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A group of business women in Talihau, Vavaʻu were in tears after they were paid more than TP$20,000 by a couple for their koloa faka-Tonga after a previous deal was canceled by their Australian business partners.
The Talihau group was trading with Tongans in Australia and had a verbal agreement that the Australians would buy their Tongan traditional handicrafts this December.
But in November, after the Vava’uans had spent months producing work to meet the expectations of their customers, they were told the Australians were canceling the deal.
The last-minute cancellation hit the small Vavaʻuan community really hard.
Tongan-based Australian couple Houma and his wife Moa Liavaʻa Koloamatangi visited Vavaʻu this week and heard about the Talihau episode.
Houma told Kaniva News he really felt for the women as he understood the situation and how it would have affected them with their families during the Christmas and the New Year.
“I just told my wife let’s go there and see if she wants anything and ask to buy it”, Houma said.
When they got there and talked to the women they decided to buy all their handicrafts which were different types of Tongan precious mats.
She said the women gave them a good deal and they bought all their goods for more than TP$20,000.
The Koloamatangis are running personal loan finances for the Tongan communities in Tonga and Australia.
In a video posted to Facebook by Houma, a woman who appeared to be the leader of the group can be heard tearfully saying they were thankful for the Koloamatangis for their kindness.
She said that if they had not bought their goods they would not have been able to shop this Christmas.
She said their children would not have school materials and school fees for the new year.
They had relied on the deal with the Tongans in Australia and it was really sad they cancelled when they had already produced the mats.
Some members of the group managed to ship their goods to Tongatapu, Tonga’s mainland, while others stayed on the island with their koloa.
This type of informal trading among Tongan women in the kingdom and overseas happens in December before Christmas.
According to the protocol the trading can be by individual or in groups. A woman from Tonga or from overseas has to first look for a partner to trade with.
When they agree they discuss the requirements. A partner in the United States may, for instance, want five 20 feet mats (fala toka 20) and the Tongan woman can tell her partner she can give them to her for, say, TP$5,000.
When they agree they can then decide a day in December when the overseas partner will come to Tonga for the exchange.
This is known as kātoanga fakafetongi koloa faka-Tonga or a celebration at which the trade and exchange takes place.
The exchange is sometimes associated with exchanges of extra gifts. For instance the overseas partner might add an important blanket with an extra TP$500 as a gift, while the Tongan partner gifts her with a fala toka 10.
The production of mats is not an easy task especially after the processing of the lou’akau.
Women have to pay for weavers to help them because of the trading demand.
Although this is meant to be a time to celebrate there can be problems.
There have been reports of people abusing the trade and exchange business.
Some Tongan overseas partners have told their Tongan partners to ship them the goods when it comes to the celebration day in Tonga because they have an urgent function for one of their children.
She said she would send her the money after the function. The Tongan partner trusted her and sent the goods but that was the end of it. The money was never paid.
On one occasion a woman in Tonga was reported telling her partner overseas when the celebration day was near to send her the money to pay for her bills, some church and family duties as well as other urgent needs.
She said she would still provide the promised goods in December. The money was then transferred to Tonga, but when the overseas partner arrived in Tonga she could never find her business partner.
It has been estimated that the trade and celebration business can bring more than TP$1 million a year to the kingdom.
The following video was recorded on the day the goods were purchased.
The main points
- A group of business women in Talihau, Vavaʻu were in tears after they were paid more than TP$20,000 by a couple for their koloa faka-Tonga after a previous deal was canceled by their Australian business partners.
- The Talihau group was trading with Tongans in Australia and had a verbal agreement that the Australians would buy their Tongan traditional handicrafts this December.
- Tongan-based Australian couple Houma and his wife Moa Liavaʻa Koloamatangi visited Vavaʻu this week and heard about the Talihau episode.
- After talking to the women they bought all their goods for more than TP$20,000.