then the person receives a massage; within about half an hour, as the healer is massaging, the medicine kicks in and again the healer gets the credit. Introduction This chapter is a response to Nifoloa's implicit assumption that there is only one sense of efficacy grounded in a biomedical paradigm and that attributions of efficacy can be separated from the social contingencies that follow from the inextricability of tauhi vaha'a and speaking. This assumption is often present in much writing on the efficacy of traditional healing (Anderson 1991). The response of many anthropologists to the claim that biomedical efficacy is a universal benchmark has been to postulate different locii of efficacy.1 Csordas and Kleinman's categorisations of the different theoretical approaches to healing (persuasive, structural, clinical and social support) reveal a variety of locii from the diffuse communitas of Turner's (1964) work on the Ndembu to the highly clinical approach of Prince (1964) on 'Yoruba psychiatry'. Often, however, the ethnographic particularity of healing is buried in the attempt to show how healing 'works' in some fundamental sense. Such an attempt in Tonga is extremely difficult, both because of the subjugation of the disclosure of experience to a concern over relationship and the implicit denigration of the local locus of efficacy that it would imply. Healers already possess an elaborate 1

Also, most of the conditions in which t!volo are involved are symptomatically vague and treated by a variety of means. Is the process of tulu'i or the properties of tulu'i more important? That so many healers use a wide variety of plants for tulu'i, seemingly effectively, suggests that the process is more important than the pharmacological properties of its constituents. I do not doubt that they have pharmacological properties, very few plants in Tonga are inert, but doubt that knowing them will shine any more light on t!volo involvement in incidences of sickness. We do not need to be confident of either the materiality of t!volo nor of the pharmacological properties of plants to appreciate how they are used. I do not examine here the staple of much ethnobotanical and ethnopharmacological research that local remedies have pharmacological properties that effect physiological processes because that would be to claim efficacy using the very epistemology that I argue denies healers’ explanations of t!volo, though it might strengthen the claim for efficacy of Tongan medicine in biomedical terms.


locus of efficacy, that of t!volo, their motivations and actions. Not only are notions of efficacy everywhere 'guided by cultural, political and moral values' (Desjarlais 1992:224) but attributions of efficacy cannot be held apart from social values and the need and wish to maintain good social relations. Rather than ask the question how healing works this chapter looks at how and why successful healing is attributed. This chapter examines three main factors that are suggested by case studies in the previous chapters: 1. Healers and doctors have different notions of efficacy born of different ideas of what sickness is and how it is caused. 2. The politics of the attribution of efficacy is the result of the inextricability of speaking and tauhi vaha’a. 3. There is a process of seeking help for sickness and knowing about illness which gives the impression of efficacious treatment, even when it is not. The key case study poses the question: how can someone be successfully treated by the hospital and still attribute efficacy to a healer? I suggest that in Vava'u the attribution of efficacy as an act of speaking that evokes and attenuates relatedness is also intimately tied to a powerful sense of the divine in Tongan medicine. That healers' ideas of efficacy have more currency is a reflection of the sense of the divine in Tongan medicine, the fact of there being so many more healers compared to doctors and a style of speaking that contrasts dramatically with the status-loaded style of many doctors' interaction with patients. Doctors seem more comfortable with instructions than explanation and thus constitute a particular kind of relatedness with their patients. There is a sense that talking medicine is a privileged discourse, like another register of Tongan language, which distinguishes you in status. For some doctors, to explain is to compromise that privilege. Though being slowly broken down, as a result of public health initiatives, this is certainly a barrier to effective communication and understanding from the patient's point of view. Sickness and efficacy With the possible exception of Akosita, who distinguishes herself now by treating the sino (body), the healers in chapter two locate the cause 233

of sickness outside the body, in the actions and motivations of t!volo. Efficacy for them is less the biomedical idea of resolving pathology but influencing the agent of the sickness. Their locus of efficacy is immaterial and ultimately unknowable in an empirical sense, known only by their secondary manifestations in the behaviour of the sick. Pisila's assertion that Toutouofa's condition was a definite case of fakamahaki (t!volo caused sickness) is reflective of the fact that, potentially, any condition, even if defined at the hospital can be defined as fakamahaki. Illnesses that puzzle the doctors and are poorly explained by the hospital or that result in death without adequate explanation are frequently defined as fakamahaki. One healer in Tongatapu saw many male patients with physical complaints, such as paralysis of part of their body, difficulty urinating, blood in stool and hemorrhoids, which they all regarded as fakamahaki. People will seek attention at the hospital with symptoms of concern for which the hospital can find no cause or which it regards as inconsequential. For example, Lilopau once treated a ten-month-old baby brought to her by the mother who had already been to many healers and doctors in Tongatapu. She had also been to the hospital in Vava'u where both a doctor and health officer did tests and said the baby was not ill. She had thought he might have pneumonia. She starts crying as she talks about how she attended a funeral where a lady recommended she came here to see Lilopau. She will stay until the baby is better. The baby has been crying endlessly since he was four months old. His leg shakes and his head rolls too much. Lilopau diagnoses te'ia, in her terms the most serious of the sickness she can treat, and the result of the slap of a t!volo. When Lilopau tulu'i the baby's mouth, nose and eyes he cries, but not strongly. She then puts her finger into his mouth and presses down on the tongue. The baby gags. She explains she does this to make the baby fefeka (hard, tough). After several minutes of this, a lot of mucus appears and she takes her finger out. As soon as she stops, the baby stops crying. She then puts the baby, stomach down, on her lap and strongly massages his back. She then turns the baby over and presses hard around the lower groin and the testicles and a lot on the inside of the legs. I ask her why she massages him, 'Is it because the t!volo gets inside the body and you


need to massage it out'. 'No', she replies, 'the t!volo usually touch from a distance through the air. The massage is so that the person feels good.' 2

Healers recognise sickness in a break in expected social functioning that follows from a notion of personhood as constituted in acts of tauhi vaha’a. To the extent that many biomedically defined conditions can cause or reflect such a break they can also be defined as fakamahaki (t!volo caused sickness). Healers claim to recognise fakamahaki, predominately, on the basis of the person's interaction with them and others. Siosiofanga, for example, knows that people are ill straight away from their face and the way they talk. She holds a widely held opinion, oft repeated by the healers I spoke to, that those who are ill find it difficult to meet the gaze of the healer, either looking away or staring into space. Siosiofanga also maintains that patients shiver when they talk to her. Many healers also commented on bizarre behaviour in a general sense. Pisila added 'Hange kuo mole hono fakakaukau', (It is almost as if they have lost their capacity to think). I sensed though that their explanations of recognition were for the more dramatic cases. In practice, however, the case studies in previous chapters suggest that in many instances recognition might be a lot more ambiguous. Maiepuho's illness was recognised on the basis of her response to a remedy being used for someone else, but it is also likely that someone had mentioned her changed behaviour to Lilopau. The patient's failure to meet the gaze of the healer, might well, on occasion, be the result of not wishing to be treated. Often it is household members, unconcerned by the wishes of the patient, who decide that treatment is necessary. Successful treatment is indicated by an improvement in the person relating and interacting. Eye contact improves and there is usually a decrease in the amount of bizarre behaviour. As one healer from Neiafu explained, when the person is better 'Malimali mai, fa'a lea, longomui, ‘ikai ke toe tokoto, matafiefia' (The person smiles, speaks a lot, is 2

This exchange made me laugh and reminded me of the scene in the film Crocodile Dundee when an aboriginal friend of Dundee says to the lead actress as she points his camera at him 'You can't photograph'. She replies .'Why, because you believe that the camera will take away your spirit?' To which the aboriginal guide retorts ' No because you have the lens cap on.'


vigorous, does not lie down anymore and has a happy expression on their face). Siosiofanga concurs but also mentions the importance of food. Te ne fakamatala, talanoa, lelei mo kita. Fetu'utaki lelei aupito. Kai, ifo. 'Osi p! puke, kai ifo.

They explain to you, they talk comfortably with you, they relate really well. When the illness is over, they really enjoy eating.

The importance of enjoying food and eating was also salient in the improvement of Lalao and Maiepuho. Panuve's gratitude to Lealiki is pertinent in this respect, it was during the period of time that Lealiki treated Pouanga that he started eating. If not wishing to eat is a sign of illness and on occasion the result of a t!volo feeding you, then wanting to and enjoying eating again is a resolution of illness. Fakamahaki and death The association between fakamahaki and death brings into sharp relief the difference between ideas of illness and ideas of efficacy, as treatment can still be 'aonga (useful) even if the person eventually dies. I recount several brief stories of people that others maintained died as a result of t!volo involvement. Many people told me about a schoolgirl who had died of te'ia, puke fakat!volo, or fakamahaki around 1990. While people generally concurred on where she was from and the t!volo that had caused the illness, few were sure of the exact details surrounding her death. One person, who knew her, offered a very brief chronology of her illness. She began having problems with one of her ears, several years before she saw a soldier t!volo shoot her in the ear. She then started seeing her deceased father. On one occasion, while waiting in line in Form 5 for an exam, her father talked to her. She was ill on and off. They finally took her overseas to be treated where she was diagnosed as having hepatitis. They could not treat her and brought her home where she died. In October, 1998, I heard of the dramatic symptoms of a woman from one of the outer villages. Some friends in Neiafu told me she had died recently


after being taken for treatment to Nuku'alofa for massive bleeding from all over her body. She had attributed her illness to the anger of a t!volo whom she had seen after eating a mango taken from a cemetery nearby. The dentist confirmed that she was thought to have had te'ia, but when she was brought to the hospital she was diagnosed as suffering from Thrombocytopenia, on the basis of a blood test that revealed very low haemoglobin and spontaneous bleeding from the gums. Thrombocytopenia refers to abnormally low number of blood platelets in the circulation. Most of the household thought it was puke fakat!volo but one of the sons was not quite sure and came to the hospital to talk to one of the doctors. The doctor persuaded him to bring her to the hospital. They gave her four units of blood at the hospital and then sent her to the hospital in Nuku'alofa. A healer had treated her up to that point. In December 1998, a woman recounted to me how her twenty-five-yearold sister had died the previous year and had been buried on her birthday. She had a condition that the doctors in Nuku'alofa did not know how to treat. She had swelling and pain in the stomach area and on occasion was very weak and would vomit up anything that was given to her. She was sick for a year before she died. Three different healers treated her, but they could not help very much because they claimed she had been ill for too long. They thought it was puke fakat!volo, even though her sister had not seen any t!volo.

Though all three people had died from biomedically recognised conditions they were remembered as having died as a result of t!volo involvement. Fakamahaki or puke fakat!volo (used as a general category) thus can be attributed to any illness that is difficult to heal or impossible to treat, not only because the hospital has failed to heal it, but because any condition that is recognisable and has been brought to the hospital must be affecting their social functioning. In the absence of better explanations it is inevitable that the interpretations of local healers will take precedence and be remembered. 'Aonga-a local notion of efficacy A term that encapsulates a more local sense of efficacy is 'aonga. Even when people die, as in the above three cases, it is likely that treatment by healers would have been regarded as 'aonga. 'Aonga can be translated 237

as useful, of practical value, helpful, beneficial or effective. One of the healers in Bloomfield's survey characterised her practice in modest terms as ‘Fanga ki’i loi fakatonga pe ‘oku fa’a ‘aonga' (a kind of Tongan deception that is often useful) (Bloomfield 1986:68). This suggests that healers are sensitive to the perception of Tongan medicine by the medical establishment, particularly as Bloomfield was a nurse. Because of the attention of the healer, there will, inevitably, be behavioural changes in the patient in the short term, that will be mentioned to demonstrate some kind of improvement. Toutouofa, for example, experienced less pain as a result of Lilopau's treatment. Pouanga stopped talking to his deceased wife and stopped wetting the bed so frequently. On one occasion, Lilopau was called to treat an individual on his deathbed. Her attention was much appreciated, even though the man died within the week. With a notion of efficacy such as 'aonga it is not a contradiction to attribute efficacy to every healer and doctor who participates in some way. Nor is it contradictory to have treatment from several different sources. The more help you get, the better. The ethics of healers cannot but lead to people saying that treatment was 'aonga, out of gratitude and politeness, even if they then go to another healer. That illness has little materiality and is not located in the body leads to efficacy being understood in this weaker, less definitive form. The involvement of the healer in the household can be seen to encourage an attribution of 'aonga in two main ways. Firstly, the healers affect the social dynamics within the household, leading to a sense of intrinsic efficacy that would fall within the anthropological explanations I mentioned above. Secondly the great attention that is paid to the household and patient by the healer evokes and attenuates relatedness between them. On occasion, patients live with the healers and are looked after by them. To attribute efficacy to the healer in this context is thus to reflect and evoke this relatedness. It is not surprising that healers, whose involvement with the household is often considerable, go away feeling they have been responsible for the successful treatment of the condition. This is not to say that, on occasion, they are not responsible in some more intrinsic way, but it would be unusual, in fact a reflection of impoliteness, for them not to think this way. The importance of tauhi vaha'a also partially explains why people do not tell current healers or doctors of previous healer or doctors, nor of healer 238

or doctors they went to afterwards. They themselves might also find it inconsequential. It is also interesting to see, that with the passing of time, and as the relatedness established between the healer and household is no longer evoked and attenuated, there may be some reevaluation of the efficacy formerly attributed. The process of seeking help Healers can be left with the impression that their healing was efficacious not only because, in most cases, families want to acknowledge their help and assistance, but also because of the process of seeking help. That patients do not return is mentioned by some healers and doctors as evidence for them getting better, whereas, in actual fact, they are with another healer. From the healer's perspective, it is in one sense not important. Having answered the request for help and fulfilled her duty she has no more responsibility for the case. What healers know about a patient after they have left them will no doubt vary, depending how the patient was recommended, whether they are k!inga or from the same village. For the healers I introduced and who treat people from all over the island group, it is unlikely that they are party to much news after the treatment. As few healers know each other well, and patients typically do not talk about their previous healing in very specific terms, and as healers invariably claim efficacy, once a patient no longer comes for treatment, those people familiar with the healer and her household are also left under the impression that the healing was successful. Healers invariably claim efficacy in stronger terms than are credited to them by the respective household. A healer's claim for 'aonga is more 'effective' in English terms, whereas for the household of the patient the attribution of efficacy might be a more 'useful' or 'helpful'. On many occasions, my association with healers and their families left me under the impression that their treatment had been successful in the first sense of 'aonga, but in reality it was only the second.


Hangatam aki The treatment of hangatamaki (a general category than includes a variety of boil, abscesses and other swellings) can illustrate this process. There are many people who have their own particular remedy for such conditions, and there are many terms for different boils and swelling in different parts of the body. Hila ki lalo, for example refers to a boil or swelling in the groin area. Hulupa and mata'i ika are hangatamaki on the hands, sometimes on the ends of the fingers. While I am watching a video at Mameatu’s (the health officer who lives closest to the hospital) house a young man comes and stands patiently at the door, his hand covered by a T-shirt and held up in the air. Mameatu lifts the T-shirt to expose a pus-filled swollen finger that is at least twice its normal size. The Tongan term is mata'i ika or hulup!. Though it is weeping, it has not burst. From the young man biting his lip we can see it is really painful. He says that he has had it since Monday this week, but Mameatu tells me later that he has had it for at least two weeks. In the operating room the patient explains how he went to about three or four different male healers for treatment, each one called his condition something different. I ask Mameatu why he finally came to the hospital? Mameatu explains that it is always pain that brings them in. The man mentioned that it was not so bad when he slept or when he did this or that, as if it did not matter that his finger appeared to be gangrenous. He cried quietly to himself when his finger was examined. Mameatu talks about saving his finger, with the implication that he might lose it. The nurse gives him a shot in the buttock and then takes him to the treatment room where he is given a local anaesthetic. With gloves on and using a scalpel, Mameatu opens up the finger on both sides. The man winces. Pus and blood oozes out. The nurse puts him on an IV drip and admits him. He will probably be operated on Monday. Having released the pus he feels a lot better. A week after the operation, I talk to him again. He talks about the healers he went to see. He was first treated for fesi'ia with oil and massage. After three days there was no improvement so he went to someone else who treated him for mata'ika, for two days with oil and light massage. The following healer called his condition haki, and treated him with six tuitui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut). The final healer called it a tama po'uli and treated it with leaves covered with larger nonu (Morinda citrifolia) leaves. His mother and father finally persuaded him to come to the hospital.

Nifoloa, the dentist, argued above that it was treatment of boils that led to biomedicine reinforcing belief in Tongan medicine. Is the reason for 240

people going for treatment of hangatamaki to healers rather than the hospital due to the fact that it is regarded as an archetypal Tongan condition and believed to be unresponsive to biomedical treatment? This is ironic, considering it is one of the easiest conditions to treat with antibiotics. A focus on the process of seeking healing, makes us look at this situation in a different way. If we foreground the process of seeking healing, kole tokoni (asking for help), over diagnostic considerations, we see that it is inevitable that most cases of hangatamaki are treated by healers and not the hospital because there are so many more people who can treat hangatamaki from whom one can ask for assistance. Case study (10) Katea: tali mate (to await or expect 'death') The counterpoint to the dramatic stories of delay, that doctors use to characterise the interaction between hospital and healers, are the dramatic stories of patients being rescued from death's door, under the powerless and inept medical gaze. Many healers recount incidences of particular patients whom they saved from a state of tali mate. Tali mate literally means awaiting or expecting death and is often applied to the state in which patients find themselves when the hospital can do no more for them. Churchward's translation of mate as to die, to be stunned or quite unconscious suggests that mate refers less to a well defined biological death than varying degrees of social death. Stories of patients rescued from tali mate are the most dramatic justification of Tongan medicine drawing on divine power. One man told me of the story his daughter who was seriously ill, sixteen years ago, when she was seven years old. He often talks about it: She had a boil on her head that spread under her skin to other parts of her forehead. I took her to the hospital but the medicine the doctors gave her didn't really help. She became weaker and weaker, turned all white and could not move one side of her body very well. I went in search of a healer. I crossed the sea in my canoe to Vaimalo, before the bridge was built, and brought the healer back. The healer was really frightened of the doctors, so I told him this is my daughter and I want you there. The younger doctor called him a little bit stupid for believing in t!volo. As soon as the healer put


his hand on her head the colour came back to her cheeks and she moved her body for the first time. I was so happy that I cried buckets. The doctors could not believe it. The younger one had only just qualified. The doctor later apologised to me in New Zealand, saying that he now realised that I was right. The treatment continued and involved taking different infusions; the boils eventually all cleared up. My daughter is alive but the healer is dead.

The following dramatic case study in which a patient was rescued from tali mate is particularly interesting in the disjuncture it presents between the attribution of efficacy and what 'actually' happened in biomedical terms. A biomedically trained practitioner might be perplexed that someone successfully treated at the hospital would still maintain that it was a healer that cured him? How can healers claim that a patient was tali mate when they had been successfully treated by the hospital? This narrative is important, not only because of the disjuncture it demonstrates, but also because such narratives are persuasive in encouraging other people to seek similar healing. Like '!vanga narratives, they gain definitiveness through the passage of time. Akosita and her household recommended I interview Katea, a patient whom she had treated in 1984 in a very dramatic fashion. The doctors had released him from hospital with three or four days to live; he had a condition that she had named as '!vanga pupunu. Within a week, he was better and eventually went home completely cured. He now lives in Nuku'alofa. '"vanga pupunu refers to a kind of '!vanga manifest in a blockage. This diagnosis implies that at the time Akosita's conceptualisation of illness, in contrast to now, was more personalistic. Pupunu (to fill up, plug up, block up, stop up) can also be attached to kahi (name applied to various diseased swellings, such as goitre, scrofulous swelling and piles or hemorrhoids) as in kahi pupunu which Bloomfield translates as 'difficult and painful defecation' (Bloomfield 1986: 115). Such illnesses and conditions of a similar nature are the subject of much humour in Tonga, perhaps best epitomised in 'Epeli Hau'ofa's (1995) novel 'Kisses in the Nederends'. This details the fictional search for healing of an intractable stomach and digestive condition. Allusions to male hydrocele of the testicles form a staple of much teasing in kava clubs. It would indeed be an unusual kava club if mention were not made of my 242

companion's suffering or for having been treated for such a condition, once I mentioned the fact of my researching Tongan medicine. Despite the fact that it had occurred some 16 years before, Katea had a convincing memory of the whole event, which he told in his house in the presence of his wife and Akosita's son. The main part of his narrative lasted half an hour. I summarise some of the most salient points and then focus on the final part, in which he expresses his gratitude to Akosita. He recognised the start of his illness in a loss of appetite and a lack of energy, which then led to vomiting, when he ate certain foods. It got to the stage that he could only eat tomatoes. When his stomach starting swelling, he was taken to the hospital, where the doctors did many tests and gave him pills to swallow. He names all the three doctors who examined him and remembers the one who said that he had a liquid in his stomach and that they would need to operate to remove it. At one stage he was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) of the stomach. This was the start of his disenchantment with the hospital. It made him think as he could not understand how he could have TB in the stomach and not in the rest of his body. The injections he received, just in case it was TB, made him so tired that he could hardly move or talk. He had been there almost a month and he still had no appetite whatsoever. He did not want to be operated on and so requested some vai Tonga (liquid Tongan remedy) that gave him some relief. He had already been released home when he remembered how Akosita had once treated his son. He asked his wife to go to the market and request her help. Akosita came straight away. ‘Oku sai, talamai a Akosita, ilo'i, te ke mo'ui p! koe, sai p! ia, ko e mahaki 'a koe, na'a faito'o p! e au, sai pe ia, tau " ki 'api ke tokoto ai. Mau fakaheka leva, taha ua he tokonaki, mau alu leva ki ai, mau tau atu pe, fakahifo pulia 'a Akosita, 'ohovale pe kuo asi mai, taha ia, asi mai mo fo'i bowlu, fonu mai he vai, la'i akau ataata, lanu mata, la'i akau hange ko oku koa meimei vavalea mei ai, ma


inu, inu hange ‘oku sio ki ai, ko 'ene a'u pe kia au pongipongi Sapate kuo mahino e faito'o. Fiu hono feinga'i ke u inu, ilifia hono inu fu'u lahi 'a e vai ke u inu, feinga'i feinga'i p!, inu malolo, ma'a taimi ko ia. ‘Ikai ke toe kai au, sio ke alu uike e tolu, ‘ikai p! ke toe kai, ko ene' a'u p! ke Sapate, ha'u p! he efiafi he fa, toe asi mai a sina moe vai, vai tatau p!, omai keu inu, talange sai, ha'u p! pongipongi Sapate, te ke

talamai leva faka'ilonga, sio lava mahina e taha ‘ikai keu toe kai, ‘ikai ke u toe alu mama'o. 'U'u ae moa he pongipongi sapate, ofi p! ko e ta p! he lotu, o fafangu o mali, alu ki peito sio p! ‘oku i ai ha fu'u to'onga haka ‘oku mafu p!. Mate he fiekaia fanongo mai 'a Akosita mo Tui mei fale hoko mai leva ki tu'a eke mai leva pea ko e h" leva talange kuo mate he fiekaia, nau hopo mai o taa'i he moa kuo 'osi nono'o ai e moa ai mo e fu'u ufi i kulo hono lahi, alu p! o fonu, ilo'o o kai, ‘ikai ke 'osi'osingámalie haka ko ia, kai ifo taha ia, talu me ai ‘ikai ke toe ma'u e ifo o u kai ko ia, mate he fiekaia. ‘Don't worry’, said Akosita, ‘you'll get better. The illness you have, I have already treated, don't worry. Let's go back home and you can rest there’. We got in the car straightaway at twelve o'clock on Saturday. We went straight there. Akosita got off straight away and disappeared. I was really surprised when she reappeared with a bowl, full of water and green leaves. It was frothy and almost slimy. I drank it continuously till the next day. By Sunday the treatment was clearly

working. They encouraged me to drink so often. It was frightening how much of the remedy I drank. I tried, and tried again, rested and eventually the bowl was empty. By that time I hadn't eaten for three weeks; when it got to four in the afternoon on Sunday, Akosita appeared with some more remedy to drink. On that Sunday morning, Akosita had told me there would be a sign. I hadn't eaten or defecated for about a month. I nibbled bits of chicken at the time when the bell rang for church and I woke up my wife. I went to the kitchen to see if there were any leftovers, but they were off. I was absolutely starving. Akosita and Tui heard me and came and asked me. I told them and they went off and killed a chicken that had already been tied up. They filled up a pot with large yams. There was so much it couldn't be finished. That was the tastiest food. I have never enjoyed food so much as I did then. I was so hungry.

Akosita told him he had a kind of hangatamaki in his stomach and that it would soon burst. She explained that he had '"vanga pupunu, and that a relative had been operated on for some kind of kahi similar to his condition and had died as a result of the operation. Within a week of being at Akosita's place, the hangatamaki burst, and a foul liquid came out of his anus. Akosita's household looked after him and gave him remedies for a total of three weeks. When he returned home he had lost so much weight that people did not recognise him. He eventually 244

moved down to Nuku'alofa where he now teaches. When he was ill a second time, he refused to see a doctor and asked for Akosita's help again. On recalling the second time she came to treat him, he pauses frequently to hold back tears. ‘Oku ou sio kia Akosita ‘oku, si'ene 'ofa, fakamole hono taimi faingata'ia pea ‘ikai ke ngalo ia kia au. ’Oku ‘ikai keu ave me'a ofa kia Akosita, te'eki ai ke anga. Ka kuo loto p! ke lahi, ke monu'ia hoku foha kae a'u ke fakakaukau he ko e taha ia ‘o e ilo'anga 'o e faito'o ko Akosita ko au. Pea ilo'i fakaivi'i 'a Akosita 'a e 'Otua ko ene 'ofa fefine 'ofa, ‘ikai ke fakalau ke ha'u p! ha taha ‘oku tu'uamalie pea tokanga ia ki ai pea li'aki mautolu ko masiva, lahi ange tokanga ‘a Akosita kiamautolu oe tu'utamaki ia enau kai, pea kau au i he monu'ia ‘oku ou kau i he monu'ia ko'uhi ko Akosita, pea 'ilo p! emau 'api ae me'a kotokotoa p! i he faito'o teu li heni o Vava'u ke omai. ’Oku ou tumutumu 'a e faito'o a Akosita. Fakatumutumu lahi aupito aupito, ko'uhi ‘oku i ai e faito'o a Akosita ke te inu p! omai ea ke hoto kete ke 'osi tu'u, mahalo p! na'a ke sio ki ai, omai ko ia puipui p! hoto kete pea ke lua, fakalua a Akosita e fo'i vai e si'isi'i 'osi'osing"malie moe fiho katoa, manava, ka koe ko monu'ia he ko taha ia 'a e kakai 'a Akosita. Mahalo koe fuofua tangata au na'a hanga o fakamafola lahi faito'o ko a Akosita i Vava'u. (ko'uhi ko enau a'u ke faito'o 'a e mata na'e Seilosi ‘oku faka'ivi'i 'a Otua 'a Akosita ) pea ‘oku sai he ‘oku i ai e kau t#ket" ke nau sai'ia 'a e faito'o ‘oku hifo ki ai a


Akosita ke nau hifo, kau mo nautolu ai , pea ‘oku ou tui ki he faito'o fakatonga, kuo tui aupito aupito ki he faito'o fakatonga, ko'uhi ko ene h" pe fa'anga ki'i tamaiki iiki. ‘Oku i ai mo e kau t#ket" ‘oku nau faka'‘ikai'i he faito'o fakatonga kae 'osi, na'e puhi'aki nautolu e kili'i fekika vau mai mo e kili'i tava faka'inu aki ki ene kei si'isi'i o mo'ui ‘ikai ke toe hono omai he vai o inu fakaimu pea 'osi nau mo'ui pea nau faka'‘ikai'i e kili'i akau mo la'i akau. Ko e me'a p! na'a omai p! e Sehova e natula ke tauhi'aki he kakai. When I saw Akosita, [Katea starts to cry], her profound kindness, spending so much time, dealing with my troubles. I won't forget her. I did not give Akosita a gift, I haven't managed it yet, but I was really determined to do so. My son is so lucky. I have realised that I am one of the ways by which Akosita has become widely known, that God has given her a power manifest in her 'ofa [his voice breaks with emotion]. She is woman of 'ofa. She does not pick and choose whom she treats, only choosing the wealthy and ignoring the poor. She looked after us a lot, paying attention to the problems in our diet. I am fortunate and blessed because of Akosita. Everyone in our house knows how

much I would contribute to bring her here. I am astonished by Akosita's medicine. It is really astonishing because there is a kind of remedy that Akosita makes that when you drink it takes air into your stomach, maybe you've already seen it, it brings the puipui (curtain, blind) to one's stomach to vomit, there's another that makes you vomit and gets rid of all the mucus so that you can breathe. Akosita's people are very lucky. Maybe I was the first man to spread the news of Akosita's treatment in Vava'u. (I was not able to translate the sentence in brackets) There are doctors who like her medicine and come to see her. I

believe/have faith in Tongan treatment, I really believe very strongly in Tongan treatment, especially because its efficacy is evident from its use to treat small children. There are also doctors who deny Tongan medicine, even though they were treated with grated fekika (Syzygium malaccense) bark or tava (Pometia pinnata) bark to drink when they were small. They are healthy as a result but they still deny it. That's why Jehovah made nature so that it could be used to look after people.

Comparing the narrative to hospital treatment Katea was admitted to the hospital in mid September 1984 after being seen as an outpatient at a health centre for epigastric pain, followed by vomiting that he had suffered on and off for the previous three months. He had already received treatment for a peptic ulcer when the doctor made a diagnosis of 'ascites for full investigation and peptic ulcer' and detailed his symptoms of 'nausea, vomiting of saliva and gastric fluid, coughing, generalised enlargement of the abdomen with fluid'. His liver and spleen were not palpable. Nine days later, the doctor notes that his stomach appears normal and that, since his father suffered from TB, they should reconsider the therapeutic level of TB treatment. The following day a Mantoux test is negative; thirteen days later the doctor notes that the ascites appear to be reducing. On the 31/10/84, after six weeks in hospital, he is discharged home; the doctor notes 'G/C: good, chest: clear, abdomen: bumpy mass over epigastris, PD TB Peritonitis or Ascites, Ascites completely absorbed now' and asks that he returns in two weeks. 246

The medical record confirms that in the doctors' eyes he was sufficiently better to be released home. The assertion by Akosita's son that he was tali mate seems a bit of an exaggeration, even by Katea's own account. From his narrative, it was unclear whether or not he thought he was going to die. There are many questions that this narrative raises. I focus, however, on Katea's attribution of efficacy to Akosita. I examine in chronological order the many interlinked factors that might explain Katea's attribution of efficacy to Akosita. At the outset Katea demonstrated a lack of biomedical knowledge as regards his condition and improvement once he was released from hospital. He talks about liquid or water in his stomach and TB. He seems unconvinced by the biomedical diagnosis, despite having been examined by several notable doctors. His fear of the operation is justified when he later learns that someone, who was operated on for a similar condition, had died. Any appreciation of his biomedical diagnosis, that he might have had, is buried under the clarity of Akosita's explanation and the prediction of a sign of his getting better. During her treatment he experiences the most dramatic change in symptoms, his initial re-discovery of his appetite, and his delicious first meal and the dramatic bursting of the hangatamaki in his stomach evidenced by the foul fluid that came out of his backside. He is overwhelmed by Akosita's attention and is genuinely astonished at her remedies. He is 'living proof' of Akosita's God given power manifest in her all-embracing love and consideration. When he recalls how she answered his second request for help, he is moved to tears and chokes when he says, si'ene 'ofa. In this context, si'i as a prefix to 'ene (her) expresses great affection and appreciation for Akosita's 'ofa. His narrative is powerfully convincing and he is, no doubt, right when he claims that many people know of Akosita because of him. He expresses a mild exasperation with the doctors whose current good health, he claims, is the result of Tongan medicine when they were young, yet they deny it now in their later years. Katea's narrative suggests that, in some instances, the attribution of efficacy goes beyond the process of its attribution, discussed above, but also draws on powerfully emotive, religious notions of God's intervention and involvement. In some instances, the attribution of efficacy to Tongan medicine and the celebration of God's involvement in providing for Tongan people are one and the same thing. 247

The speaking and tauhi vaha'a of doctors I have already characterised healers by their powerful eloquence and ethics of assistance. Compared to healers, doctors and, to a lesser extent health officers and nurses, differ greatly in the way they speak to patients. This is an important factor in the attribution of efficacy. Doctors, health officers and nurses are part of an institutional structure and have certain, rarely questioned modes of relating to patients-not unique to Tonga-that draw on ideas of status and associated modes of presentation. To many, they fulfil the stereotype of being 'clever, clean, confident, busy and arrogant' (Bloomfield 1986:190). They are contrasted with the 'kind, amusing, confident, but slow and not very clean' healers (Ibid: 190). As much as doctors may differ from each other, their membership of an institution and local ideology of biomedicine makes them much easier to categorise than a number of different healers. Most people experience them in their role as doctors first and only then as individuals. With healers, there is some kind of prior knowledge or connection; one typically requests help through a friend or relative. Doctors have a high status. All have studied overseas, and this is often celebrated in the local newspapers. Many are from high status families. A few have noble connections or are they themselves mat!pule (talking chief). That the term, t"ket!, used to describe them, denotes high status is suggested by the fact that most health officers and inspectors are referred to by this term, even though the majority of people have a clear sense of the difference between health officers and doctors. Health officers train in Tonga for three years; a long period of this time in the hospital. Their training is oriented towards the most common conditions they are likely to encounter. Many doctors cultivate an air of distinction, that some would describe as arrogance, which reflects their status but which also constitutes a relationship of precedence in which the patient is tu'a (lower) in status. As one of higher status one typically gives instructions, not explanations. In the case of nobles, explanations are either not required or are expressed through their mat!pule (talking chief). No doubt, patients reinforce this modality. Many feel shame and 248

are inhibited in the presence of doctors. As not to speak is to show respect, many people keep their explanations to a minimum. Doctors' experiences of patients reflect in part the respect they are accorded. One doctor, who had practised for many years overseas, explained to me: Tongans are very poor at explaining pain. They do not give elaborate explanations of their illness. They just say the bare minimum. You have to ask lots of questions to get the information out of them. Some of the older people have more words. They don't give the whole story when presenting. You ask: 'What's the problem? Cough, Anything else?' 'No.' 'Do you have headache?'-'Yes.' You have to squeeze out the information. Their understanding of what they should tell you is low. Talking about sexual parts is also embarrassing. When talking about the scrotum they say fakatangata. I wish people would come straight out with what their symptoms are. If only they could give you accurate descriptions.

Could the reason for older people having more words be linked with the fact that they feel less shame in doctors' presence because of their age? My experience of patients, when they are with healers, is that they are very good at explaining symptoms, unless they are much younger and feel inhibited in the presence of the healer. Many Tongans talk about stoicism in the Tongan character that is a result of an upbringing which teaches you to deny pain, ignore problems or deal with them through laughter. One non-Tongan General Practitioner in Tongatapu regards Tongans as expert somatisers. She argues that they manifest their personal problems through pains in their bodies which they are taught not to talk about or draw attention to. Among men, particularly, I saw or heard of many instances of people being able to deny pain or paying it no attention. The story of the man with the boil is just one example; there was very little complaint, despite the great pain he was undoubtedly in. Pain, however, affects the enthusiasm with which people relate to each other. Despite little verbal confirmation of pain or physical problems, many people are able to tell, through the body language of the person, that there is a problem. Perhaps patients take it for granted that doctors will pick up the same clues of their pain as relatives? A contrast can be made between the style and content of healers' speaking-which betrays an active tauhi vaha'a to the household and a Tonga constituted in Christianity-and the speaking of doctors which 249

reveals a stylistic affirmation of stereotypical noble commoner distinctions. Healers' evoking their relatedness to the church endears them to many. Doctors' minimalist instructions and lack of concern with presentation, does not reduce people's confidence in their expertise, in as much as they still show respect and regard for nobles, but it does mean that they do not often understand or appreciate what the doctors or health officers are trying to do. Certain words in privileged registries of Tongan language become common place as they are utilised for their seeming power and greater appropriateness in communicating respect and ability by people who previously did not have use of them. In a similar way, as I discussed in chapter two, privileged biomedical terms also enter into more common use, initially through their use by people to tauhi vaha'a. The use of terms, such as fakatotokovi that I discussed above, is an example of this. Knowledge of the biomedical background of these terms varies but in general seems to be limited in Vava’u. The idea that biomedical knowledge is privileged, with people seemingly only having access to the terms, is only now undergoing a change due to rising rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease which clearly cannot be dealt with unless the public is well informed as to the processes and causes of such illnesses. That lack of understanding also explains why biomedical terms and techniques are so easily appropriated. For example, the great popularity of vai (liquid remedies containing a variety of plants) seems to be a Tongan appropriation of an earlier biomedical mode of treatment with the efficacy of the vital contents explained in religious terms (God fakaivi'i (putting power) into plants). On occasion, the specific plants may be given to the owner of the remedy in a dream. The fact that many such vai are named vai Tonga, suggests that the original inspiration was not Tongan. People typically try to seek help in the hospital through or from relatives and friends. Once a doctor or health officer is a relative, from whom one feels confident in kole tokoni, their mode of presentation can change. Doctors and health officers feel a greater sense of obligation and also are themselves less comfortable in maintaining a high status position with respect to a relative, particularly if that person is 'eiki (higher status) to them. However, as there are few doctors and health officer and not all are from Vava'u there are proportionally few people who can benefit from this change of attitude. Perhaps, one of the 250

reasons why Toutouofa's condition was not recognised earlier was due to her not having many relatives in Vava'u who could intercede on her behalf. I am not arguing that non-relatives get worse treatment, but that they are likely to receive fewer explanations and less communication. In defence of doctors in Vava'u, they are limited by the restrictions of the Ministry of Health that employ them and often frustrated by institutional politics. During the time I was in Vava'u, two doctors and five health officers serviced a population of 15,000 and as a result were often overworked. Many doctors do not see their mode of presentation as a problem. They are probably comfortable in it; it reflects both what they were taught and how they regard themselves. They see dealing with pathology, rather than giving explanations, as their job. Many medical concepts are very difficult to communicate in Tongan, particularly as most doctors were trained in English and may have lived overseas for a long time. One of the characterisations of doctors is that they are fakapoto (of a kind, or in a manner, characteristic of experts). To not use the technical terms and academic language, associated with this characterisation, and to use instead the terms which are favoured by healers and many people in Vava’u may be seen as too much of compromise. Putting scientific concepts into Tonga is also problematic, as they are likely to be appropriated and understood in people’s own terms. I discuss the attempt by the psychiatrist to translated psychiatric concepts into Tongan in chapter nine. Doctors' perception of healers as uneducated also hinders closer co-ordination between them. Conclusion Through examining efficacy as conceptualised by healers and the hospital, I have tried to do the following: (1) to negotiate a position between them, (2) to contextualise the narratives that reinforce the efficacy of their own healing practice and (3) to attribute a degree of the blame for delay to healers' practice, made by doctors, to doctors themselves. I suggest that doctors, health officers and nurses are implicated in the blame they ascribe to healers for delaying treatment, fundamentally, because of their failure to convince patients that they 251

understand their illnesses. Healers are not as opposed to biomedical practice, as doctors are to traditional practice. Many of them tauhi vaha'a to the representatives of biomedical practice through their use of terms, explanations given and remedies used; in some cases they are inspired by medical practice and this in evident in their voiced insistence that patients go to the hospital first. There is a rarely appreciated symbiosis, in which healers and doctors inadvertently strengthen and support various aspects of each other's practice. Ironically, healers protect the hospital from blame for iatrogenic illnesses or poor treatment by explaining them in terms of t!volo involvement. People who die in the hospital are often remembered as having been affected by a t!volo not failed by the hospital. It is, therefore, healers’ ascertaining the involvement of t!volo in sickness, and lack of knowledge of more biomedical conceptions of illness, that on occasion effectively protect doctors, nurses and health officers from blame when biomedical treatments have not been adequate.



Eccentricity, explanation and stigma

Likuone is an area of picturesque wooded coves and hidden beaches at the base of cliffs on the inhospitable northern coast of Vava'u. William Mariner's seminal account of the two years he spent in Tonga from 1806, is unique within the literature on Polynesia for its attention to detail, thus providing great insight into pre-Christian Tonga. His explanation of the origin of the name of a cave in Likuone, named after a solitary individual known as Tootawi (Martin 1979:229), is the earliest account of an individual demonstrating eccentric behaviour in Vava'u. In content and narrative style his report demonstrates remarkable continuities to present day Vava'u. Fundamentally, wishing to be alone is still regarded as an eccentricity and often a sign of sickness in Vava'u. It is one aspect of people's behaviour which is often described to assert the involvement of t!volo. A considerable time before the revolution of Tonga, when Voona was governor of Vavaoo, there lived at the latter place a mooa1 whose name was Tootawi. He was a man of solitary and reflective disposition. To indulge his humour, he would often take with him provisions and retire to the northern or unfrequented part of the island near Licoo, and there saunter about among the rocks and caverns of the shore for two or three days together. He was so much in the habit of wandering over craggy and dangerous places, that it was said he could climb rocks and ascend frightful steps with a facility beyond the power of any other human being. On one occasion he was absent for so long from the mooa that his friends were apprehensive some misfortune had befallen him; they commenced a search, expecting to find his body at the foot of some precipice, down which in an evil hour he had fallen. No vestige of him, however, was to be seen; and after a long time spent in the fruitless endeavour to discover his remains, they imagined he must have been devoured by a shark whilst bathing; and with this reflection 1

According to Mariner:'Mooas are the next class of people below the matabooles; they are either the sons or brothers of matabooles, or descendants'. Mooa could also have the meaning of capital town of an island (Martin 1979: 90).


they returned dejected to their houses. A few months now elapsed, when one day some carpenters, whilst employed in cutting timber in the neighbourhood of Licoo, were surprised, and not a little startled, by the appearance of the long lost solitary. He no sooner saw them than he fled, and they, a little recovered from their first astonishment, pursued; but it was in vain they followed him among the cliffs; he escaped by paths known and accessible only to himself. Many months passed away, and no more was seen of heard of Tootawi: several persons endeavoured to discover his retreat:they called his name aloud among the rocks, but no answer was returned save the echo of their own voices. His singular conduct formed everywhere the common topic of discourse, and the most ardent wish of the curious was to find out the place of his resort. Some young females went out early one morning to gather flowers while the dew was yet on them; and extending their walk along Licoo, strayed into wild and unfrequented places. Whilst they were admiring the sublimity of the surrounding scenery, their attention was suddenly arrested by the appearance of smoke rising from among the neighbouring cliffs, and they resolved if possible to ascertain the cause of so unexpected a circumstance. Animated by the hope of discovering what had been long sought for, they ascended with much difficulty a steep and craggy place, and looking down on the opposite side, the beheld, in a small cave, the figure of Tootawi, near a fire, preparing yams. Fear held them mute; not daring to interrupt him, and apprehensive of exciting his attention, they drew back, and descended the way they came. They ran speedily to a plantation at some distance, and announced to all they met they had found out the abode of the recluse. A few of his friends immediately set out to visit him, and by the directions of the young women they approached the cave, at the entrance of which was Tootรกwi sitting on the ground in a thoughtful posture. He did not observe them till they were too near to allow of flight. He appeared displeased at the intrusion, and earnestly begged them to leave him. There was nothing on earth that he wanted, and all their arguments were thrown away in persuading him to return to society. Finding their endeavours fruitless, they yielded to his wishes, and left him. From that time many people went on different occasions, led chiefly by curiosity, to visit his cave, but it was very seldom they found him there. Whether he had any other place of retreat, nobody ever knew. He lived principally upon yams and juice of the coco-nut; and the chief furniture of his cave was a mat to sleep on. When Voona, the governor, heard that his retreat was discovered, and that many went to visit the place, he issued orders, on the occasion of a fono or general assembly of the people, that no one should molest him; and accordingly every respect was paid to the injunction. Some time after this, the battle of Tonga having been fought, Finow invaded and conquered Vavaoo, upon which Voona fled to Hamoa. No sooner had the king established his authority in the island, than he took a guide to conduct him to the cave of Tootawi, of whose extraordinary


character he had heard, and whom he had a most lively desire to see. He found him, and was received as any indifferent person. Finow spoke kindly to him; inquired if there was any thing that could render his situation more comfortable, and offered whatever could be thought of to induce him to return to the habitations of men; but Tootawi seemed equally indifferent to all; he wished for nothing but solitude. Canoes, houses, and plantations were to him matters of no value whatsoever; conversations had no charms for him, and the luxuries of life were insipid things. When Finow requested him to select a wife from among his numerous female attendants, he replied that it was of all things that which was most remote from his wishes. At length the king gave him an unlimited choice among the whole extent of his possessions, and in the most earnest manner entreated him to accept of something. Being thus strongly pressed, the moderate Tootawi chose a wearing-mat of the king called gie fow and this was the only article that the eloquence and kindness of Finow could persuade him to accept of. The king left him with sentiments of admiration, and shortly after confirmed the orders that had been formerly given to prevent any body molesting him. Thus lived Tootawi for some three or four years, afterwards; but one day he was found lying on the ground, stretched out dead within his cave.

This account captures the mixture of wonder and fear that people had for Tootawi and the miraculous qualities with which he was imbued; characteristics that are celebrated in modern day eccentrics. Tootawi is treated well; his eccentricity is tolerated and he is the object of great fascination. And yet, no mention is made to what people attributed his solitary nature. There is no assertion of his eccentricity in definitive terms when there were many words to describe his condition in descriptive and pejorative terms. Is this omission a reflection of people's great sensitivity (that any explanation of the origin of his condition might imply) or simply a lack of interest in such matters? The suggestion that he may have been eaten by a shark would suggest to current day Vava'uans, that he had transgressed some kind of tapu. But yet this is only implied and not explicit in the narrative. The interest and concern shown by both Voona and King Finow in Tootawi is notable. To what can we attribute this interest and concern? His Majesty King T!ufa'!hau Tupou IV is also well known for his concern for such people. However, I am wary of over-interpreting from what is essentially an account of a remembered historical event. In contrast to much of what Mariner describes, this is not a first hand account. Yet, I 255

am at the same time struck by some of the historical continuities that the remainder of this chapter will reveal. Introduction The fluidity and use of the terms that approximate to 'mental illness' in Vava'u influence the potential stigmatisation and shame surrounding people who suffer from such conditions. I address this topic last in the ethnography for several reasons. To approach an appreciation of 'mental illness' requires a sensitivity and breadth of association born of a long period of living in Vava'u. It also requires knowledge of the themes and ethnographic particularities that have been raised in previous chapters. An appreciation of the use of t!volo, the fluidity of terms with particular reference to '"vanga, the nature of speaking and tauhi vaha'a, the particularities of healers and peoples' choice whether or not to go to healers or doctors, are all necessary pre-requisites. The enduring emphasis on the particular is key. It is precisely people's engagement and experience of particular cases that is most relevant in gaining an appreciation of what is most salient in Vava'u with respect to 'mental illness'. I choose to enter this discussion primarily through stories of particular eccentrics and through the term 'eccentricity'. Local eccentrics celebrate personhood through their actions. More importantly the agency assumed in this notion of personhood is not denied in people's explanations of their behaviour. In the case of eccentrics, to make a metaphoric aspersion of t!volo like behaviour, is more sensitive than an attribution of 'mental illness'. One cannot formulate a generalised notion of 'folk knowledge' (Clement 1982) or cultural conceptions of 'mental illness' in Vava'u without immediately burying the most important features I wish to communicate. To do so would be to deny the depth of association that led to one learning about those eccentrics in the first place. An attribution of 'mental illness' is never abstract nor free of ramifications and in Vava'u cannot be separated from the need to tauhi vaha'a and the regard many people have for people who behave in ways that might suggest 'mental illness'.


Previous work on mental illness in Tonga has assumed an ontological reality of 'mental illness' in biomedical terms.2 The question 'Is mental illness stigmatised?' is not problematised because mental illness is assumed to have a reality outside of human interpretation. Such a biomedical position has its utility and validity but must be put to one side in order to reveal the local ethnographic particularities and ramifications when such attributions of 'mental illness' are made. I am interested in moving beyond questions of what 'mental illness' is or how it is conceived 'culturally', exemplified by Marsella & White's (1982) edited volume 'Cultural Conceptions of Mental Health and Therapy', by focussing on how local concepts are used by particular people and what the ramifications are of using one notion or explanation of 'mental illness' over another. Locating the diversity of knowledge of 'mental illness' in the acts of tauhi vaha'a of particular people in Vava'u avoids abstracting descriptive terms from the social ramifications of their use. It is key to recognise that attributions of 'mental illness' can never be impartial nor can they be inconsequential in both medical and local prognosis. The next chapter examines the ramifications of the attempted institutionalisation of terms for 'mental illness', and the implications of essentialising descriptions of inappropriate behaviour in more biomedical terms. Case study (11) Ahio The description of Tootawi is remarkably similar to an individual of popular renown in Vava'u. A man who, according to a school friend, when ill often goes and lives by the cliffs and sleeps the night in a cave, probably in the same cave previously known as 'Tootawi cave'. Like Tootawi, he enjoys the protection of the King. Despite his unusual behaviour, he is highly regarded by many people on the island. Where he differs from the description of Tootawi, is his periodic social enthusiasm when he attends kalapu, funerals and other social events. He becomes reclusive only occasionally. 2

Jilek (1988), Murphy & Taumoepeau (1980), Puloka (1998), Foliaki (1998), Batchelor (1997). For a bibliography of Culture and Mental Health in the Pacific Islands see Rubinstein & White (1983).


How best can one introduce this man? I return to an event that reminded many people in Vava'u of his uniqueness, the lakalaka that was danced for the King in July, 1998, on the occasion of his 80th Birthday (see chapter one). Ahio's occasional over-exuberance and his tendency to dance and do cartwheels in a lavalava without underwear, led to concerns among the organisers of the lakalaka of the potential shame if he was to do so in Nuku'alofa in front of the King and all the visiting dignitaries. The police were asked to find and prevent him from going down to Nuku'alofa on the inter-island ferry the 'Olovaha. Somehow he heard of this plan and cleverly hid himself in a box of kava on board the ferry. The police searched for him but to no avail. On arrival in Nuku'alofa a day later, he jubilantly climbed the mast and shouted to the chief justice. The chief justice, who was in charge of the lakalaka, gave instructions to simply leave him alone, reflecting a tolerance that had been manifest in other cases appearing before him in court. Someone explained the situation to Ahio and he did not cause any problems. He was well looked after at the King's palace during his stay. People joked that if he danced 'T! 'a Vava'u Lahi' (Vava'u would fall in the estimation of others. See chapter one). In general, people talk about Ahio with humour and familiarity. There are many stories of his exploits and, like Tootawi, he is regarded by many with a mixture of wonder and fear. Even people who have been slighted by him regard him with a certain affection. His uniqueness, which is often remarked on, lies in part in his expert knowledge of genealogies of the islands, on occasion up to six generations. One woman explained how he uses this knowledge to great effect by alluding to illegitimate relationships in the past, surreptitiously critiquing claims of 'eiki (chiefly) blood and reminding people of the appropriate place to sit when drinking kava in a formal setting. According to her what he says is usually true, if, occasionally, inappropriate. She explained further: Once Ahio took his horse and sat under the mango tree in the park next to the post office. The gate was locked and the person in charge of locking it up told him he should not be there. He got very angry. There was a big argument and much swearing. In court he questioned their right to lock up the park. He argued that it was his grandfather's cousin's land, he had always come to rest there. He was let off.


When he is sick he is very knowledgeable and everything he says is correct. It is sometimes embarrassing the things he knows. My great grandfather was born out of wedlock. There was a noble connection. Once, at a show, I went up to fakapale (put some money on) the composer. As I was going up Ahio said malo e fakapale (thank you for your contribution), and made a reference to how noble my great-grandfather was. I was so embarrassed. This is something that the famili and some friends know but they do not talk about it. He has told me a few times of how my famili fo'i (failed) on my father's side. I was so unhappy that he said it. He gets beaten up occasionally by people he has offended. He often goes to faikava (drink kava) and tells people where they should sit. There is a man who is really fie 'eiki (acts high and mighty). He claims to have a connection to 'Uluk!lala, in reality he is related more to Luani. Ahio points out such things at faikava. He was right of course. In Tongan society certain thing are done by certain people. Ahio comes and complains when they are not being done right. People, like Ahio, sleep for half the year. Sometimes he sleeps for weeks, just getting up to eat. Then he never leaves the house. He just does his washing, eats and sleeps. Ahio is a chiefly name, he is related to the King. His village is in one of the King's estates. When he goes to the palace the King's attendants look after him. He walks around with no underwear, just a lavalava. But the King says just let him be. Ahio sometimes takes wet washing from lines and then puts them in a lavalava or suitcase and leaves them. He does not want to steal it. People find them later rotting to pieces. His famili sometimes get frustrated when they find clothes in the house and they have to find whose washing it is.

In her words he is one of the most unique fakasesele in Vava'u. Fakasesele Fakasesele is one of many terms that can be used to describe people whose behaviour is deemed inappropriate or eccentric. Of the terms that Mahina (personal communication) explained to me which were used to refer to behaviour that might be glossed as 'mental illness' in Vava'u, fakasesele, maumau 'atamai and vale seem to be more common in everyday use than masoli (chipped) or masisi (cracked). 3 Such terms are 3

Masisi, is a later introduction as it relates to fragile items that were not common in the past. I do not talk about individuals with mental retardation who are often also called 'atamai vaivai or vale. Dr Puloka uses 'atamai vaivai as a definitive term for mental retardation. An organisation


often used in banter in Vava'u. I describe one occasion while drinking kava at a friend's house. About half way through the evening, a drunk man winds up at the house, sits outside for a time and then comes in and sits down with us. He has a big white scar on his left cheek and is carrying a small axe. I am asked, as a joke, if there are many such people where I come from. I joke, 'lots.' Everyone laughs. A man, sitting next to me, says that not only is the guy drunk but he is also vale or fakasesele. Several times he is teasingly accused of being vale or fakasesele. We drink two large buckets of kava, starting at 8pm or so and finish at midnight when all the kava runs out.

Fakasesele (to act in a silly or eccentric manner) and vale (foolish, silly, ignorant, unskilled, incapable, incompetent) are terms of considerable antiquity. Both sesel! (translated as eccentric or odd), and vale, (translated as mad, insane, crazy, delirious, also ignorant) appear in Mariner's dictionary, reflecting Tongan language use at the beginning of the nineteenth century. I suspect that sesel! would have been the term most commonly used to describe Tootawi at the time. In my experience 'atamai vaivai is more common in use than maumau 'atamai. I have already discussed the fluidity of use of terms in Tongan, particularly with respect to t!volo and 'ofa. This fluidity of use makes it difficult to definitively translate either of these terms as mental illness in psychiatric terms. 'Atamai can be translated as mind, understanding, intellect, intelligence, reason. Churchward translates 'atamai vaivai (of weak intellect, feeble-minded and maumau 'atamai, as damaged mind from maumau (to be broken, damaged). Fakasesele can be used in a light, humorous way. On several occasions, it was used to describe individuals, whose behaviour was mildly eccentric, but by no means comparable to Ahio. Previous chapters have revealed the extent to which the fluidity of use of terms, such as t!volo, 'ofa and '"vanga, reveal that a strict definition is often less important than the social purposes to which the terms are put. The terms vale, sesele, fakasesele, 'atamai vaivai can also be extremely pejorative in use, depending on who uses it with respect to whom. known as the OTA, ('Ofa Tui Amanaki) (Love, Faith, Hope) are engaged in looking after such individuals within the community. In Vava'u most cases of mental retardation, that some people call polio, are looked after at home.


The following example illuminates the partiality of using such a term. The people of Leimatu'a are well known and often teased for their eccentricity. They are known for being unique in Tonga and for doing everything to extremes. While others tease them for their fakasesele, they emphasise their fiefia (happiness) and freedom. Vava'u is popularly known as fatafatam!fana (warm hearted). People often speak about Leimatu'a as the village in Vava'u where m!fana (an emotion of communitarian enthusiasm) is most celebrated. Their eccentricity is most clearly encapsulated in the term pa'ane 'ono, which refers to a sixpound tin of corned beef which people in Leimatu'a are popularly regarded to beat when very happy. Their eccentricity is also celebrated. The presentation of a large number of six-pound tins of corn beef at the lakalaka (standing dance) at the King's birthday was no doubt partly motivated by this popular notion. In December, 1999, the annual Miss Vava'u competition took place in Neiafu. It had been postponed from May because of the death of the King's brother. There were a large number of contestants and they all took part in a series of judged events. One of the final tests was to answer a question in front of the audience. The contestant from Leimatu'a was asked a question about the m!fana of people of Leimatu'a. She replied passionately: Ko e kakai ‘ikai ke nau tokanga ki honau kita, ko e Leimatu'a ko ke kakai ‘oku mo'ui tau'ataina ka pe ko e sitapa ‘oku 'ui i Tongani ko e fakasesele pe ko e vale, ‘oku ‘ikai ke tau fakasesele pe vale, ka i ai mo'ui fiefia ‘ikai ke tau tokanga ki nau kita pe toe tau'ataina pe foki nautolu , Malo.

They are people who do not focus on themselves. Leimatu'a people are people who live freely. But yet people call them fakasesele or vale. We are not fakasesele or vale. We live happily and we do not focus on ourselves and we are especially free. Thank you.

When people from Leimatu'a are jokingly referred to as fakasesele or vale (or 'atamai vahe ua) or Vava'uan people are jokingly referred to as masoli (chipped-refers to a slight incompetence, as if a piece of brain had broken off) by people outside of Vava'u, this demonstrates a bias in the use of terms to describe people who exhibit eccentric behaviour. That the contestant mentioned above felt it necessary to speak so openly of the luma (ridicule) some people express towards those in Leimatu'a in 261

such a public setting, emphasises the sensitivity to the use of such terms. It is not possible to claim impartiality when one uses such expressions. For the Leimatu'a contestant and other villagers, the use of fakasesele had become inappropriate. It was no longer a reflection of friendly banter but more representative of a failure to tauhi vaha'a on the part of those people still labelling Leimatu'a in these terms. The appropriateness of terms Those within the medical establishment in Vava'u claim more sensitivity in the choice of terms. One health officer felt that the terms of 'atamai vaivai and vale had become slang and were, therefore, inappropriate. He suggested a more fakamat!pule (like or pertaining to a talking chief) term, translating fakamat!pule as polite. I sensed that politeness, in an English sense, was less the issue than its appropriateness as a reflection of the status of the doctor or health officer with respect to patients; in the same general way different registers are used to reflect status, as I discussed in previous chapters. The frequent appearance of 'atamai vaivai and vaivai oe 'atamai in the 1992 Mental Health Act suggests that that, at least in 1992, it was sufficiently fakamat!pule. Friends in the hospital encouraged me to use terms such as uesia faka'atamai, uesia 'atamai, atamai faingata'a'ia, mahaki ia faka'atamai over 'atamai vaivai and vale. Uesia faka'atamai from uesia (to move or agitate mentally or spiritually) and faka'atamai (of the mind) is the current general term used by the psychiatric services for 'mental illness' and is the most common term to appear in the newspaper. 'Atamai faingata'a'ia is formed from 'atamai (mind) and faingata'a'ia (to be in difficulty or trouble). Mahaki ia faka'atamai can be translated literally as illness or disease of the mind. These terms are slowly becoming more common currency as a result of news stories and public health radio broadcasts. On one occasion when Lilopau was treating Pouanga (the man with the stroke in chapter six) she explained for my benefit how the liquid treatment would travel around the skull and change 'atamai vaivai (mental illness). Though she had previously stated she did not believe in ‘mental illness’ I had asked her some hours before whether her treatment was effective with somebody who others regarded as ‘atamai 262

vaivai. The suggestion that Pouanga was in any way 'atamai vaivai was quickly corrected by his sister who diplomatically then referred to uesia 'atamai. The fact of Lilopau being there, the numerous discussions about the various t!volo that had affected him, meant that he was neither a case of mental retardation nor mental illness. Many people, however, continue to rely on the terms fakasesele, vale and 'atamai vaivai. The new terms are less descriptive of behaviour, which of course can change, and more explicitly essentialist of mental pathology. I examine this in the next chapter. Outside the hospital, new terms gain popularity and old terms fall out of use. The terms siasi (lit. church but meaning crazy) and siasi lahi (lit. big church but meaning really crazy), to signify craziness have their origins in the antics of a small religious group who would speak in tongues on the sea front in Nuku'alofa. Siasi and other terms such as fakatafa (to lie on one side; to have a list), and taimi vave (quick time) may be used to refer to local eccentrics but they will just as easily be applied, in a joking way, to friends and relatives. There are also many terms that have fallen out of use. Faha (Adj. mad, insane. N. insane person, lunatic, idiot) for example, as one health officer explained, would not be understood by most high school students. Browsing through Churchward's dictionary reveals a host of terms, such as 'atamai sesele (like 'atamai vale but milder), 'atamai vale (dull and more or less stupid, doltish), mahaki sesele (to suffer from mental disease or insanity, to be insane) that seem no longer to be in common use. Some terms have a risquĂŠ quality and serve a humorous function in everyday banter. One such example is vale kailesi (utterly stupid, mad. Lit. so silly as to eat papaya) and is doubly funny when used euphemistically for the untranslatably funny and rude vale kai ta'e (so silly as to eat dung). The partiality of explanations for eccentricity The partiality of use of terms is reflected in the partiality of the explanations for the behaviour that leads to people being labelled in the terms detailed above. Explanations tend to differ, though not deterministically, according to people's wish to tauhi vaha'a. What people say causes the behaviour of an eccentric neighbour or person they consider as a relative tends to be different of someone with whom 263

they have little contact. There is a well-known story that explains the cause of Ahio's behaviour. According to one woman: People explain his condition as the result of a dare he carried out with two other boys when at High School. Since then the other two have died. The first dare involved them all eating roast lizard. Then Ahio challenged them to smoke cigarettes rolled in pages of the bible. This is the biggest tapu. You can't even get food on your bible. Most people believe that his illness and the early deaths of his companions are the results of this dare at school.

There are many versions of this story but the central feature of smoking a page of the bible re-occurs. In another account, from a neighbour, one of the three died soon after smoking the bible. Another went to a minister and confessed, but occasionally behaves quite strangely. For some, Ahio's behaviour is a result of mala'ia (to meet with or suffer misfortune as the result or Nemesis of wrongdoing). 4 Many people emphasised the fact that neither his father nor other members of his extended family behaved like him and, therefore, by implication the cause could only be his smoking the page of the bible. When I asked one healer, who was not related to him and was from another village, if she could treat him, she replied she could not as his situation was the result of angahala (sin) and 'Sesu p! lava o faito'o ki ai', (only Jesus can heal him). For many this story seems an appropriate explanation. In the same way that the shark in chapter two punished the man who had gone against the wishes of the minister, Ahio's illness was the result of his committing a grave offence against the most sacred of objects. In 1984 Bloomfield wrote 'The majority of the people in Tonga today continue to believe that most illness are given as punishment for some wrong doings. Only now the Christian God is substituted, for the Tongan God. Even modern doctors often joke about the need for 'peni Jehova', instead of penicillin when illnesses are hard to diagnose or cure' (Bloomfield 1984:7). Certainly as regards 'mental illness' such a possibility is salient, with the sins of parents or grandparents occasionally raised as a reason for illness in relatives. The few people 4

Mariner translates mala'ia as bad luck. Either he was not aware of other meanings of the terms or the process of missionisation led to what was previously regarded as bad luck being attributed to divine punishment.


who maintain that all sickness is the result of angahala (sin) or wrongdoing, however, are rarely involved in the practicalities of healing. Taking into consideration the contextual nature of assertion of belief, which I raised with respect to t!volo in chapter two, it would be difficult now, as the following discussion will testify, to make such a blanket statement as Bloomfield's. People are very aware that other people may justifiably or unjustifiably interpret the behaviour of a relative this way and this leaves the household and other relatives potentially open to luma (ridicule). The connection between speaking and tauhi vaha'a means other interpretations of the cause of such eccentricity may be different depending on the person's sense of relatedness with the person concerned; this is not to say that intimate household members are not aware or consider that mala'ia (nemesis) may be the reason but they often do not choose to focus on it. Ahio's smoking a page of the Bible was not mentioned by a relative of his. His explanation focused more on what precipitated his condition, reflective perhaps that, cause aside, for members of his household management and dealing with the precipitating factors is the most important. I recount some of his comments of Ahio's behaviour: No one else in the k"inga is that way. When the town officer was angry with his inappropriate behaviour the police would take him to prison. After a day he was better. Whenever they put him in prison, his illness goes away. People get angry when he swears but at the same time they understand. Once he had a little argument with me. I told him to have more respect and stop swearing. He started crying and replied he doesn’t know why he is like that. I told him to go to bed. He did and was fine in the morning. If you can control his sleeping he doesn't get ill. His problem lies in his dreaming of something he can't get. He is always planning big things. Because he was the youngest in his household he was entitled to nothing. When he is sick he will say the same thing, 'I will buy a truck, build a boat, make a garden.' He overestimates himself. He says he was meant to be King, 'all my relatives are big chiefs'. The previous Governor of Vava'u said he was fakasesele (crazy) and wasn't entitled to anything, but he got married and now his son has land. Only one brother is left in the village. Maybe he was jealous as his brothers did well for


themselves, they had a copra business and owned three vehicles which was a lot at that time. But most people believe the wife doesn't treat him properly. If his wife doesn't make him angry he doesn't get ill. Other men can tease him but he won't get sick, only his wife can make him sick. The longest he will be sick is a month. He was sick more often when he was younger, then usually every year often in April (see next chapter). Lately, he is no longer ill every year in April. Sometimes he has no problems for two years. Now he gets ill at any time, and it is usually very short. Last time he was sick in 1998 in June. Two years before he was sick in September 1996. I know because whenever he is sick he pays me a visit.

These comments also echo a widespread perception that people like this are only ill when they exhibit symptoms and that there are few people who are puke ma'u p! (ill continuously). This temporality of illness, despite the very concrete cause and the perception of his more frequent illness in April, has important ramifications which I examine in the next chapter. In early October 1999, I saw Ahio sitting outside Jack Guttenbeil's store on the road to Mataika. People were talking and joking with him as they came in and out of the shop. Though opinion was divided, many people thought he was ill at the time because of his alu holo (going all over the place). When he is not ill, people told me, he stays at home and nofo ma'u (stays put). The assertion by his relative that he had not been ill for two years was thus either reflective of a lack of knowledge, not wishing to tell me, or a different perception of the symptoms when he was really ill. For members of his household, perhaps, his wandering was not a key symptom. The understanding of people in the same village or the members of a household's understanding of a person's eccentricity is more nuanced and more reflective of actual circumstances. Ahio is rare in that there is a widely known story of the origin of his illness; a story that is also a moral tale reflecting a continuing sense of tapu surrounding the church. If one could postulate a scale of people's awareness of individuals with eccentric behaviour, Ahio would be at one extreme of the scale. There are others, however, where the 266

explanations for their behaviour are far more diverse and where there is no widely recognised specific explanation or story for their behaviour. This is very important to recognise because it goes some way to explain the contextual nature of stigmatisation. Most other eccentrics have a multitude of causes and motivations ascribed to their behaviour. I introduce some of the other well-known eccentrics in Vava'u to demonstrate the variety of causes and motivations ascribed to their behaviour. Their stories are, to a certain extent, island property. I am not making public anything that most people in Vava'u are nor already familiar with. These are highly visible individuals in Neiafu and some surrounding villages with whom most people, I knew, were familiar. I learned about these individuals through simply living in Vava'u. They were not the explicit focus of my research. I enquired about them as anyone would in a situation where certain individuals do unusual things. Though most people are familiar with these individuals the families concerned are nevertheless sensitive to gossip, and I would have expected justifiable obfuscation and resistance had I attempted to enquire directly about them. I learned about them as part of everyday conversation and by coincidental meetings. Some were related to friends, some lived near to me. I have not mentioned some individuals because of the dearth of commentary about them. The other eccentrics Case study (12) Evaipomana There is another man who resembles Tootawi in his reclusive aspect and can often be seen wandering barefoot around Neiafu with a bushknife in his hand. His large crop of hair makes him a striking figure when he walks through the shadows at night. He spends much time in the bush around Mt Talau. At night, he often sits outside some of the small local shops, on occasion he gets drunk when young men give him some of their homebrew. After seeing him a few times when I first arrived in Vava'u, I learned that he had lived in America and came back crazy and blind. A healer had cured him of his blindness but he is still a little crazy. People talked about his general good humour. One friend spoke about how, 267

on one occasion, he turned up to drink kava at a house and then led the whole group in a rendition of a Beatles song. My appreciation of Evaipomana grew gradually during the months that I was there. Our first meeting was entirely coincidental when I was returning alone from a short climb to the top of Mt Talau. December 98 It is almost dark as I return down the trail. I come across what I think is some Toa, which has needles like a pine tree. I see a half-naked figure dart into the bush about twenty metres down the trail in front of me. I hear the crack of a bush knife into something hard. I think it must be Evaipomana. As I approach, he is crouched down on the ground with a coconut, that he has opened with an old bush knife. I say hello. I deliberately use English. He offers me some of the contents. He is only wearing shorts and nothing on top. I tell him I have just been to the top of the mountain to look at the view. We chat. I ask him which tree the branch, I am holding, is from. He confirms Toa, and spells it out for me. Once he gets talking, he talks a lot. For short periods I can understand everything he says then suddenly he is incomprehensible as if he has not talked to anyone for years. He has a strange vocal mannerism. He coughs to himself and then talks for a time in a much deeper, harsher voice. Then his voice returns. He asks where I am from and where I live. He talks about how important it is to be at home. This is his home, he says, and he loves it. He often comes to this bit of the forest to find coconuts. He lives down by the water. I ask him if he has been abroad. 'Yes', he replies, 'I lived for two years or so in New Zealand and then came back and moved to Hawaii.' I ask him in Tongan why he came back. Some kind of injury, he says, 'I was blinded.' How are your eyes now? He replies that the right one is still bad but he can see out of his left eye. He stammers occasionally as he tries to get his words out and bends his head to avoid direct eye contact. It seems as if he has the intonation and the rhythm all right but sometimes the words are incomprehensible. As we talk, he picks out chunks of the coconut and spits out bits, turning his head to the right to do so. It gets darker and darker; we talk for about a half an hour and then walk back together into town.

When I mention my meeting with Evaipomana in a conversation the next day, a lady comments that he is fievaleloi (pretending to be vale). From then on, I see him frequently and, like most people, always acknowledge him and sometimes stop for a chat. On occasion, when people ask me where I live, I joke that I live with Evaipomana on 268

Mount Talau. He often sits outside the small stores on the way to Mount Talau. Sometimes he speaks coherently, sometimes not. Some six months later, I am watching rugby practice and chatting with a man when Evaipomana comes over to join us. I mention how Evaipomana and I shared a coconut on the mountain. The man explains to me how Evaipomana lives in a cave like people used to in Tonga. It turns out he lives in a hut. While Evaipomana is there he explains that Evaipomana must be about 54 and that the two men used to play rugby together. He explains how Evaipomana was a real troublemaker, he used the term t!volo, in Hawaii, and ended up blinded and in prison. He was then rescued by a Christian ship and the Peace Corps and sent back to Tonga. His mother healed his blindness by shaving his head and massaging it lightly with warm water. In August, 1999, a good friend told me over kava the 'true' story of Evaipomana. He was neither blind nor crazy when he came back from the United States. He turned crazy after he drank a lot of alcohol and got involved in a fight. After that, he was not the same. He did have problems with his eyes but it was an operation by a surgical eye team from the United States that cured him. He was a famous rugby player in his time. Undoubtedly many of the stories I heard when I first arrived were coloured by fakamatamatalelei (to make beautiful, to beautify, to put on a pleasant or friendly look which is not genuine). However, it is difficult to unpack deliberate obfuscation from the simple repeating of stories that people had previously heard. The longer I was there, the more I talked to Evaipomana and the better my Tongan became, the more I understood the allusions to his wild days before the accident. No doubt, this previous reputation tempers peoples’ approach to him but then it is widely known that the best way to treat such people is to fakafiemalie'i (soothe and satisfy their wishes) and not to make them angry. Nevertheless, even in confidence, very few people said anything bad about him. I never heard a single word of anger against him and, typically, he is humoured everywhere he goes. On one occasion, some friends compared him favourably to another eccentric whose behaviour was more inappropriate. Though he lives alone, his physical health and clothes attest to his relatives providing food and clothes. He does not lack social interaction and joins kava drinking sessions when he wants to. I heard that some relatives came back from Hawai'i to see him, were 269

disappointed to see him this way but realised he was better off where he was. Case study (13) Salipoto The eccentricity of some, notably intelligent, people no doubt contributes to a perception that too much thinking or study can lead to eccentricity. I present a series of commentaries about Salipoto, an old man from one of the villages close to Neiafu, whose illness was attributed to a host of different factors. A fellow villager describes him as 'atamai vaivai and anga lelei (of good character or disposition; well behaved). He talks about how poto (clever) he used to be, how he used to be a soldier and how his famili now looks after him; he attributes his illness to fakalo'akau (witchcraft; to cast a magic spell in the Fijian fashion) when he went to Fiji. However, some people claim he has been that way since childhood. His niece explains how he just wanders around the whole day and how his problems started after fighting the Japanese during the Second World War. Once while he was in Samoa he went off into the mountains because he thought the Japanese were chasing him. They found him under a tree several days later. When his niece had her restaurant, she would always feed him. His famili would be surprised when he came home and was not hungry. He currently lives with his brother. A young woman from his village calls him siasi. Salipoto has been like that for a very long time. He wanders around, often comes over to the house for an 'eva (visit). You can't really concentrate on what he is saying. But he doesn't swear or cause any problems. There is another man like Ahio who is also fakasesele. He is a smart man, but he just flipped. He often speaks to himself in English. There was another man like him, who already died. He was a really smart teacher. Most of the famili is really well educated. I am related to Salipoto. Maybe the illness runs in the family? Salipoto is a very well known man in Vava'u. He used to be brilliant. But now he is fakasesele all year around though he doesn't swear very much. He tells people he doesn't know where he is going. He used to be a carpenter. Anywhere where they build a house he goes and has a look. When they


built the Development Bank, he told them one part was wrong, he crossed it out on the plan. The palangi (person of European origin) said he was brilliant. One healer told me that the famili had told her that he was that way because he smoked too much marijuana overseas.

Case study (14) Tukufolau The case of Tukufolau is the most serious of the five people I present. He is an example of more serious cases not as widely known as the others I detailed. They often cause considerable problems within their households who are caught up in a double bind situation of wanting to avoid shame but still find some form of treatment. Like several similar cases, his behaviour was most commonly attributed to him spending long periods of time alone. In contrast to others, Tukufolau is one of the only eccentrics people claim is puke ma'u p! (ill most of the time). Tukufolau is not from Vava'u originally, but married into one of the villages of Vava'u. According to many people, he was a very intelligent man and used to be a teacher at the government primary school. According to one lady in his village his sickness started in his fifties. Tupu'anga 'oe puke, fa'a alu ki liku, taime ke foki ‘ikai ke fiemalie.

The origin of his illness was because he often went to the cliffs. When he returned he was not content.

She explained further that he did not talk very much. He was a quiet man and you knew that he was ill, when he talked and shouted a lot. He would often go and stay at the cliffs for a whole week, living by himself and only come to the village on Saturdays with fish. He was always really anga lelei (of good character or disposition; well behaved). A healer once tried to treat him but he fought very hard and spat out all the remedy they had put on his face. She still believes he is te'ia. One woman, from another village, attributed his sickness to the grief he experienced when his favourite son died. A man of his generation explained that he was like that because hoha'a 'a e ‘atamai (to worry, to be anxious or uneasy to be troubled in mind). 271

Commentary I have described four individuals with whom I had varying contact. My knowledge of them is in a sense not comparable as it is born out of the idiosyncrasies of my friendships and opportunities to see and meet them and the people who know them. However, it is in a similar fashion that most people in Vava'u see and experience them as individuals with whom they evoke relatedness to varying degrees. Though they are all eccentric in one fashion or another, they are not exclusively defined by their membership of the category of eccentricity or any other local category. 'Ofa and explanation The diversity of explanations cited (study, physical injury, witchcraft from Fiji, grief, worry, being alone in the bush) have saliency partly due to the fact that many people interact with them, feel 'ofa for these eccentrics and to varying degrees tauhi vaha'a to them in their explanations. Even within the same village, opinions can vary. One health officer said that these explanations are excuses for what he considered a biological condition. I see them more as a reflection of the immutability of attribution of mental illness and a sensitivity to slander. You will notice that in the explanation for Ahio's illness, the lady said 'some people say', distancing herself from, but at the same time acknowledging this explanation. Though mala'ia (nemesis) is an interpretative possibility for all cases, it was rarely mentioned. Distinguishing uesia 'atam ai and pu ke fakam ahaki To what extent is it possible to make a distinction between 'mental illness' and t!volo caused sickness (fakamahaki)? Rarely was interaction with t!volo suggested as an explanation for the current behaviour of the five eccentrics above. They are well known for behaviour that has been far too enduring to suggest t!volo involvement, except for some of the more insistent healers. In the initial stages it is likely that treatment for 272

fakamahaki /fakat!volo (t!volo caused sickness) was suggested or carried out for some or all of them. But as time passed it became either increasingly difficult to treat them when they were ill, or their behaviour suggested that treatment from a healer would not be beneficial. According to the psychiatrist Dr Puloka, the vast majority of his patients have been to many healers before they are brought to the hospital. The discussion in chapter six, dealing with the question why people go to a healer rather than the hospital, is pertinent here with the added disincentive of potential luma (ridicule) if people discover hospital involvement in treatment. In the early stages, it is impossible to unpack the degree to which t!volo involvement is ascertained because of actual behaviour or the potential ridicule of other interpretations. As I pointed out before t!volo involvement is typically not a source of shame to the household unless it is patently obvious that they are using it to cover something up. To a large extent, the behaviour of these enduring, highly visible cases forms the basis of what people draw on to conceptualise mental illness and its difference to fakamahaki/puke fakat!volo. When I asked one lady from one of the villages how one can differentiate between fakamahaki (t!volo caused sickness) and 'atamai vaivai (mental illness) she replied by surreptitiously using uesia 'atamai (mental agitation) instead of 'atamai vaivai (mental illness) a term which had not been problematic for most people. Ko e uesia 'atamai. Si'i e mohe po'uli, lahi e ", mo e talanoa, popula ‘a e kakai ki ene talanoa, ‘ikai ke ma ia, mahaki fakataimi. Puke fakamahaki. Kehekehe ia aupito. Sino malohi, fiu hono puke, fakanatula kehekehe, manako ke nofo tokotaha i 'api fehi'a nofo tokolahi taime ilo ‘a e kakai, hola ia.


People who are uesia 'atamai do not sleep very much at night. They stay awake and talk. People cannot escape from their speaking. They are not ashamed. It is a temporary (periodic) illness. Puke fakamahaki (t!volo caused illness) is very different. The person is very strong and it is very difficult to hold them down. It has a different nature. The person likes to stay at home and hates being with lots of people. When people discover their illness, they run away.

She also added when someone is uesia 'atamai (mentally agitated) there is nothing you can do. When Ahio stays at home, that is when he is well. She added that people believe that uesia 'atamai is the result of mala'ia (nemesis), often something that the mother did. You also know it is t!volo caused because that person will not be ill again. This distinction between uesia 'atamai as a result of mala’ia (nemesis) and fakamahaki as caused by t!volo is not held by everyone; nor is it necessarily instrumental in treating people. The process of seeking healing ensures that most people, who end up being regarded as uesia 'atamai (mentally agitated) were at some stage treated or regarded as being affected by t!volo. The categorisation, rather like the proposed distinction between Tongan and Euro-American illnesses examined in chapter seven, is not useful in understanding how people act. It is also confused by some healers denying the reality of uesia 'atamai or 'atamai vaivai and seeing all conditions as fakamahaki. Siosiofanga, for example, when I asked her if she could treat 'atamai vaivai replied. ‘Oku ‘ikai ke u tui ki 'atamai vaivai, tupu p! mei he mahaki, fakamahaki. Ko e puke fakamahaki p!. Kapau na'a 'atamai lelei ki mu'a ohovale p! ke mafuli 'a e 'atamai hange ha taha ‘oku mo'umo'ua, fakakaukau, ‘oku tupu mei he mahaki.

I do not believe in 'atamai vaivai, the cause is the mahaki (sickness), fakamahaki. It is only puke fakamahaki. If the person was mentally well before and suddenly his mind is confused like someone is really busy, the cause is from the mahaki (sickness).

I ask her what she would call someone described by other people as 'atamai vaivai, if she does not believe in it. I run through the list of 'conditions' she can treat, she concurs on '"vanga motu'a. '#vanga motu'a, literally means old '"vanga. For this healer '"vanga motu'a is not 'atamai vaivai or uesia 'atamai. '#vanga explicitly involves t!volo. Another healer from Neiafu, claimed she could treat people with 'atamai vaivai and distinguished atamai vaivai from '"vanga motu'a in terms of the 274

interaction of the patient. People with 'atamai vaivai would talk to her, those with '!vanga motu'a would not. Regardless of how people conceptualise differences in their explanations, the process of seeking help and the politics of attribution inevitably confuses those distinctions in particular cases. Definitive opinion is rare, even if the person goes to the hospital. There are many cases of people being treated at the hospital in Tonga and Vava'u for psychiatric conditions who are regarded as t"volo affected. The categories of 'atamai vaivai (mental illness) and fakamahaki (t"volo caused sickness) are vague because in the main they are conceptualised with reference to particular cases. So when I ask for a contrast, I am asking for divergence in concepts that may be variably conceptualised by different people depending on their associations. Unfortunately, the nature of conversation about these topics means that I was unable to define definitively people's individual understanding of these concepts. For example, when I asked a woman from another village for the difference between 'atamai vaivai and fakamahaki, her explanation betrayed an understanding of 'atamai vaivai, of being associated with an individual who was mentally retarded. She explained that one could tell from having watched the person grow up. His condition would be evident from his to'onga (behaviour) and his speaking and looking at you. Even Akosita, the healer who had previously told me that she did not believe in puke fakat"volo, argued that many of the people with 'mental illness' are fakamahaki. For someone, who typically avoided using t"volo as an explanation, I sensed the attribution of fakamahaki to be better than an attribution of 'mental illness'. Most of those people, she argued, have some problem with their nerves. Is 'mental illness' stigmatised? The nature of stigmatisation and shame in Vava'u are in many ways encapsulated in the story about Ahio and the joke that Vava'u would fall in the estimation of others if Ahio danced. It was a joke, but still the organisers had wanted him out of the way. Acceptance has its limits. Shame always has a context. He was potentially shameful for Vava'u if he danced in Nuku'alofa but in Vava'u it is fine if he gets up 275

to his antics, providing he does not hurt anybody. Is he the cause of shame in Vava'u? According to a relative, neither the village nor his famili feel shame. Have they become reconciled to the shame? Or is it because the story of the cause of his illness so clearly implicates him and no other extended family members as the cause? Would it be the same if he were in another famili or another village? From the above discussion we can see that the question whether 'mental illness' is stigmatised in Vava'u is problematic. First of all, 'mental illness' is variably conceptualised, many people do not have confidence in the equivalent terms in Tongan. Its recognition and ramifications are highly contentious and confused by the humorous use of the same terms. One could ask the question: Are people who are labelled by terms that can be glossed as 'mental illness' stigmatised? A clear definition of stigmatisation in English and Tongan are required. Stigma, 1. A stain or reproach, as on one's reputation. 2. A mark or obvious trait that is characteristic of a defect or disease. Stigmatize, 1. To set some mark or disgrace or infamy upon (Webster's College Dictionary 1991: 1314).

Churchward translates stigma (reproach) as fakama'anga (cause or source of shame or disgrace) and the verb stigmatise as fakaongoongokovi'i (to defame or speak badly of, to bring into disrepute); synonymous with lau ko e me'a kovi (to gossip about something bad). In Vava'u it is a source of shame or potential shame. It allows people to speak badly of a particular famili. To ask the question 'Is mental illness stigmatised?' is to insinuate that there are no particular people involved in the process of stigmatisation, that mental illness is somehow intrinsically suggestive of stigmatisation. In Vava'u, it is the capacity of people to gossip and ridicule that is seen as the intrinsic aspect. People are less concerned about the illness than what people say. Curiously, most of the above eccentrics are not themselves the object of stigma in Tongan terms. Their actions generally betray the sense that they are not concerned with shame. They are not denied interaction, if anything, people are more careful with them so as not to make them angry. On occasion, which is the exception rather than the rule, they are beaten when their behaviour is intolerable but this is a reflection of people continuing to see them as intentional agents, as pretending to be sick (fievaleloi) and not denying them insight. They are 276

not ignored but participate freely and typically on their own terms. The courts treat them leniently if they commit crimes. They travel free on the ferries and the extended family typically provide for their needs. The question to what degree they would be better off within an institutional setting or taking medication must take their unique freedom, peoples' respect and attributing agency into consideration. However, the above eccentrics are not the only individuals in Vava'u who might be regarded as having some kind of 'mental illness'. Concealing eccentricity In a conversation with a close friend I brought up the case of an individual who had suffered mental symptoms periodically over many years. The son of my close friend had married the daughter of the individual in question. I wanted to know whether or not I could talk to the individual's famili about him. Despite being a usually very accommodating woman she implored me not to, explaining that they would be ashamed and adding 'luma 'a e kakai' (the people will ridicule) because they think it is the result of mala'ia (nemesis). She contradicted the statement of another household member who had said he was better, informing me he was ill fakataimi (periodically). She described how when he is ill he cannot sleep and they make sure they do not make him more anxious. She also explained that he went to the hospital and was given pills to sleep but he refuses to take them. My friend did not say that the famili are ashamed but that they would be if I spoke to them about it. The fact of his illness was not shame in itself; it was people drawing attention to it.5 It was the fear of luma (ridicule) and the implicit denial of relatedness that was not wanted. She had previously spoken to me about the difference between her village and others. Her village was loto taha (off one mind) in contrast to others that were loto kehe (of different minds), evinced by


See Shore (1982: 177) for a similar discussion of shame in Samoa in relation to an offence only if it was discovered.


the fact that most people belonged to only two main churches and the greater feeling of community in the former than in other villages.6 To a certain extent the families of the eccentrics above are reconciled to their behaviour. They are widely known around the island, there is little more they can do to protect their reputation. However, there are individuals who are not widely known and it is very much in the interest of their families to hide the fact of their eccentric behaviour, once it is felt that treatment for fakamahaki or fakat!volo can do no more for them or they do not have faith in such treatment. Typically, women can be hidden easier than men, they are easier to restrain and more used to being at home. It is no coincidence that the most well known eccentrics are men. For women to behave in a similar way would be regarded as even more unseemly than if a man is involved. It is often when the household can do no more to restrain the person that finally the hospital or police is called (see next chapter); all avenues are explored before families ask for help from the institutions that will inevitably lead to many more people hearing about it.7 There are many ways of hiding suffering famili members. They may simply be kept at home when they exhibit symptoms. They may be sent to other islands or occasionally overseas. Suffering famili members may also be brought back home from overseas. Famili members typically keep quiet about them, even with close friends. The most sensitive cases were those not so widely known or those where only famili members knew. I was told about five such cases (one married elderly man, an unmarried woman in her twenties, a middle aged woman in her fifties, a middle aged woman who had a professional job, a married elderly woman, and a young man in his twenties whose father 6

Was the fear of luma (ridicule), therefore, somehow more salient in her village or family than in another without the same degree of conviviality? She evidently did not think the illness was due to mala'ia but yet was worried that others did and would ridicule the family in whose standing she intimately shared. This would then affect their social confidence. My talking to the family would remind them of the potential of luma. 7 The mental health nurse in Tongatapu confirmed this. She found that talking about mental illness in biomedical terms invariably received a very negative response. She confirmed that only when Tongan medicine fails after people have gone from one healer to another do they finally bring them to the hospital. Some students and more educated people, who read Dr Mapa Puloka's articles in the Tongan Times, recognise the symptoms in more biomedical terms.


was also ill) and specifically (unusually for most conversations in Vava'u) asked not to tell people who had told them, nor make too many enquiries. The sensitivity was such that a request to the Governor to carry out a Government sanctioned survey with Town Officers to ascertain the numbers of such individuals in the whole of Vava'u was denied. It is thus very difficult to ascertain an accurate number of such individuals. With hindsight, even a government-sanctioned survey would not, necessarily, reveal all such individuals. Town officers would not reveal all cases for fear of the village being ridiculed and nor would they, especially in large villages, know all the individuals in their village. Even with the extensive contacts I had in certain villages, I could not be confident of obtaining exact numbers. Such conditions can be so well hidden that I was not aware of two friends who suffered and had been treated for 'mental illness' until the last weeks of my stay. In one case the only reason I learnt of it because I was about to leave the country. In fact, my hearing of any such cases was largely the result of good friends being aware of my interest and sensitivity, fortuitous visits to the hospital and the psychiatric ward in Tongatapu. These problems of ascertaining numbers are aside from the variable definition of 'mental illness', the variable distinctions made between fakamahaki (t!volo caused sickness) and the many terms for 'mental illness' that would be need to be addressed if one was to carry out any survey. The average of two or three cases a year, that are brought to the attention of the medical services in Vava'u, and occasionally sent to the main island Tongatapu for further treatment, are only those extreme cases that could not be resolved by the households of the sick individuals. In this context, it is thus not surprising that to many people it is the hospital that makes eccentric behaviour shameful, by both attempting to diagnose it definitely (not in terms of t!volo) and bringing it to the attention to people, who are potentially less mindful and concerned of the ridicule should information of the case spread. The psychiatric services are well aware of this dilemma. Puloka argues with reference to '"vanga musiku, his term for the condition suffered by young girls and explicitly the result of t!volo involvement, which in Vava'u would be known as '"vanga, puke fakat!volo or puke fakamahaki:


'!vanga musiku is still generally believed to be caused by a spirit. Thus, it bears no stigma because it is usually considered to be caused by external factors. An aggressive Western approach to treating '"vanga musiku would certainly give rise to stigmatization (Puloka 1998: 89).

On the main island Tongatapu the psychiatric services negotiate a fine line between the need to treat serious 'mental illness' and to minimise the shame to the famili by their very presence. It is this dilemma in the context of Vava'u, where there is currently no psychiatric service and where people can be seen to subvert psychiatric diagnoses, which the following chapter investigates.



Laumea 'a e ta'u: Avoiding psychiatric interpretation

Ko e faito'o fakamahaki, ofi ia ki Tisema, taime ko e, hange ko e taimi ni, laumea 'a e ta'u, kamata ke mafuli 'a e 'atamai.

Laumea 'a e ta'u is the time, like when healing fakamahaki (t!volo caused illness) close to December, when the mind starts to flip over (Siosiofanga 20/04/99).

Laumea 'a e ta'u is both a description of the change in colour of yam leaves, suggesting harvesting is required, and the time when this occurs. It is also a term used figuratively for the yearly manifestation of 'mental' symptoms among those most prone. Laumea from lau (leaf) and mea (light red or light brown) appears to refer to the leaves of the ta'u, which not only signifies year but also refers to the yam season, yam crop or harvest.1 While the Christmas period is the time when people are most likely to be affected by t!volo, laumea 'a e ta'u is the time eccentrics are most likely to be seen experiencing a re-occurrence of symptoms. As Siosiofanga points out above they are both times when the mind is mafuli/fakamafulifuli (the wrong way up, flipped). Relatives mentioned that Ahio would often get ill at this time. Within the old Tongan calendar, which relied on cycles of the moon and yam 1

There is some confusion over the meaning of laumea. The only translation as one word in Churchward is gills of fish. The series of booklets by Helen Boutell and Ian Campbell on Tongan history for secondary school students have the title tukulaumea which they translate as: 'a trail of yellowed leaves which show where someone has gone, or what is left after the doer has died or moved away.' Churchward, however, translates tukulaumea as 'stakes or anything else which a person leaves to show the track he had followed'.


cultivation, laumea 'a e ta'u typically fell within the sixth of thirteen months known as Faka'afumate (the dying leaves of the yam), which starts with the new moon of April. The following month, starting with the new moon of May, was known as Hilingakelekele (placing on mounds of earth). This is a reference to the way of harvesting, which involved uprooting the tuber, then filling the hole to make mounds of earth and then putting the tuber on top before gathering them all together.2 Harvesting in the present time, however, seems not to be so clearly guided by the Tongan calendar. Helu (1999:302) talks about three plantings: 'one in late January or early February and March (tokamu'a), another (the main planting) in July and August or early September (ta'u lahi) and the third (tokamui) between the ta'ulahi planting and the end of the year'. Allowing a growth period of eight to nine months, and that according to other informants yams are also planted in June, harvest for the main planting, therefore, can potentially occur between March at one extreme and June at the other. April signals the end of the summer. The weather becomes drier, cooler and less humid. Humpback whales typically arrive in May to spend three to four months mating and bearing their young, conceived the previous year. On land, there is a busy social calendar. The annual conference of the Wesleyan church typically occurs at the end of April or beginning of May and is followed by fakam!, a church celebration focused around plays acted by children. During the first week of May, Vava'u celebrates the Crown Prince's Birthday with a week long festival. April and May are months filled with many responsibilities, aside from the work of harvesting yams. Price and Karim (1978) describe the association between a natural cycle and periodic madness in their analysis of matikuru in Fiji. Meaning literally 'low tide in the morning,' matikuru refers figuratively to somebody periodically insane. Their analysis reveals a host of different local explanations as regards frequency, causality, appropriateness of use and symptoms for a condition they claim is hypomania. Interestingly though, most of their informants had no theories as to why tides made a difference to those afflicted. That lack of theoretical elaboration is also present in Tonga with respect to 2

Hafoka (1991) translated by Arne Perminow (personal communication Nov 2001).


laumea 'a e ta'u. The seeming lack of explanation of the association between increased likelihood of mental illness and the browning of yam leaves is very significant. It reinforces assertions of laumea 'a e ta'u as a powerful interpretative influence in fomenting the idea of 'mental illness' as fakataimi (temporary or periodic). Though many causes of varying degrees of permanency may be advanced for eccentric behaviour, with punishment for past wrongdoing an ever present but avoided interpretation, manifestation of these causes is rarely seen other than temporary. The temporariness of 'mental illness' is the one commonality in conception. There are few people who are seemingly sick all the time. The story of Ahio smoking the bible, for example, suggests a definite cause, yet most people see him as ill only when he is in a 'manic' state; when at home 'depressed' in psychiatric terms he is well. In Vava'u there is little discourse of an intrinsic or permanent state of mental illness requiring constant treatment that would follow from a biomedical diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the diagnosis that several health officers attributed to Ahio. In local terms, though, a cause may be perceived as enduring, the sickness is not. Introduction The implications of the notion of laumea 'a e ta'u and its use by people in varying degrees of relatedness to people with 'mental illness,' are extremely important. They reflect people's experience of local eccentrics and unusual behaviour but they also have ramifications on stigmatisation, resolution and prognosis. If Ahio were to visibly seek forgiveness and not be seen in a 'manic state' again, would he be regarded as cured? This chapter examines the interaction between local ideas of 'mental illness' and the modernist ideas of psychiatry. Since 1997, newspaper articles, radio and television broadcasts initiated by the only psychiatrist Dr Puloka, and that attempt to explain western psychiatric diagnoses in Tongan terms, have reached a wide audience. To a greater or lesser extent, depending on people's access to these media, he has firmly thrust questions of 'mental illness' into local consciousness with not entirely predictable consequences. In Vava'u many people avoid psychiatric interpretations and often surreptitiously subvert them. 283

An examination of why psychiatric interpretations are avoided requires a negotiation not unlike that demanded by the epistemological dilemma detailed in the introduction. Implicit within psychiatric understanding is a modernist claim for knowledge that forces detachment and that denies relatedness, in Tongan terms, between the psychiatrist and patient. As Sass argues: Instead of a spontaneous and naïve involvement-an unquestioning acceptance of the external world, the aesthetic tradition, other human beings, and one's own feelings-both modernism and postmodernism are imbued with hesitation and detachment, a division or doubling in which the ego disengages from normal forms of involvement with nature and society, often taking itself, or its own experiences, as its own object (Sass 1992: 37).

This chapter suggests that many Tongans also avoid psychiatric diagnosis because it claims a position of knowledge not derived from the social involvement so evident in notions of personhood. Psychiatric diagnosis is subverted for the same reason as the epistemological dilemma of this ethnography. It denies the inextricability of speaking and tauhi vaha'a that follows from experience of relatedness rather than relationship. Nor does it affirm a common relatedness of Tongans in Christianity. My first case study serves to examine the reality of laumea 'a e ta'u in psychiatric terms. Then follows a history of psychiatric services in Tonga and a discussion of the ramifications of encouraging a more modernist, psychiatric appreciation of ‘mental illness’. How do people respond to more modernist notions of ‘mental illness’? What are the implications of psychiatric terms, explanations and ensuing actions with respect to the multiplicity of local appreciations and understandings? The final case study is of a woman cured of ‘mental illness’ by the active intervention of a minister in her new church and an interpretation that celebrated divine intervention.3


The local celebration of this case is pertinent to the association that Sass (1992) argues for the manifestations of modernism and the phenomenology of mental illness.


The reality of Laumea 'a e ta'u in psychiatric terms Case study (15) Taisia I learned of Taisia while in the hospital in mid April 1999, the time of laumea 'a e ta'u. One of the public health nurses told me about a case of 'mental illness'-she used the term 'atamai vaivai-who had been admitted the week before. She explained that the woman had been this way for about ten years and came to the hospital with the same problem at about the same time every year. She lived on one of the outer islands with her husband and children until her divorce last year; she is now in her fifties and returned to live with her parents in a village on the main island. Her mother was frightened of her when she started behaving strangely. She would lift up her skirt, swear, talk gibberish and talk to herself and make a real nuisance of herself. At other times, she was very sad and would cry and talk of missing her children and being angry with her ex-husband. In the past she would sometimes stay in the hospital as long as a month and then return home feeling better. The doctor treating her explains how the town officer from her village asked him to come and see her after she had been behaving this way for about two weeks. They could not control her. He diagnosed bipolar disorder and prescribed Largactil and Tartane. He knows that she gets ill every year but this time she is particularly bad and is disturbing the other patients. He intends to send her to the psychiatric unit in Nuku'alofa where, he states, they have the capacity to treat such patients. Though Taisia was a recognised case of ‘mental illness’ at the hospital and had already been admitted seven times since 1982 her visit to Nuku’alofa would be the first time she would be examined by a trained psychiatrist. All but one of her admissions occurred during the period from March to May. Taisia spent almost a month at Vaiola hospital in Nuku’alofa before being discharged. The psychiatrist confirmed the diagnosis of bipolar one disorder, her most recent manic episode, and pointed to problems with her primary support group and the death of a famili member as two precipitating factors. One risk factor was the poor advice of her medication. He recommended management with Lithium Carbonate tablets 250mg (twice a day) for at least a year and entrusted 285

her care to a public health nurse who had attended one of his workshops in Nuku'alofa. 4 Commentary Hospital treatment was only initiated after the town officer requested help of the doctor in her village. Though she had been admitted to the hospital six times previously and despite the diagnosis of schizophrenia, this was the first time she had seen a psychiatrist. The positive prognosis of the psychiatrist, who notes that she is a well established chronic case of bipolar 1 disorder and that her attacks of illness are followed by a complete remission, suggests why most people saw her as a case of laumea a 'e ta'u. Like Ahio, her previous manifestations of sickness were regular and yearly. She was, no doubt, more frequently ill than her record suggests. According to the medical officer at Ngu hospital, rarely more than two or three people are admitted each year with 'mental illness' with only the occasional patient sent for further treatment to Vaiola Hospital in Tongatapu. Taisia's case and the aspect of hiding, discussed in the previous chapter, suggests that a large percentage of what may be regarded as 'mental illness' in psychiatric terms, remains untreated (Murphy & Taumoepeau 1980). Other cases are dealt with by their families at home, may not be admitted but given medication by nurses or doctors related to the household, be taken to Tonga and treated there, or occasionally treated as out-patients. The problem of accurate psychiatric statistics and their apparent representativeness of actual rates of 'mental illness' has been well treated elsewhere and with particular reference to Tonga by Murphy & Taumoepeau (1980). After 1992 in Tongatapu, as Dr Puloka argues, statistics were confused by both the problems of learning to implement the 1992 Mental Health Act (a process that took three years) and his presence or absence because of training overseas during 1995 and 1996 4

He advised the medication to be taken for at least a year and her lithium level checked regularly and her renal function closely monitored. After that, tablets should restart if there is any recognisable stressor. I omit the details of his instructions.


(when there was a drop in committal). Only in 1997 and 1998, he argues, are admissions statistics in any way representative. At Ngu hospital in Vava'u, a record is kept of every patient admitted, along with a date and a provisional medical diagnosis. I noted all provisional psychiatric diagnoses from the records I was able to access.5 Not included are admissions of non-Tongans. While these statistics reflect only those cases that were serious enough, proved unmanageable at home, or because of some other reason ended up in the hospital, they do seem to affirm the reality of laumea 'a e ta'u as a time of increased 'mental illness' in psychiatric terms. This is in spite of the fact that many cases, regarded as laumea 'a e ta'u, would not be brought to the hospital because of the assumption that the condition was temporary, as was the case with Ahio who apparently has never been admitted to the hospital in Vava'u. Even when Taisia's admission record is not included (see next page, Fig 3, graph without 'x') there is still a recognisable increase that reaches a peak in May. Nevertheless, an average of three admissions per year for all remotely psychiatric diagnoses, for the years surveyed, is remarkably low. The psychiatrist's comment that a social stressor preceded every event of Taisia's illness suggests one possible avenue of investigation into the phenomenon of laumea 'a e ta'u. The months of April and May are certainly a busy social time of the year. However, I am less interested in explaining this increase, for reasons similar to objections 5

Each provisional diagnosis represents one case except when followed by a number in brackets. Depressive Psychosis, Hysterical Reaction, Depression, Hysteria(4), Post viral illness/Depressive illness, Hysteria/Influenza, Psychoneurosis(3), Hysteria/Psychoneurosis, Hysteria/Schizophrenia, Conversion syndrome, Psychosis(2), Manic depressive psychosis, Depression/psychosomatic, Anxiety/Neurosis, Anxiety(6), Lolo mai syndrome(3)(see below), Transient psychological phenomenon, ?psychological, Anxiety attack/hypertension, Acute psychosis. These were gleaned from records of the following years: 1975, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1998. Other years were not available. Interestingly all admissions for lolo mai occurred during May. Lolo mai refers to a host of different symptoms from dizziness, pains in the body, numbness in the extremities to unexplained sudden attacks of weakness that are presented by predominately middle aged women. It was explained variously to me as: (1) less condition than a way of communicating symptoms of underlying pathology, (2) manifestation of female psychosocial problems, linked to both social change and menopause (Bloomfield 1986); (3) chronic fatigue syndrome, somatoform not otherwise specified (Puloka: Personal Communication) and (4) imagination. The dentist explained to me that people use it less now as awareness has grown about the different conditions such as diabetes, low blood sugar, and high blood pressure that lead to this symptom.


to a phenomenological explanation for '!vanga and the resulting, inevitable, burying of particularity. The following brief history of psychiatric services in Tonga, will help contextualise how the phenomenon of laumea 'a e ta'u reinforces one particularly prevalent notion of 'mental illness' and its implications with respect to psychiatric interpretations. The history of the psychiatric services The first general hospitals, each staffed with a foreign doctor, were built in Vava'u, Ha'apai and Tongatapu in 1909 (Campbell 1992:118). Criticisms of the government's handling of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 ultimately led, through the support of Queen Salote, to the establishment in 1919 of the Department of Health and the provision of free medical attention for all. Some 2,000 people (8% of the population) had died in an epidemic that spread around the world in the last months of World War I. Most major developments in medical provision in Tonga were led or supported by Queen Salote. They culminated in the establishment of the Queen Salote School of Nursing in 1953 (Wood-Ellen 1999). The first Vaiola hospital in Nuku'alofa was built in 1923. Until the founding of the first psychiatric unit in 1977, mild cases were simply treated in Vaiola Hospital, Nuku'alofa, and serious psychiatric cases were housed in an asylum attached to the prison. This arrangement was problematic. One of the justifications for the establishment of a dedicated psychiatric unit was that, on occasion, a lack of appreciation of psychiatric problems would mean prison discipline, invariably beating, would be meted out to inmates.


Fig. 3 Psychiatric Admissions, by month, of Ngu Hospital (Neiafu, Vava'u) since 1975. Without 'x' With 'x' 2 per. Mov. Avg. (with 'x')

Not including Taisia's admissions Including Taisia's admissions Moving average including Taisia's admissions


Without 'x'


With 'x' 2 per. Mov. Avg. (With 'x')

Number of inpatient admissions

8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1



















The lack of a fully trained psychiatrist up to this point meant that most diagnoses lacked precision in psychiatric terms (Murphy & Taumoepeau 1980). Two doctors, one English, Dr Taumoepeau, and one Tongan, Dr Lasalo, started the first unit. Dr Lasalo's tragic death in a car accident in 1990 meant that the Mental Health Act of 1992, though regarded as a great improvement on the Lunatic Detention Act 289

of 1948, was drafted and passed without his consultation. It is acknowledged by doctors and lawyers alike that it is difficult to implement and needs to be revised. Dr Mapa Puloka joined the unit in 1990. Self trained in psychiatry, until going overseas for a one-year Diploma in 1995, he is currently the only trained psychiatrist in the country. In 1993, a new security extension was built for the psychiatric unit at Vaiola and a mental health officer was appointed, after a sixmonth attachment in Australia. Since 1993, nurses have been assigned on a permanent basis in the unit. Before then, they were on rotation, spending a week at a time in the unit. As of 1999, Dr Puloka maintained that even a revamped mental health act would be unworkable due to lack of manpower and resources. Its effects are also largely restricted to Tongatapu. Since May 1997, when the first articles appeared in Taime Tonga, Dr Puloka has attempted to publicise psychiatric knowledge.6 Building on previous public health initiatives and drawing on extensive overseas research, he has by means of internal hospital memos, radio broadcasts, public lectures, lecture courses and newspaper articles made a claim for the institutionalisation and Tonganisation of psychiatric diagnoses. In his second article in Taime Tonga he details his motivation. 'Ko e taumu'a pe ko e 'uhinga 'o 'eku article fakauike ke a'u atu ki he tangata'i fonua kotoa pe 'o Tonga kae tautautefito ki he si'i kakai '‘oku '‘ikai ke 'iai ha'anau 'ilo fe'unga ki he vakai pe 'alunga fakakaukau 'a e saianisi pe filosofia fakauesite (Western Science and philosophy) ki he mala'e 'o

e uesia fakae'atamai 'aia 'oku 'iloa he lea fakapapalangi ko e Psychiatry'


Puloka explained that the Tonganisation had taken him two years of work while in New Zealand. He researched the literature and dictionaries in order to find a list of words that could correspond to psychiatric terms.


The aim and reason of my weekly article is to reach the people of the whole of Tonga but especially those poor people who have no adequate knowledge and consideration of the theorising of

science and western philosophy in the field of mental illness that is known in English as Psychiatry.

Dr Puloka's Tonganisation and institutionalisation of psychiatric terms has both an explicit educational aim but was also a response to a number of issues that prevent early recognition and treatment of people with 'serious' mental illness. The use of unambiguous terms, he argues: (1) enables clear definition of conditions best treated by the hospital and by healers and encourages healers to pass on patients with more serious 'mental disorders'; (2) reflects terms used by healers and are thus more acceptable; (3) embodies old and new concepts. In his translation of '!vanga musiku, for example he draws attention to '!vanga as the old concept and musiku as new concept; (4) addresses the colloquialisation and inappropriate use of many previous terms, that I mentioned in the last chapter. The term '!vanga forms the base of a large number of his translated categories and the most common psychiatric diagnoses in Tonga; schizophrenia ('!vanga motu'a) and bipolar mood disorder ('!vanga femaleleaki) are translated this way as '!vanga is the only term that healers have in common. Through choosing '!vanga he is attempting to convince healers that some behaviour that they regard as '!vanga is 'mental illness' in psychiatric terms. Healers appropriate Tongan biomedical terms of English origin to reinforce their practice and tauhi vaha'a with hospital practitioners (see chapter four). Dr Puloka, by contrast, uses Tongan terms to form the basis of his translations and strengthen the case for a psychiatric understanding. He has, in a sense, reversed the typical process of high status words drifting down into more everyday use because of their apparent greater appropriateness. In basing his terms on words in common Tongan use is he implicitly tauhi vaha'a with healers? The low priority given to Psychiatric services in Tonga by the Ministry of Health means that although he is arguably the best qualified 291

person to make the translation, there is the possibility of them being written off as a personal idiosyncrasy. As he admits: In fact, folk healers among local Tongans seem to have their own 'individual school of thought' with regard to a particular culturally specific illness, and Cowling's classification of types of !vanga and my translated terms for Tongan conditions seeming to correspond to Western diagnoses are indications of a similar propensity (Puloka 1998:85).

It is difficult to know the extent to which his translations are taken on by other doctors nor the extent to which old terms are now deemed inappropriate. For example, when Dr Taniela Palu spoke on the radio about increase in Tonga of patients with 'atamai vaivai and 'atamai faingata'a'ia, it was far from clear whether his use of 'atamai vaivai was referring to mental illness in general (current colloquial use) or Dr Puloka's sanctioned term for mental retardation.7 Dr Puloka's choice of '!vanga can be commended for his attempt to build a dialogue between healers and the hospital. It does not, however, as demonstrated in chapter six and seven, acknowledge its strength as a fluid concept in local use, precisely because of its ambiguity. Does not naturalising '!vanga in psychiatric terms risk stigmatising a diagnosis that currently serves to reduce the possibility of stigma and the direct attribution of blame? Implications of terms Many healers use '!vanga as a base term to designate different kinds of t"volo involvement. Siosiofanga, for example, detailed five different kinds ('!vanga motu'a/'!vanga fale/'!vanga fafanga/'!vanga tahi/'!vanga kai) (see chapter four). Both Siosiofanga and Pisila broadly agreed with Puloka's general description of '!vanga motu'a. Pisila characterised it as a longstanding situation, which despite being treated by many healers, typically does not get better. This does not mean, however, that all healers would concur on this description, nor would every psychiatrist concur that all long term, difficult to treat mental conditions, are 7

Radio Tonga News, 22/01/99, 1pm.


schizophrenia. Where healers and psychiatrists differ fundamentally, is in their interpretation of causality. Puloka states: Some Tongans describe '!vanga motua as a form of lunacy (or faha, sesele, vale) in which the ailment is not caused by a spirit, but is a curse (mala or talatuki) or divine punishment upon a particular family and its descendants for ancestral wrongdoing. Thus the ailment is considered to be hereditary and not responsive to traditional treatment: it may need 'higher heavenly intervention' for its cure ‌.Avanga motua has been conceptualised within the framework of Western psychiatry as schizophrenia ' (Puloka 1988:91).

Schizophrenia ('!vanga motu'a) is the most common diagnosis of serious mental illness in the psychiatric unit. In 1997, schizophrenia and bipolar mood disorder ('!vanga femaleleaki) made up 32% and 20% respectively of all formal admissions to the psychiatric unit in Nuku'alofa. Many Tongan healers also recognise '!vanga motu'a; however, they distinguish it from a 'mental illness considered to be due to heredity ('in the blood')(Jilek 1988:306). The previous chapter suggests that describing a condition as '!vanga motu'a precisely distinguishes it from conditions that some people perceive to be due to a curse or nemesis. '"vanga motu'a is fakamahaki (t#volo caused) and, therefore, not shameful or not likely to bring shame upon the famili. In Vava'u, an attribution of '!vanga motu'a is a claim against the stigmatising causes for lunacy not for it. Some healers would claim long-standing t#volo involvement as the cause, not divine punishment. Implications of explanations Puloka's extensive explanations of causality in mental illness and the course of schizophrenia inadvertently reinforce aspects of local understanding that lead to people avoiding hospital treatment.8 He leaves largely unexamined the possible theological reasons for mental illness. Though Puloka explains biological mechanisms, at no stage does he assert that they cannot be divinely affected. Puloka’s discussion 8

Based on Dr Puloka’s published letters and articles published in Taime Tonga.


of the three factors (predisposing, precipitating, perpetuating) for understanding the process of mental illness details several of the main factors in comprehending predisposing factors. Ko e tukufakaholo pe 'alu toto 'a e puke faka'atamai 'i he famili 'o e tokotaha koiĂĄ (genetic transmission).

Mental illness is hereditary or runs in the blood of the family of the person who is ill.

He later qualifies this statement. Kapau 'oku 'i ai ha taha 'oku 'iai hano 'toto' pe tukufakaholo 'o ha mahaki fakae'atamai 'i hono famili ofi, talu mei he 'ene ngaahi kui. ‘Oku 'ikai ke 'uhinga ia ai kuopau ke puke fakae'atamai 'a e tokotaha ko 'eni k! 'e toki lava nai ke puke kapau tene kamata ng!ue kovi'aki e faito'o-kona tapu 'e hange koe e maliuana (marijuana), inu fafangu (atropa Belladonna & Datura Stramoniumatropine)‌.lists (Cocaine, heroin, PCP, LSD, mo ngaahi faito'o kona tapu kehe. 'E toe lava foki mo hono ng!uekovi'aki e kava malohi (ethanol) kene langa'i ha puke faka'atamai 'i ha taha 'oku ne 'osi ma'u 'eia 'a e fakahema.

If someone has a hereditary predisposition in their 'blood' to mental illness, in their close family, from their ancestors, it doesn't necessarily mean that they will get ill. But they might get ill if they start to misuse drugs such as marijuana, Datura stramonium, cocaine, heroin, PCP, LSD and the other drugs. The misuse of alcohol can also precipitate an episode of mental illness in someone who already has a predisposition.

In local terms, however, a predisposition to mental illness is no different in its ramifications to an assertion of current mental illness. Puloka unwittingly reinforces the idea of mala'ia (nemesis), an attribution that people do their utmost to avoid. The implication, that the patient is experiencing retribution for past wrongdoing in the family, is beyond question. Puloka's later assertion that 75% of patients with schizophrenia never get completely better, after asserting that some 25% will get better no matter what is done, seems to deny the possibility of divine intervention, as well as people's experience of the periodicity of mental symptoms. 294

Implications of psychiatric intervention Case study (16) Mana People encouraged me to talk to only one person who had been 'mentally ill' during my time in Vava'u. In contrast to those cases where friends and colleagues discouraged me from speaking to the person, for fear of luma (ridicule) or an un-warranted possibility of violence on the part of the individual, people were positively enthusiastic about me going to see and talk to Mana. I was perplexed. Why was her case so celebrated? The fact of her recovery, as I will go on to recount, was very critical of psychiatric understandings and yet the people who told me about her story were medically trained. Many healers and doctors had treated Mana. At many points, since the first episode of her illness people thought that her condition was fakamahaki (t!volo caused). Even the notes on her referral to the hospital detailed symptoms that would typically suggest t!volo involvement. Though previous treatments for t!volo had failed her successful healing was finally attributed to the casting out of laumalie 'uli (black soul) and t!volo. The charismatic leader of a new Pentecostal church presided over the occasionally dramatic but gradual healing that involved the laying of hands and congregational prayer. Despite being diagnosed definitely by the hospital, she was healed in a way that implied no shame on her or her famili. There was, however, an encouragement for her and her husband to confess their sins. Several nurses were very happy to talk about her as they argued she was now well. One attributed her illness to the beatings she received at the hands of her husband, and her recovery to their return to the lotu (worship). The reality is likely to have been more complicated. On the basis of other accounts, I suspect beating was more a response to than a cause of her illness. No doubt, on occasion she was beaten because of her inappropriate behaviour, a common response in Tonga where physical discipline is prevalent. A month later a friend tells me how she came to be well: Mana's husband came to the church first. Mana hated the kind of worship of the church and the first time that the minister, Fauhiva, prayed for her


she was angry and left. We kept on praying for her. Fauhiva laid his hands on her and said, 'In the name of God, I repel you devils' (Devils was her translation for t!volo). She sat down, was silent and then and started crying. She wasn't totally well after that, but we kept on praying for her. Fauhiva laid his hands on her again and eventually she got better. Now she is absolutely fine. Before she hated being with people She would often talk gibberish.

She added in Tongan 'ko e t!volo na'a uesia 'atamai, laumalie 'uli ' it was a t!volo that damaged her mind, a laumalie 'uli'. Laumalie 'uli typically refers to a black soul, as was explained to me by a friend, of someone who died outside of the church and had not answered Jesus' call. 'Uli as well as meaning dirt or black also refers figuratively to sin. She explained that the goal of such black souls was to kill people, in the past there were a lot more. She contrasted them with t!volo who just want to touch. One day, while I was walking along the road, Mana's husband happened to drive past. He saw me and pulled up. He was very enthusiastic of my interest to interview his wife as my friend had told him of my interest. He talked about how he was ‘born again’ after being married for twenty years. He talked openly how previously he had not treated his wife so well but since joining the church he has improved and now his wife is much better. Mana's narrative Our first meeting took place in Mana's house. She impressed me with her warmth, lucidity and the occasional humour with which she described the progression of her illness. I have translated the more significant parts of her account, and summarised the remainder. Mana was sick for the first time in 1982 in her early twenties, after five years living overseas with her new husband. Her illness started with a fakamokosia (chill) that got so serious that she could not open her eyes. It was as if her whole body was paralysed, all that was left was her ability to breath. Though she felt that she would soon die, no-one treated her. She prayed to God to forgive her sins because she knew her sickness was due to angahala (sin). The paralysis went but her thinking was still not right. Her husband noticed this but did not know what else to do. They went for a consultation at the hospital and she 296

was given some pills to swallow. The doctor asked her husband if there was something distressing her and causing her current state. He replied he did not know. Talange 'a e t!ket" ko au ko fu'u lahi hoku loto mamahi, fu'u lahi hoku loto mamahi, ko e me'a ia kuo puke pehe ai, pea ha'u a Tautuula pea fakamatala ange ki ai, ko e palopalema i he anga ko e fakatonga. ‘Ikai ke tonu ke toe alu a Tautuula. Ka ma nofo pe 'i 'api. Kae alu a Tautuula, ka nofo e au mo ema ki'i fanau e toko ua. Ma nofo pe ai. Alu pe o ng"ue pe, vahe pe, Alu ai pe. Kuo toki fanongo pe 'oku ha'u, talamai oku 'ave pe mo e tokotaha, alu pe mo e fefine kehe.

The doctor told him that I was really distressed and that was the reason why I was ill. Tautuula explained to him that the problem lay in the Tongan way of doing things. It wasn't right that Tautuula would go off. We were supposed to stay together at home. But Tautuula would go off while I stayed at home with our two children. He went off to work continuously to earn money. Then by chance I would hear he was coming, he would tell me someone took him somewhere. But he had gone off with another woman.

The doctor was right. Tautuula's parents tried to persuade him to make me feel better. That was the first illness. I came back to Tonga in 1983 and was ill again in 1989. That time was very different. I had a really serious illness. Tautuula was really surprised. I went around in a dizzy state. My thinking was all wrong. Hange ko e power, hange ko e mana t#volo, hange ha, ko e laumalie 'uli, na'a nau ngaahi ko e au, he ko e puke fakat#volo ko 'eku puke ko e kamata ai, puke fakat#volo, alu pe 'eku puke 'o a'u pe ‘ikai ke toe lava o toe kai ha me’a, toe foki 'a e 'atamai o kovi.

It was like I had some kind of power, like the power of t#volo, like laumalie 'uli (black soul). They had meddled with me. It was puke fakat#volo when it started. My illness developed to the point when I could not eat anything and my mind returned to its bad state.

They brought so many remedies to the house. They tulu'i my eyes and my ears, I had to drink remedies, but I didn't get better. Then I went to Tonga to be admitted in the hospital. They tried but I didn’t get better. They took me to a healer in Vava'u, but I didn't get better. Then they returned me to Tongatapu.


Fakatokoto i he fale, 'o e kau vale, ko'uhi ‘ikai ke toe 'ilo 'a e t!ket" ko e h" e me'a ke toe fai kia au, ke fa'a fai fetaulaki o talanoa. ‘Ikai ke pehe ko e mahino'i ko e lea mai, pe ke te mahino'i ko e lea atu, na'e pehe. ‘Ikai ke toe fetaulaki o talanoa, alu p# ki ai, o tokoto i ai, ‘ikai ke toe lava ha me'a e taha. ‘Ikai ke ng"ue, ‘ikai ke lava tu'u ki olunga, ‘ikai ke lava fai ha me'a kia au. Ko e fo'i tokoto p#. Ko e mate p#, tali mate p#, tali p# ki he mate. Kae fai p# 'a e feinga p# 'a e kau t!ket", 'ave au o faka’ata, faka'ata hoku sino katoa. ‘Ikai p# ke 'ilo ko e h" hoku mahaki, pea omi fo'i akau mei ai, ilo'i p# e au, mai fo'i akau, pea tau moe vai siliva. Hange ko na'e tokoni kia au, pea p# mo e lahi p# lotu, kole lotu 'eku fa'e mo 'eku tamai, na'e Katolica. Kole p# lotu hufia au, o faifai p# o ha'uha'u p# aho mo e fokifoki mai hoku 'atamai.

They admitted me to the mental ward, because the doctors didn't know what else to do with me. They often came to talk to me. They thought I couldn't understand what they said because of what I said to them. It was like that. They didn't come anymore to talk. I just lay down, I couldn't do anything else, I didn't work, I didn't stand up, I couldn't do anything else for myself. Just lie down. It was death, waiting for death. Meanwhile the doctor continued their attempts. They xrayed my whole body. They didn't discover what my illness was. They gave me pills and put me on a drip that helped me a little. But praying helped a lot. My mother and father asked for prayers, they are Catholics. Gradually, the day came when my mind returned to normal.

She stayed for approximately four months in the hospital, she cannot remember exactly how long. She laughs when she explains how, when the doctors examined her ears and nose, they found they were full with vai fakatonga (Tongan remedy). As a result, she had not been able to smell anything or hear very well. Though she claims to have been really ill in 1989 and says she stayed in the hospital four months, her only record in the psychiatric unit is of a month long admission in 1987. I take them to be the same episode. Two doctors, neither of whom were psychiatrists, diagnosed ‘schizophrenia’. We returned to my island and to my mother and father, where I got much better, my mind returned to a good state. Then we returned to Vava'u with our children. I got ill again when Tautuula's brother returned from Australia. Amanaki is a minister in the new church, he came back with a lot of money for me, for us.


Te ma ‘millionaire’, ko e omi ae mo'ui o emau a'usia 'a e tali e Sesu ki loto ki he mo’ui. Ko ene ha'u ko ia, toe puke au ia, Ko e talamai 'a Amanaki, vetevete angahala, takitaha vetevete 'ene angahala, he p! p" ko ene ha'u a Amanaki, ha'u aho, efiafi, fai emau lotu fakafamili, pehe mai a Amanaki, 'Mana, katoa kimoutolu mo emau ki'i famili, takitaha vetevete ene angahala, pea teuteu 'oku i ai ae lelei 'a e 'Eiki, te ne hanga o omi ke mau tali, pea vetevete ko ia, alu ai p" hoku 'atamai, kuo 'ilo p" na'a ku angahala, ko e angahala au, e taimi ko ia, 'oku ‘ikai ke fai ha, pea 'oku tali, tu'u ki olunga ke kole fakamolemole, auntie o Tautuula, pea vete ko ia, o alu ai p" 'a e ninimo, ai p" ia, mo lea'aki e ngaahi lea kehe.

We would be millionaires. He brought the life and possibility of partaking in the feast that comes from welcoming Jesus into your life. When he came, I got ill again. Amanaki told me to confess our sins. Everyone should confess their sins, he said. The night that he came, we said our family prayer. Amanaki said 'Mana, all of you, each one, confess their sins, and prepare for the goodness of God, he will answer our requests'. Well I confessed and my mind went. I realised that I had sinned at that time. I stood up to ask forgiveness of the aunt of Tautuula to confess that sin, but then I felt dizzy and spoke with strange words.

I asked Mana 'So if you had not confessed your sins you would not have got ill again?' She replied, if she had confessed beforehand and answered Jesus' call and accepted him into her life, she would not have become so seriously ill again. The problem was that I confessed late and that is why I got ill again. Amanaki, his mother and Tautuula's sister all prayed for me, they answered Jesus' call, but I could not, I had already got ill again. 'Osi k#pui au ia he puke fakat"volo, ai ko e ngaahi laumalie 'uli, ko e puke ko ia, lahi ai p" ia.

I was enveloped by puke fakat"volo, attacked by the laumalie 'uli. It was that kind of illness.

They took me for more treatment. I didn't get better. They took me to another man. I didn't get better. They took me to the hospital. I didn't get better. Then my father came and took me to our island where another two women treated me. They even took me to the Bishop in Tongatapu. They prayed for me, and laid hands on me. But I was still ill. I went all over the place working and eating but my thinking was still not right. Up to now I


still hear the laumalie 'uli, but I know now that it is the work of God. I returned to Vava'u. 'Osi omi 'a e lotu a Fauhiva ki heni moe siasi, nau lotu ma’aku, fiema'u 'a Fauhiva ke omi au, ke fakamo'ui au, na'a omi ia au, nau kai he malala he afi, vela ae ngutu, toe inu mo e faito’o, lavea he vai. Alu a Tautuula o ng!ue, ko au tokotaha, inu e faito'o kona, malo, fakafeta'i ko e eiki. Ha'u p" ki he lotu, ha'u a Fauhiva hilifaki nima, lotu, talamai kia au, ke lea fakafeta'i ki he 'Otua, pau tui ki ai, te u mo’ui, te ne fakamo'ui au e 'Otua. Talamai Fauhiva kia au 'Tui Mana, vaivai a tui a Tautuula’, pehe p" a Tautuula tuku p" e au ke sio emau fanau kia au, ‘ikai ke toe ilo ko e h! e me'a fai, pea p" tui p" 'a Fauhiva, e fakamo'ui au he eiki, pea Fepueli i he hiva nima, kamata leva ke ha'u 'a e ng!ue 'a e eiki, ko e 'ilo p" 'oku ala p" a eiki kia au, ko ue'i hoku loto mo fakakaukau, he ko ia ko e pule kia kita ke te mo'ui, o tonu leva 'eku fakakaukau. Fai leva 'eku ng!ue pea lava leva o fetaulaki, pea lotu p" e au ki he 'Otua, o a'u ai p" o fakafeta'i ki he 'Otua, ngaahi lelei kotoa p" na'e fai ma'aku, pea baptisi i he laumalie ma'oni'oni o ma'u leva e malohi, hange ko ene folofola, mo'ui e tui he eiki, Faka'ofo p" 'a e ng!ue 'o e 'Otua.

Fauhiva had already founded the new church. They prayed for me. Fauhiva wanted them to bring me, so that he could make me better. I ate the ashes from the fire, my mouth was burnt. I drank more medicine. Tautuula went to work; I stayed home alone, drinking the ‘poisonous’ medicine. Praise God that I came to the church. Fauhiva came and laid his hands on me and prayed. He told me to praise God, that I must have faith and I would get better. God will make me better. Fauhiva told me to have faith. Tautuula's faith is weak. Tautuula had left the children to look after me, he didn't know what else he could do. But Fauhiva had faith God would heal me. In February 1995, the work of God started, I realised that God was touching me, my heart and mind was moved. It is God who rules us and our health. My thinking became correct. I started to do my work and was able to meet people. I prayed to God and got to the point where I was giving him praise and thanking him for all the good things he had done for me. I was baptised in the Holy Spirit gained strength like he says. I became well because of my faith in God. The work of God is miraculous.

Discussion Mana's narrative confirms the sense that her successful healing was a sign of divine intervention that also strengthened the existence of her new church. Rather like the man in chapter seven, who attributed his 300

successful healing to Akosita's 'ofa as a manifestation of God's power, Mana's narrative attributes efficacy to both God's intervention and the faith of Fauhiva, the minister. Other interpretations of the efficacy of her treatment would be problematic not only because of the limited data that I possess, the lack of confidence we can have in the psychiatric diagnoses, the inevitable burying of multivocality that results from narrative (that I discuss in relation to '!vanga in chapter six) and the degree to which Mana's narrative is also an act of tauhi vaha'a to her new church. More useful and interesting are the reasons why her case was so celebrated. Which ideas needed to be rejected and embraced for her to be healed in her and other people's terms? That a nurse, who in my experience was typically very critical of Tongan medicine, explained her condition in terms of laumalie 'uli reflects the degree to which a psychiatric interpretation was avoided. Causality however is not entirely accounted for in the attribution of illness to the laumalie 'uli. Confession of sin, on the part of her husband, suggests that at least in his eyes he is partially to blame. For the church to get involved might suggest that divine punishment was indeed the cause, but this is not explicitly mentioned. However, the fact of her healing within the church implicitly removes any remaining sense of divine punishment. She has been healed of both fakamahaki and 'mental illness' at the same time. Any sense of possible shame has been removed. Though she still hears voices, in local terms she is cured. Avoiding psychiatric intervention and interpretation The implication of terms and explanations are easily ignored and overridden by the greater interpretative power of healers and their establishing the involvement of t"volo. However, the implications of psychiatric intervention are more difficult to deal with. The fact of Mana being treated in the psychiatric unit or being visited by psychiatric services, suggests that she has a condition that they can treat. The process of seeking healing means that you are effectively defined in terms of the person who is treating you. Hence, people generally object to visits from the hospital and try to keep their relatives' presence in the psychiatric unit secret. The healers' continued 301

treatment of Mana in the hospital as well as her famili's continued praying both make a claim for an alternative interpretation. People will continue to avoid psychiatric explanations partly, because they already know how to explain and deal with most cases of 'mental illness'. T!volo are an unstigmatising explanation for most shortterm cases and, occasionally, also long-term conditions. The sense of the temporariness of 'mental illness', when it is finally regarded as such, but not by everyone, is reinforced by the phenomenon of laumea 'a e ta'u. The term mafuli (flip, turn over) also suggests reversibility. Many people avoid interpretations that imply enduring manifestation and no hope of resolution. Interpretations are born of and must reflect the 'ofa ('love') people feel and the relatedness they experience to the eccentrics in whose lives they participate. The possibility of luma (ridicule) is part of a sociality that has a positive influence on prognosis in local terms. Mana was both occasionally mistreated by her husband and cured through the intervention of the minister. This reflects the fact that the agency assumed in her personhood was not denied. Both her inappropriate and appropriate acts were assumed to be intentional. Her case is a celebration of personhood manifest in her faith, the minister's and the congregation's successful divine connection in trying to cure her. Fundamentally, her agency and God's involvement are affirmed in the process of her healing. As she says: Lahi enau lotu ia au, hilifaki nima 'a Fauhiva, kapusi i he huafa e Sesu Kalisi, ko e mo'ui 'a'aku ko e huafa o Sesu Kalaisi, a'u p! ki ahoni. 'Oku ng"ue p! fili, pea 'ilo leva faka'ofo nonga moe fiemalie, ng"ue ko e fili. Na'a fakamo'ui au, i he 'eku tui ki ai, hono ta'ota, ko ia.

They prayed a lot for me, Fauhiva laid his hands on me and cast out 'the t!volo' in the name of Jesus Christ. My current health is thanks to the name of Jesus Christ. Up to today temptation occasionally takes over, but I always remember immediately how miraculous and tranquil and contented I felt. He healed me because of my faith, he protected me, that's all.

Psychiatric intervention contradicts a Vava'uan notion of personhood in the continued act of treatment and its explicit denial of any agency attributed to t!volo or insight to the person concerned. It inadvertedly 302

reinforces the most stigmatising explanation of divine punishment. Local ideas and exposition, born of relatedness, preserve the personhood of sick individuals so that, when people enter a period of healthy thinking, they can return readily to their lives and be seen as being well. The agency of t!volo and aspersions of deception to the individual who is ill preserve the possibility of an individual's return to a more appropriate personhood. Is this ultimately contributory to positive prognosis? In terms of local values in Vava’u, psychiatric interpretation does not reflect an act of tauhi vaha’a to those who are ill, but to a modernist ideal. People's actions explicitly question the effect on the quality of interaction between people when 'mental illness' is interpreted in these terms. The ramifications are more important than the apparent biological reality. Even in psychiatric terms, most events of mental illness are characterised by their periodicity or temporariness. However, while in local terms every episode may be the last, in psychiatric terms there is always likely to be another. Colloquialisation and humour To what extent is people’s avoidance of psychiatric interpretation a rejection of a modernist claim for knowledge and a denial of the inextricability of speaking and the evocation and attenuation of relatedness? The clearest indication is in the colloquialisation of terms and the humour with which the psychiatric explanations are regarded. In all the public presentations of Dr Puloka's translations I attended, some people broke into laughter. Those who were able to explain why it was funny explained either that it was peculiar to hear scientific concepts put into Tongan or that they found the metaphorical allusions, implied by some of the old Tongan words he used, hilarious. 1


'"vanga leke for example, the term that Dr Puloka uses to explain the condition of girls being depressed and staying in their rooms, may be used metaphorically to refer to the act of sex. People will say that they are ill and others will attribute it to '#vanga leke, with the implication that the person has been active sexually.


Do translations of scientific concepts in Tongan sound funny, because the modernist claim for the impartiality of knowledge manifest in the definitive power of words, is peculiar in the use of a language in which as I have argued all speaking is partial to one degree or another? This is with the exception of talking about the bible. The colloquialisation of terms has a similar motivation. By making the use of psychiatric terms partial in use, through colloquialisation and humour, people reject the implicit claim for impartiality or objective knowledge. 'Oku ou kole ke tuku mu'a hono ng!ue'aki e lea vale mo e fakasesele he 'oku h! tamaki mo ongo faka'auha kae ng!ue'aki e lea ko e '"vanga Fua 'i he taimi 'oku tau 'uhinga ai ki he mahaki ko'eni ko e Psychosis.

I ask that the use of the terms vale and fakasesele be stopped in favour of the term '"vanga Fua when referring to the illness of Psychosis because they are offensive and pejorative.

It is ironic that Dr Puloka rejects the terms vale and fakasesele when their ambiguity and partiality of use makes them less stigmatising than biomedically coined terms. The last chapter discussed how 'atamai vaivai is now seen as inappropriate to some health workers despite the fact that it was a recognised term in the Mental Health act of 1992. The partiality of terms, as they become colloquialised, reflects the value of involvement in a way that new, more appropriate terms do not. Fakasesele, as a term, is better precisely because it is partial in use, an impartial term is all the more dangerous. Whether the avoidance of psychiatric interpretations ultimately contributes to a positive prognosis of mental illness in Vava'u compared to the main island Tongatapu requires further analysis and not unproblematic research. In Vava'u, it is difficult to carry out a quantitative study without entering into the local politics of attribution of mental illness. Such a modernist search for knowledge is inappropriate in this local context. It is a threat to community constituted in the idea and experience of relatedness, by individuals who constitute themselves through acts of tauhi vaha'a. In the last two chapters I have focussed on the most salient aspects of 'mental illness' in Vava'u. However, further research and 304

analysis of a comparative study of prognosis between the main island Tongatapu, where there is a well established psychiatric service, and Vava'u, where there is currently none, would offer interesting data to examine the perplexing better prognosis of schizophrenia in developing countries (Warner 1994) and the association between modernism and schizophrenia (Sass 1992). The degree to which the presence of proactive psychiatric services contribute to better or worse prognosis needs to be examined and unpacked from the other social changes taking place, of which the presence of a psychiatric service is just one manifestation. Should their absence actually contribute to positive prognosis, there still remains the discussion of the responsibility of care giving of relatives and patients, that can be shared easier within a strongly communitarian context but is likely to be more of a burden in a more urbanised situation such as in Nuku’alofa. Also, to what degree is the community willing to accept that seeming increased positive prognosis for some cases comes with the always overstated risk of forensic cases not being recognised before committing serious crimes? In Vava'u, however, it is still better to be seen as a t!volo. In other words 'bad' is still better than 'mad'.



From t!volo to mental illness and back: some concluding comments Fakaanga i tefito'i niu : Criticise at the foot of the coconut tree. One who stays on the ground but is lavish in his advice to the man who had climbed the tree. Generally of the man who stays out of a job but has plenty to talk to offer to the one who has gone into it (Collocott & Havea 1922: 65).

This ethnography is based on the experience and knowledge gained through accompanying and listening to healers, health professionals, patients, colleagues and friends while they were climbing to the top. One advantage of sitting at some distance from the tree is the ability to write an ethnography, which it is hoped, will enable others to climb the coconut tree of health policy and provision more quickly, proficiently and sensitively. These concluding comments summarise the development of the argument of the ethnography from the Tongan concern and interest in t!volo to their implications on biomedical understandings of mental illness and the need for mental health services in Vava’u. The narrative of a young woman’s relationship with a t!volo introduced this ethnography and immediately problematised the translation of Tongan concepts into English. T!volo are ambiguous, resistant to translation and identification, popular as a topic of conversation and explain much sickness in Vava'u. Focusing on t!volo is key to the aim of an inclusive ethnography born of an epistemological dilemma. Vava’uan local knowledge is founded on an assumption of relatedness with others; claims for impartiality or objectivity imply an alienation and lack of involvement. It contradicts a biomedical knowledge which, in claiming objectivity, at once asserts its universal applicability and denies any relevance to relationship. The central chapters of this ethnography illuminated the encounter between these epistemologies and provided the necessary contexts to explain why, as concluded in the final chapters, modernist psychiatric claims are avoided. Theorising the 306

connection between speaking and tauhi vaha’a (the evocation and attenuation of relatedness), arose as a way to contextualise the social consequences and motivations behind interpretations of t!volo involvement and assertions of ‘mental illness’. A considered focus on the particular (case studies, events, descriptions of people, narratives, quotes, stories) was key to claiming knowledge in a Vava’uan context. This is turn aims to facilitate positive and productive discussion between sufferers, their families, anthropological and local researchers, healers and doctors, and health policy makers dealing with Tongans and the Tongan diaspora. An ethnographic summary The ethnographic scene was set in an impressionistic, deliberately ahistorical account of a week in Vava'u that following local interpretation focused on some of the most important aspects of life in Vava'u. This qualified Vava'u's sense of pre-eminence within the Tongan archipelago as a manifestation of people's statements of value that confirm the heterogeneity of Vava'u. The difference and diversity between and within different islands, villages, churches and schools is the social backdrop that makes the value of tauhi vaha'a so vital. The recognition and use of difference and distinction between people, islands, villages and churches in humour and pejorative comments is fundamental to formulating a notion of Vava'uan personhood that resides in the ability to tauhi vaha'a. While this is manifest in many social acts, for the purposes of contextualisation of interpretation, it is evident in the way that different kinds of speaking evince and constitute relationship. The only appeal to a locally recognised objectivity of knowledge seems to be one which affirms, through knowledge of the bible, a Tonganess constituted in Christianity. This heuristic notion of personhood qualified people's explanations of t!volo and their attributing them with human like motivations and qualities, though the representatives of local churches may officially contest this. Dr Puloka wanted to know if people still have demonological concepts in Vava'u? 'Demon' is one of many glosses of t!volo (like devil, ghost and spirit) that do not reflect their 307

local reality. Their attributed actions, overwhelmingly, define their existence. T!volo in their material form are not demons, ghosts, or devils. They are best identified by their Tongan term, t!volo. The metaphorical association between fa'iteliha ('agency') and t!volo, suggests that t!volo are attributed with personhood but with an agency that, unlike living people’s agency, derives from their position outside a Tongan society constituted in Christianity. Thus we might translate t!voloness as unrestricted agency that is manifest in a 'waywardness from socially proper grooves' (Schieffelin 2002, personal communication). The attribution of t!volo like behaviour or t!voloness to peoples’ actions is in effect, an aspersion of agency. As Tongan words can be both nouns and verbs, one could hypothesise that in use the meaning of t!voloness and t!volo shade into one, hence their potent ambiguity. A working definition of t!volo thus established allowed the remainder of the ethnography to draw on particular incidences of t!volo involvement to engage with issues of more medical anthropological and public health interest. The discussion of the diversity of healers, as expert speakers and those who confirm t!volo involvement in the lives of the living, demonstrated how in the interpretation of sickness events relatedness is evoked and attenuated. This chapter also served to emphasise the powerful influence that healers have and stress how their most salient characteristic is their particularity and ethic that establishes them as powerfully influential in their communities. The link between tauhi vaha'a and interpretation was key in appreciating the reification of the local term 'avanga as a culture bound disorder. Previous researchers naturalised the term 'avanga as condition in a literature confident in the defining power of terms. They were indirectly assisted in that process by the interpretations of people who are distanced in temporal and familial terms from the experience of 'avanga. The acts of healers reflect their wish to return the affected individual to a state of valued relatedness within their household. Their concerns, manifest in their interpretations of t!volo involvement are concomitantly acts of tauhi vaha’a with the household. Treatment often goes against the wishes and valued experiences of those who are ill. These factors cause 'avanga to appear less ambiguous and less contentious than when examining cases in the present. Comparisons of narratives of past events and the process of more current episodes 308

confirm this sense. Not to pose alternate causes of what is labelled 'avanga suggests that there cannot be any locally validated knowledge about 'avanga that is not born of the need to deal with problematic experiences. The ethnographic questions concerning why it is predominately girls who suffer over the period of Christmas and why the general incidence seems to be decreasing are thus only theorised, insofar as they speak to larger scale issues that constitute a relatedness of Tongans in Christianity. General questions of this nature forces people into a discussion of Tonga's Christianity that seem to ignore the particularities and significance of people relationships with t!volo. People's choices of particular healer or hospital are guided by the fact of relatedness, and the importance and people's reliance on kole tokoni (asking for help), more than the attributed characteristics of healers or doctors. People feel more comfortable in requesting help from those with whom they can attenuate an already assumed relationship. In examining attributions of efficacy as acts of tauhi vaha'a, it is also evident that doctors and healers constitute fundamentally different kinds of relationship with patients through their acts of speaking. These have consequences on people's knowledge of the respective conceptualisations of doctors and healers. People partake in healers' knowledge as a result of healers' greater engagement with patients and families. Doctors' mode of speaking evokes and attenuates their membership of the category of doctor but does not constitute a relationship that would lead to patients understanding their condition in more biomedical terms. Healers' continued divine attribution of the efficacy of their treatment ensures their continued popularity as it affirms the relatedness of Tongans in Christianity. Vignettes of eccentric individuals introduced the subject of 'mental illness' and demonstrated the partiality of terms used locally to describe it. The importance of the ramifications of interpretation was revealed through locating the varied knowledge of 'mental illness' in the acts of tauhi vaha'a of individuals. This followed local healers’ concerns and offered a corrective to biomedical interpretations that reflect an evocation of a modernist ideal and little to the local valuing of relatedness. It should now be almost clear why psychiatric diagnosis is subtlely subverted. The final chapter discussed how psychiatric 309

diagnosis is subverted by avoidance of psychiatric treatment, by local ideas of what 'mental illness' is, by seeking treatment from healers, by hiding sick family members and through the colloquialisation of official terms for 'mental illness'. Psychiatric conceptualisations deny people's experience of particular individuals and the autopoietic personhood they attribute to them. In inadvertently affirming the most stigmatising, church affirmed, explanation of punishment for past wrong doing, psychiatric diagnosis denies relatedness. Also the permanence of mental illness in psychiatric terms is contradicted by the local idea of 'mental illness' as temporary (affirmed by the phenomenon of laumea 'a e ta’u) and divinely curable (as the celebrated case of Mana affirmed). People's knowledge of psychiatry is by and large not constituted in interaction with psychiatrists as the knowledge of t!volo is with healers. Dr Puloka is the only recognised psychiatrist and is based in Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu. Few people in Vava'u can claim some degree of relatedness that would make kole tokoni (a request for help) a realistic possibility. The intersubjectivity of knowledge of t !volo and psychiatry Does this rejection of modernist knowledge, which denies relatedness, by implication reflect peoples' awareness of intersubjectivity of knowledge of t!volo and psychiatry? In more specific and local terms, which people in Vava’u would recognise that healers and psychiatrists explanations are also acts of tauhi vaha’a? These questions can only be answered through attention to the particularity of events and knowledge and further consultation in Tonga. But several answers are suggested if we take knowledge of t!volo and Dr Puloka’s translations as examples. Humour seems to be at least some guide of recognition. However, this seems to be a nascent recognition that is perhaps not manifest in explicit spoken terms, but more implicitly in jokes that signify a common collusion in understanding. As, if we can explain why something is funny, it would no longer be. T!volo and Dr Puloka's translations for psychiatric terms are on many occasions regarded with great humour. People, however, often find it difficult to say precisely why. Both suggest an awareness of the intersubjectivity of knowledge; 310

talk of t!volo as a result of the humorous possibility of deception and Dr Puloka's translations by denying the intersubjectivity of his own claims through claiming they are objective. In this general sense the intersubjectivity of knowledge is recognised by many people. However, in particular instances, when healers or individuals ascertain t!volo involvement they also evidently establish the objectivity of t!volo. One's position and involvement is again influential in asserting that knowledge of t!volo or psychiatry is intersubjective. An aspersion of agency is also a recognition of the intersubjectivity of knowledge; that people are active and involved in the meanings and interpretations that are given objective status by others. Qualifying the need for psychiatric services in Vava’u? A good Tongan friend in London, surreptitiously criticising my claim to knowledge in Tonga, once remarked that the benefit of this ethnography was that, through my ability to mio'i, it would be able to give people a different way of looking at the phenomenon of t!volo in Tonga. Mio'i can be translated as twist with a figurative meaning of distort. The idea is of twisting a phenomenon as if it were an object, to view it from another angle. To regard knowledge of t!volo as intersubjective as psychiatric claims for 'mental illness' (though disputed by doctors) is a vital mio'i to gain a sensitive and effective health policy. What then are the implications of the recognition of the intersubjectivity of psychiatric knowledge and the knowledge of t!volo on the following questions that Dr Mapa Puloka requested the ethnography shine light on? • • •

Is there a need for a psychiatric service in Vava'u? Are there are any indications of a need? Are there street people, for example? Could there be an improvement in well-being with the introduction of a psychiatric service? How do people manage their own care in the village?

Addressing the need for psychiatric services in Vava'u, presupposes certain assumptions. His questions, as acts of speaking, are premised 311

on a denial of relatedness to those who regard or use t!volo to explain sickness. In whose terms does one argue, which relationships does one evoke, to answer such questions? The questions presuppose a number of facts and assumptions that would not be shared by some or all healers. It assumes an connection (or attenuation of relatedness) to an institution that is less concerned with shame and reputation that most people in Vava'u are and which maintains that t!volo are not implicated in the behaviour defined in psychiatric terms as 'mental illness'. Most doctors would officially assert that t!volo do not exist but affirm the objectivity of mental illness in diagnosis. The value of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment can be questioned when it inadvertently reinforces the most stigmatising implication of punishment for past wrongdoing. Chapter ten suggested that whether or not biomedical ideas of 'mental illness' explains people's behaviour, is less important in Vava'u than the ramifications of such claims on the lives on sick individuals and their households. The question 'Are there people in Vava'u who require the service of a psychiatric service?' is unproblematic for doctors and psychiatrists, but highly contentious when one realises how treatment and possible social stigma could potentially affect long term prognosis. That the process leading to stigmatisation can be mitigated to some extent by continuing to treat in local terms, does not alter the possibility of this treatment, in many cases, hindering long-term recovery and people's continued incorporation within the household and extended family. To what extent will treatment and diagnosis for the brief periods of sickness that characterise most eccentrics' episodes affect them negatively for the remainder of the time, when they would not have been ill in local terms? Healers, whether aware or not of their role in protecting the reputation of the people they treat, do not explain behaviour in terms of 'mental illness' and thus aid the continued incorporation of the sick person. One way of contextualising questions of a need for psychiatric services in Vava’u is by returning to Abu-Lughod’s idea of an ethnography of the particular and by asking questions about individual cases and the hypothetical benefits and detrimental effects on their lives. The aim is not a definitive answer but continued dialogue and 312

discussion, so that the implementation of health policy decisions will be sensitive to the local context. No doubt, what people mean by psychiatric services in Vava'u, will vary based on many factors, not least the reality of funding. Based on my experiences in Nuku'alofa, I take the existence of a psychiatric service in Vava'u to mean the presence of one pro-active mental health worker. He or she would carry out an abbreviated set of activities, similar to that in Vaiola hospital in Nuku'alofa, with the ability to send patients down to Nuku'alofa or to request the services of the psychiatrist in Vava'u for diagnosis. It would involve work within the community, giving and assessment and adjustment of oral or intramuscular medications to patients, mental health awareness talks, keeping records of patients, a weekly ward round and looking after inpatients.1 The ramifications on particular individuals What are the ramifications of recognition and treatment on particular individuals? In whose terms do we assess benefit? Who speaks for those whose voice is lost in the process of diagnosis? Whose opinions are taken most seriously? In each particular case, the opinions and wishes of the sick person, their household, people in the village, healers, and doctors may concur and disagree to varying degrees. There is a spectrum of cases ranging from the widely known eccentrics to the less known and finally hardly known people which such a service might consider needing treatment. The eccentrics in chapter nine are not street people in local terms. Though they may be occasionally found in the street, they all have places where they live. They all have relatives to turn to when in need of food or other assistance. To a degree, the people of Vava'u with rare exceptions look after them, and take care not to make them angry and do not deny them food or interaction. Those around them have accommodated to their eccentricities. Only when they become unbearable, will the police 1

With thanks to Pauline Lolohea whose service as Mental Health Officer in Nuku'alofa is the model for this series of responsibilities.


or hospital be called. Of these eccentrics only Tukufolau and his household would perhaps benefit from such psychiatric treatment. His 'mental illness' is advanced, he seems always ill, and fellow villagers commented, on occasion, he has to be restrained by using ropes, thus causing considerable anguish for him and his household. Taisia suffers periodically; to many she is a case of laume'a 'a e ta'u. To what extent will she benefit from the continued treatment that the psychiatrist suggested? Up to the point she was treated in Nuku’alofa, all her episodes had ended in recovery with hospital assistance but without a definitive psychiatric diagnosis. To what extent will continued treatment and visits, which have the result of reinforcing perception of her as 'mentally ill', hinder the possibility of her periodic recovery or the recovery that Mana experienced as perceived locally? Despite being variably diagnosed as suffering from bipolar 1 disorder and schizophrenia, the lack of psychiatric services in Vava'u meant that the Mana’s stigmatising psychiatric diagnosis was more easily contradicted by the minister whose interpretation contributed to her successful recovery. Can one hypothesise the possibility of this happening in the presence of a mental health service maintaining a particular interpretation and permanence of her condition? The absence of a psychiatric service in Vava'u and the powerful idea of the temporariness of 'mental illness' when claimed as such, or when claimed to be the result of t!volo, allows a reversal of shameful diagnosis. It allows time for a locally interpreted complete recovery, despite what might happen in the future. The sensitivity of ‘mental illness’ in Vava’u is such that only in my final month in Vava’u did friends, anticipating my imminent departure, volunteer information about five individuals with ‘mental problems’: one married elderly man, an unmarried woman in her twenties, a woman in her fifties, a middle aged woman, a married elderly woman, and a young man in his twenties whose father was also ill. Few people knew about their situation. Their households did not consider their behaviour serious enough to warrant revealing their condition to the hospital and risking shame and ridicule. They would maintain that those people who are not tied to the household and thus are not implicated in the shame that would result from treatment, ideally should not know about it. 314

This ethnography would suggest that if there is to be any psychiatric intervention, it should be as secret as possible and preferably administered by the household of the sick person. The less frequent the sick person visits the hospital, or doctors and psychiatric nurses visit the household, the better. Chapter eight raised some wider issues that reflected apparent obstacles to communication between health professionals and their patients. The style of speaking of many doctors constituted a particular relatedness with patients that inhibited communication. This can be contrasted with the varied and more accessible persuasive styles of healers which appeal to Christian ideas and values, and the evocation and attenuation of relatedness to the household. The need for and the valuable work done by healers partly reflects failings in the provision of health services but also the importance and ease of people asking each other for help. However, the ostensible hindrances to successful treatment in biomedical terms have positive benefits in others. The frequent involvement of t!volo, confirmed by healers, in poorly treated or difficult to treat conditions protects the hospital from blame. Healers’ actions and interpretations bolster the prevalent idea of the temporariness of 'mental illness', and protect people from attributions of mental illness by classifying non-enduring cases in terms of t!volo. Except in a few cases, those with enduring 'mental illness' in biomedical terms benefit from the vague and partial terms that allow them not to be labelled in stigmatising terms. Future research and collaboration The stated aim of this ethnography was to establish a space for positive and productive discussion between sufferers, their families, anthropological and local researchers, healers and doctors, and health policy makers dealing with Tongans and the Tongan diaspora. To that end, this publication and the case studies contained within it will be used as a focus for discussion in Tonga, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Incorporation of the comments and ideas of those who contributed or inspired this ethnography as well as those involved at all levels of health provision is vital to further adapt this ethnography, so that it can be used as a resource and be useful in health 315

policy. To be involved and collaborate in discussions of health policy and provision in Tonga and with the Tongan diaspora is, in the terms of the Tongan proverb, to both climb the coconut tree and to assist others to climb it more effectively and sensitively. 'Ofa atu


APPENDIX List of plants Fekika (Syzygium malaccense) Fiki (Jatropha curcas) Heilala (Garcinia sessilis) Kava (Piper methysticum) Lautolu 'uta (Vigna adenantha) Lautolu tahi (Vigna marina) Masikoka (Glochidion ramiflorum) Mo'ota (Dysoxylum forsteri) Nonu (Morinda citrifolia) Ngatae (Erythrina variegata) Pua (Fagraea berteroana) Siale Tonga (Gardenia taitensis) Sipi (Entada phaseoloides) Tava (Pometia pinnata) Tetefa (Badusa corymbifera) Tuitui (Aleurites moluccana) Uhi (Euodia hortensis)


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AUTHOR INDEX Abu-Lughod, 24, 34 Ahearn, 24, 102 Anderson, 232 Aoyagi, 23 Batchelor, 257 Beaglehole, 20, 23 Besnier, 22, 32 Bloomfield, 20, 100, 123, 137, 138, 151, 203, 205, 226, 228, 238, 242, 248, 264, 287 Bott, 85 Bowman, 27 Campbell, 288 Churchward, 19, 30 Clement, 256 Clifford, 28 Clifford & Marcus, 23 Collocott, 20, 203, 229 Collocott & Havea, 306 Cowling, 114, 120, 154, 155, 157 Csordas, 200 Decktor Korn, 32 Desjarlais, 200, 233 Devisch, 200 Douaire-Marsaudon, 80, 84 Finau, 120 Firth, 92 Foliaki, 257 Foster, 121 Gailey, 32 Gardner, 101 Gifford, 20, 104 Good, 107 Gordon, 21, 22, 155, 156, 157, 160 337

Hafoka, 282 Hau'ofa, 22, 94, 242 Helu, 20, 21, 32, 33, 80, 155, 158, 159, 194, 282 Herzfeld, 23, 27 Howard & Borofsky, 21 Jackson, 200 James, 22, 32, 56 Jilek, 103, 124, 127, 138, 139, 154, 155, 157, 193, 257, 293 Kaeppler, 21, 80 Kapferer, 102 Katz, 104, 127 Kavaliku, 21, 25 Kavapalu, 80 Kleinman, 20 Last, 120 Latukefu, 65 Littlewood, 121 Littlewood & Dein, 152 Mageo, 150, 157 Mahina, 29, 259 Malinowski, 31 Marcus, 21, 23, 24, 27, 32, 82 Marcus & Fischer, 23 Mariner, 253 Marsella & White's, 257 Martin, 20, 139, 253 McGrath, 112, 154, 179, 228 Morton, 22, 32, 69, 70, 85, 86 Murphy & Taumoepeau, 257, 286, 289 Needham, 107 Parsons, 120, 141, 154, 155, 157 Perminow, 22, 98, 282

Pilolevu, 29 Price and Karim, 282 Puloka, 20, 151, 152, 155, 172, 257, 280, 283, 290, 292, 293, 303, 311 Rapport & Overing, 28, 102 Rauch, 151 Rogers, 102 Rubinstein & White, 257 Said, 22 Sass, 284, 305 Schieffelin, 308 Shore, 22, 277 Shumway, 29 Singh, 181

Small, 22 Sperber, 29 Stewart, 103 Thaman, 21, 83, 91, 92 Toren, 23, 24, 26, 32, 81, 90, 104 Tu'inukuafe, 75 Van der Grijp, 22 W.H.O, 20, 340 Warner, 305 Weiner, 110 Whistler, 123, 153 Whitfield, 186 Williams, 20, 340 Wood-Ellen, 288



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This medical ethnography focuses on biomedical practitioners and local healers in Vava’u, Tonga in order to address contemporary concerns about rising rates of mental illness among Tongan populations and their diasporas in New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Psychiatric services have had limited success in promulgating biomedical understandings of mental illness; this ethnography examines how psychiatric concepts are at once assimilated and subverted as a function of local people’s ideas of illness as caused by t!volo. Inadequately glossed as ghost, spirit, devil or demon, t!volo was originally a missionary term serving to demonise various pre-Christian practices; in contemporary Tonga t!volo are blamed for certain unacceptable behaviour (regarded as mental illness by medical practitioners) and are attributed with human motivations (e.g. ‘ofa, love) and characteristics. To attribute a person’s unusual behaviour to t!volo places the blame on an agency external to the family; by contrast, ‘mental illness’ implies justified divine punishment, which suggests past wrong-doing by an ancestor and throws into question the status of the sufferer’s family. This ethnography shows that an examination of how knowledge of t!volo is constituted by healers requires a concomitant treatment of people’s concern with tauhi vaha’a, roughly glossed as ‘looking after relationships’. By virtue of rendering this idea analytical – i.e. by using it to illuminate people’s interpretations of others’ behaviour – the ethnography demonstrates how intersubjectivity (interaction between conscious minds) informs the claims to knowledge (explicit or implicit) that are manifest in the interpretations of medical practitioners, healers, sufferers and lay persons (see Herzfeld 1987 and Marcus 1999). An epistemological dilemma The ethnography reveals a three-way epistemological dilemma born of mutually contradictory knowledge claims: a local knowledge that takes agency to be constituted in relationship with others, even while it attributes an unfettered freedom of action to t!volo; a biomedical knowledge which, in claiming objectivity, at once asserts its universal applicability and denies any relevance to relationship; and an anthropological knowledge that claims to illuminate the encounter 340

between them. My argument draws on Toren’s (1999) account of how processes of making meaning are always a function of intersubjectivity and always implicate particular ideas of personhood, sociality and mind. Abu Lughod’s (1991) idea of ethnography of the particular inspires a negotiation between the need for both particularistic description and general statement, which is achieved by dint of making the analysis of case studies serve both to address pressing issues of public health and the concerns of critically engaged Pacific island readers (Hereniko 2000). An ethnographic deficit The ethnography’s claims to originality lie in: (i) the detailed empirical description of previously undocumented healers’ practices (identified by W.H.O as a deficit: W.H.O. Mission report, Williams 1993:24); (ii) the rendering of indigenous concepts as analytical tools; and (iii) my problematising the production of knowledge by virtue of engaging with a largely ignored local literature that questions the ability of anthropologists to accurately understand and represent Tongan concepts and practices. Thus, the connection between speaking as interpretation and tauhi vaha'a (a concern with relationships that in any given instance evokes and/or attenuates relatedness) ensures engagement with a Tongan idea that knowledge is evident in effective speaking (or writing) and that speaking (or writing) are effective only insofar as they function at once to express and constitute relationships. For style, I strike a balance between an ethnography of the particular and the general through a focus on incidences of sickness, descriptions of particular people, conversations and events on the one hand and, on the other, on general questions of ethnographic, medical anthropological and public health interest. Through a regional focus on Vava'u, as distinct from the rest of the Tongan archipelago, and a Vava'uan notion of autopoietic (i.e. self-produced, self-created) personhood this ethnography addresses previous overly structural and homogenising characterisations of Tongan sociality. A pragmatic need in public health Prioritising local knowledge guides the ethnography ‘into the domain of policies, programs and practices’ (Kleinman 1995:256) and is particularly 341

pertinent to current concerns about mental illness and to the formulation of a more socially sensitive mental health act. By engaging with public health issues through participant-observer research methods and particularistic description, the ethnography (i) provides a wealth of ethnographic detail about healing practices; (ii) shows how doctors’ acts of speaking as tauhi vaha’a at once evince and constitute a relatedness where differential status is primary and an understanding of biomedical diagnoses is merely secondary; and (iii) reveals how doctors and psychiatrists pathologise as ‘a culture-bound disorder’ a locally descriptive term ‘avanga that is used to denote a kind of relatedness or inter-subjectivity with t!volo. Whether a person consults a biomedical practitioner or a healer is a function of their confidence in tauhi vaha’a i.e., in relatedness. Attributions of efficacy to particular treatments (biomedical or traditional) can only be properly understood as acts of tauhi vaha’a that connect people to particular healers or doctors at a particular time. Conclusion Psychiatric diagnoses deny people’s experience of relatedness with those who are said to be mentally ill and the autopoietic individuality attributed to all. The claim to impartiality or objectivity embodied in a psychiatric diagnosis and a concomitant faith in the exclusively descriptive power of words implies alienation and lack of involvement, a disregard for relatedness as principle and thus a kind of disengagement from local values as these are to be found in the everyday life of the household, the extended family, the Christian congregation at church and, more generally, in life as it is lived in Vava’u as distinct from the main island, Tongatapu. Also, the permanence of mental illness in psychiatric terms is contradicted by the local idea of t!volo-caused illness as temporary and curable by divine intervention. Crucial here is the observation that what people know about psychiatry is by and large not constituted in interaction with doctors or psychiatrists, while what they know about t!volo is constituted directly in inter-subjective relations with healers.