The Tongan Club hosted a talent competition “meant to bring the community together and showcase what it means to be Tongan,” explained Vice President of activities Peni Kioa, a sophomore studying biochemistry from Tonga. The Aloha Ballroom was filled with chairs and soon after filled with people as Tongan music played in an energetic sound and measure on Oct. 20.
There were a total of four teams of students who performed two types of dances. The first was the Mako, a men's dance. Following was a poetry and prose composition called the Lau Maau. Finally, the Tau'olunga dance was performed, a traditional dance for chiefly daughters as entertainment for the chiefs and King.
While the competition may have been the reason members, students, and community members gathered, it was not the primary purpose of the event, according to Elizabeth Ramsay, a junior studying business from Tonga, who said the club represented “a home away from home.” She continued, “We all truly love and care for one another, this is the support system we rely on because we are all homesick and on low budgets.”
Rows of balloons lined the wall behind the stage, spelling out ‘MMT’ in large red and black letters. According to Ramsay, this stood for ‘mate ma’a Tonga’ or ‘die for Tonga.’ A BYU-Hawaii Tongan alumnus, Viliami Tukuafu, attended the event and said, “Being Tongan is not just about where you are from, it’s an identity.” Vice President Kioa furthered this by adding, “Proceedings such as this allow us to reach out and involve as many community members as possible in our culture.”
As the performances went on, the stage decorations fell and tumbled from the force of the dancer’s movements. The cheering and clapping led to a constant hum in the crowded entertainment hall. The dancing illustrated the passion of Tongan culture impressed upon those who attended as many cheers, laughter, and screams came from the crowd.
“Dance tells us who we are, where we are going and where we have been,” explained Tukuafu. “Every movement a dancer makes is a message to the audience. It is a story unfolding,” said Ramsay. While this ancient tradition brought to mind times past, its primary function was to “strengthen the family bonds that all who attended felt,” noted Kiao. The excitement and audience participation were consistent throughout the show.
The winners and losers of the many categories won either bananas or gift certificates. Children, grandmothers, senior missionaries, students, and community members all were present as well as actively involved in the culture and competition the Tongan Club allowed them all to participate in.