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Chapter 3 (Mai and Earl)

May 3, 2012

In the chapter, Besnier focus on the social aspect of “Fea” and social bonding as well as the kinship aspect of Tongan “fea” markets. The author explores the relationship between the traders or vendors and the customers. Nuku alofa has two major fea market sites known as Tu’imatamoanona and Tofoa. These two sites offer local souvenirs, produce and secondhand objects. Some of these objects are  home grown produce, clothing, home decor, tools, bathroom items, cooking items, and any other thing that is useful and essential to a person’s everyday routine. Most of the fea markets do not offer or sale name brand items, because due to the high import tax it would cost too much for the vendor to sell and make a profit.  Most of the goods are imported from other Tongans that live abroad in other parts of the world. This relationship creates a strong kinship and friendship bonds between the family members. The family members and friends are able to get access to a lot of different goods that are very desirable and are very profitable at the fea market.   Some of the Tongan families have found the niche for outside resources and have acquired the means to get this merchandise into the fea market.  A close knit family connection can really benefit a family that uses the fea market for economic stability and social status.
The Tongans pride themselves in selling and producing local goods. Shirts they might sell have Tongan printed on them or flags all over them.  There is even pottery and baskets that are said to be made local.  Basically all the non produce goods are imports.  Shirts are from China the printed name of Tonga is from Hawaii and the baskets and pottery are from New Zealand.   There are no natural resources on Tonga to make anything locally.  But, the stuff sells to locals and tourist alike.  The Tongan pride is extremely high no matter the product.
The upper class of business owners did not like the idea of the fea market and tried to get them outlawed.  They used all their means to try to stop the creation of them, but failed.  The government allowed them, but tried to put small taxes on the stalls.  Even this failed to a point.  The vendors would move locations and set up in non-government sanctioned areas.  So, instead of a continued fight the upper class finally gave in and now they shop and socialize at the markets.  Even the royal family participates in activities at the fea markets.
Outside of being a location for tourist to buy souvenirs the Tongan people gather and make the fea markets a place of social connection and a place to build stronger family connections that will be beneficial to all parties.  The ritual that is the fea market is an everlasting as well as social building tool to inspire and maintain the national pride amongst Tongans.  The bond they create and establish last for a life time and we help in the economic as well as social success of Tonga.


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