Valerie Adams honoured as Lord Vaea’s new herald

The New Zealand-Tongan shotput golden girl Valerie Adams has been formally appointed as Lord Vaea’s herald with the name Tongitupe-ʻO e-Funga Taua.

The appointment is the highest honour given to commoners in Tongan culture.

Adams will be greeted with her heraldic title whenever she attends any formal occasion in the Tongan community.

She was appointed to the title in Tonga on January 2 while attending a double celebrations in her mother’s village, Houma. Houma is Lord Vaea’s estate.

Tongan women are rarely given heraldic names because the position is mainly associated with male activities like the kava ceremony at which heralds may be required to spend a lot of time drinking kava.

They may also be required to stay at places where the occasions take place to receive visitors.

Women usually can perform minor roles of heralds such as formally presenting gifts on special occasions but they never formally appointed heraldic names.  At this stage they can only use the names of appointed heralds in their villages or clans.

Although her new title means Adams now has obligations to fulfil if she is at functions where Lord Vaea is present, her appointment was apparently made to express Lord Vaea’s appreciation for her great sporting achievements.

Lord Vaea is chairman of the Tonga Traditions Committee and brother-in-law and second cousin of King Tupou VI. He has served as a Master of the Royal Household and as palace archivist.

The roles

When a person is given a heraldic title, their duties include sitting down in front of the chief when he is giving an audience. The herald’s chief duty is to speak to the people attending the audience on behalf of the chief.

On occasions like funerals or weddings, heralds must stay in a separate small building (palepale) with men who drink kava. The herald’s job is to formally receive visitors, thank them on behalf of the family and tell them about the programme and what they are expected to do.

Adams’ appointment involved being presented to the chief in a kava ceremony at which she drank a coconut shell cup of kava. From now on she will be referred to at formal occasions within the Tongan communities as Tongitupe-ʻO e-Funga Taua and not Valerie Adams.

If Adams attends formal Tongan occasions in New Zealand or abroad the heralds or organisers of the events will honour her by calling out her name and say: “Tapu mo Tongitupe – ‘O e – Funga – Taua,” which means “Saying Adams is a taboo and I ask to be excused from speaking while she is here with us in case I say things that might not please her.”

Adams tweeted to say she had completed her first kava ceremony in Houma with Lord Vaea: “An amazing honour. Got a new name: Tongi Tupe oe Fungataua”.

Adams was crowned World Champion in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. She was the World Indoor Champion in 2008, 2012 and again in 2014. She also has 13 National titles to date.

Tongitupe – ‘O e – Funga-Taua

Adams’ title is a combination of two poetical terms. Tongi Tupe comes from lafo, a game mostly played by chiefs and their heralds or for the chiefs to watch. The words refer to a situation when a thrower throws their tupe (a disc made from coconut shell) against the opponent’s disc, moving it further within the lafo mat and giving the thrower extra points. Poetically this can only be referred to a person with huge achievement.

Funga Taua refers to the top of the tower, a poetical reference that sometimes refers to something incomprehensible or higher than the king or queen.

The late Queen Salote composed a lullaby for her eldest grandchild, the Late King George V, when he was born in 1948. The first and second line said: “Ke fakatulou mo e taua, Kau feia ‘a e fakana’ana’a.”

This was translated by Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau as “My deference be to the Tower, While I compose this song.”

The reference in the first line to the Taua can be interpreted as meaning the Queen lowered herself even though she held the highest social and political position in Tonga, and sent her respect to the tower so she can compose the song. Poetically she may have used taua as a metaphor which stands for how she felt about the song as something that was composed for something of great importance – her first grandson, who became king of Tonga.

The  main points

  • The New Zealand-Tongan shotput golden girl Valerie Adams has been formally appointed as Lord Vaea’s herald, with the name Tongitupe-ʻO e-Funga Taua.
  • The appointment is the highest honour given to commoners in Tongan culture.
  • Adams will be greeted with her heraldic title whenever she attends any formal occasion in the Tongan community.
  • Lord Vaea is chairman of the Tonga Traditions Committee and brother-in-law of King Tupou VI. He has served as a Master of the Royal Household and as palace archivist.

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