Photos of Princess Pilolevu walking on women’s back in Sydney stir online debate

    Photos of women lying on the ground while Princess Pilolevu Tuita walked on their backs have stirred mixed reactions on social media.

    Some  commentators used the word ‘primitive’ to describe the display, while others said it was a traditional act of respect.

    The photos were apparently shot at a Holonga, Vava’u’s village day, in Sydney, Australia, last  Saturday.

    The photos and video taken at the scene, where a number of women lay face down on what appeared to be a concrete floor, went viral on Facebook.

    While many made positive comments, some said it was uncivilized and others criticised the Princess for not telling the women to stop what they were doing.

    However, a witness said the Princess did not walk on the women’s backs, but stepped over them and put her feet in the spaces between the women while they were lying face down.

    Many said they worried that the women could be physically harmed by the Princess walking on them.

    Some supporters of the Princess tried to convince critics that this was something any Tongan could do and was not just for a royal prerogatives.

    The report drew surprised comments from people from other cultures.

    A post on the Samoa Koko Café Facebook page said: “Who knew this manifestation of respect still existed today in the Pacific? Her Royal Highness Princess Pilolevu of the Kingdom of Tonga (one of the oldest monarchy’s in the world) is pictured here walking over “commoners” as they [lie] on the ground as a mark of respect and honour to their majesty.”

    In response, Mereani Sau Dawaii wrote: “It reminds me in some parts of Fiji, when there’s a wedding. The women from the men’s family will form two lines sitting closely to one another [with] their legs out. They will have mats and tapa covering their feet and the new bride will walk from one end to the other. I think it’s beautiful and all I can see in this pic is respect.”

    Michael Field, a veteran New Zealand journalist who has covered the Pacific, also wrote about the images, saying: “This is why, in Tonga, the royal word for a commoner is ‘kainanga ‘o e fonua’ – dirt eaters.”

    On the same post where Field commented, Indira Moala a Tongan reporter for Radio New Zealand International wrote:  “And though it’s hard for others to believe, it’s actually an act that many commoners are excited and honoured to do (smile emoticon). Other commoners watching, normally cheer them on in support, or admire their humility to “to ki lalo” – the humble act of falling down.”

    Misi Fifita wrote: “Let’s just get one thing straight. This photo is from Holonga Day on Saturday and I was there when this happened. She ‘DID NOT’ step or walk on these people pictured. She stepped in between them. So before you run your mouth, criticise and judge, make sure you have the facts. Ask anyone who was there. She refused to walk on them. People refused to move unless she did. So she walked in between people (not stepping on anyone) to make them happy and to get them up.”

    Euphoric mood

    The practice is not uncommon in Tonga and is not something that can only involves members of the royal family and nobles.

    It is not a formal practice and people are not obliged to perform it during Tongan celebrations and entertainment.

    The Tongan saying depicts it this way: “Fakapuna pe ‘e he māfana” (It was stirred to action by the overwhelming emotion one gets when she or he enjoys the celebration).

    It can be seen anywhere whenever Tongan celebrants are euphoric or overjoyed and not only in big celebrations.

    A small entertainment in a Tongan family home can be enjoyed to the point that the party goers will climb on tables and chairs and even roll on the floor.

    There are several other cultural exercises that are aligned with it, such as laupisi ‘eiki, when the commoners have to do something that may look nonsensical when the royals are around. Its purpose is to highlight the presence of royals or nobility.

    The main points

    • Photos of women lying on the ground while Princess Pilolevu Tuita walked on their backs have stirred mixed reactions on social media.
    • Some commentators used the word ‘primitive’ to describe the display, while others said it was a traditional act of respect.
    • The photos were apparently shot at a Holonga, Vava’u’s village day, in Sydney, Australia, last
    • The photos and video take at the scene, where a number of women lay face down on what appeared to be a concrete floor, went viral on Facebook.

    1 COMMENT

    1. Hoko ha īmisi tā ʻoku meʻa (kaka) ai ʻa Pilinisesi Pilolevu he tuʻa ʻo ha kau fefine ʻi Senē ke fai ai ha tautipeiti ʻi he ngaluopé.

      Kuo hoko e ngaahi ʻata ʻoku ʻasi ai ha meʻa ʻa e Taʻahine Pilinisesí Pilinisesi Pilolevu Tuita he tuʻa ʻo ha kakai fefine ʻoku nau lolotonga tākoto foʻohifo ke ne fakavaʻanga ha felauaki he mītia fakasōsialé.

      ʻOku hanga ʻe he kau fakaʻaongaʻi ʻe niʻihi ʻo e mītia fakasōsialé ʻo ngāueʻaki ʻa e foʻi lea ko e fakakuongamuʻa ke ne fakamatalaʻi ʻa e foʻi fakaʻaliʻali ko ʻení, taimi tatau pehē ʻe he niʻihi ko e founga fakaʻapaʻapa tukufakaholo pe ia.

      Matamata ko e ngaahi ʻata ko ʻení ne faitaaʻi ʻi he ʻaho ʻo Holonga, Vavaʻú ʻi Senē, ʻAositelēlia he Tokonaki kuo ʻosí.

      Ko e ngaahi ʻata mo e vitiō he feituʻu ne hoko ai e meʻá ni kuo maʻaveʻave he Feisipuká
      Lolotonga ne fakamatala lelei pe ha tokolahi ki he meʻá ni ne pehē ʻe ha niʻihi ʻoku kei fakatukuʻuta e faʻahinga tōʻonga ko ʻení mo nau fakaangaʻi ʻa e Taʻahine Pilinisesí ʻi he ʻikai ke ne taʻofi atu e finemātuʻá heʻenau tōʻonga ne faí.

      Kaekehe ne pehē ʻe ha taha ia ne sio tonu he meʻa ne hokó naʻe ʻikai ke meʻa (kaka) e Pilinisesí ia ʻi he tuʻa e kau fefiné, naʻe meʻa fakalaka pe ia ʻi honau tuʻá ʻo tuʻu he vahaʻa e fefine mei he fefine.

      Ne hohaʻa e tokolahi naʻa fasi e kau fefiné he meʻa ʻa e Pilinisesí ʻia kinautolú.

      Ka ne feinga e kau poupou ʻe niʻihi ʻo e Pilinsesí ke fakatuia e kau fakaangá ʻo pehē ko e meʻa ia ko ʻení ʻoku fai pe ia ʻe ha Tonga ʻo ʻikai ke pehē ko ha toki fai pe ki he Fale ʻo Haʻa Moheofó.

      Ne aʻu foki e meʻá ni ia ʻo ofoofo ai e niʻihi ʻoku ʻikai ko ha Tonga.

      Ne fokotuʻu hake ai e ʻū taá ni ʻi he peesi Feisipuka ko e Samoa Koko Café Facebook peá ne hā ai ʻa e fakamatala ko ʻení:

      Ko hai ne ne ʻilo ko e faʻahinga fakaeʻeeʻa peheni ʻo e fakaʻapaʻapá ʻoku kei fai he ngaahi ʻahó ni he Pasifikí? ʻOku ʻasi he taá ni ʻa e Taʻahine Pilinisesí Pilolevu ʻo e Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tongá (taha ʻo e ngaahi puleʻanga fakatuʻi motuʻa taha ʻi māmaní) ʻokú ne meʻa (lue) he tuʻa ʻo e laauvalé lolotonga ʻoku nau tākoto he falikí ko e fakaʻilonga ʻo e fakaʻapaʻapa mo e fakalāngilangi [ki Heʻena ʻĀfifió]
      Ka ne tali ki heni ha tokotaha ko Mereani Sau Dawaii ʻo ne pehē ʻokú fakamanatu mai ʻe he meʻá ni ʻa e ngaahi feituʻu ʻe niʻihi ʻi Fisi, he taimi ʻoku fai ai ha mali.

      ʻE tangutu fakaloloa vāofi laine ua leva ha kau fefine mei he fāmili ʻo e tangatá. ʻE lī hifo ha ngatu ʻo ʻufiʻufi honau fungá kae kaka mai ʻa e fefine malí mei he faʻahi ʻe tahá ki he faʻahi ʻe tahá. ʻOku ou tui ʻoku fakaʻofoʻofa pea ʻi heʻeku vakai ki he ʻū tā ko ʻení ko e fakaʻapaʻapa.

      Ne ʻi ai foki mo e lau heni ʻa Michael Field ko e taha ia e kau faiongongo taukei Nuʻu Sila ʻokú ne līpooti ki he Pasifikí. Ne ne pehē ko e ʻuhinga ʻeni ʻo e lea fakatuʻi ki he kakai angamahení ʻoku ui ko e kainanga ʻo e fonuá, kakai ʻoku kai mei he ʻulí.

      ʻI he foʻi pousi (post) tatau pē ne ʻai ai e lau ʻa Field ko ʻení ne pehē ai ʻe he taha faiongoongo Tonga maʻa e Letiō Nuʻu Sila Fakavahaʻapuleʻangá ko Indira Moala neongo ʻoku faingataʻa ki ha faʻahinga ke tui ki heni ka ko e tōʻonga moʻoni pe ia e fiefia ʻa e laauvalé mo ongo ʻi lāngilangiʻia ke fai pehē.

      ʻOku tuʻu matanga pe niʻihi mei tafaʻaki mo fakakaekae ʻi heʻenau poupou pe mālieʻia he anga fakatōkilaló – tō ki lalo ke fakahā e angafakatōmapeʻe.

      Kaekehe ne ʻi ai e tokotaha ko Misi Fifita ne ne pehē ne ʻi ai tonu ia ai ʻo sio tonu he meʻa ne hokó peá ne ʻikai meʻa (kaka) ʻe Taʻahiné ia he tuʻa ʻo e kau fefine tākotó ka ne ne fakaai pe ʻe ia e māfana ʻa e kāingá ʻo ne meʻa pe ia ʻi honau vahaʻá.

      Kaekehe ʻoku ʻikai foki ko ha fakafeangai eni ia ʻoku toki fai pe ki he Fale ʻo e Tuʻí mo e houʻeikí.

      ʻOku fai pe ia ʻe he kakai Tongá ʻi ha feituʻu pe ʻoku nau fai kātoanga ai ʻo tatau pe ia pe ko e meʻa pe ʻa laauvale pe haʻa lotu.

      ʻOku fai tavale pe ia ʻo hangē ko e lau ʻa e lea Tongá ko e fakapuna pe ʻe he māfana.

      Aʻu ki ha kiʻi fakalokua pe ia ʻa ha kiʻi fāmili ʻi haʻanau fakafiefia fakalotofale ʻoku ala aʻu pe ia ki ha tuʻunga ko e kaka tepile ʻa e kau fakafiefiá, kaka he seá mo teka faliki.

      ʻOku nā tatau pe ʻeni ia mo e ʻū meʻa faka-Tonga ʻe niʻihi hangē ko e laupisi ʻeiki mo e ngaahi meʻa peheé.

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