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Valerie honoured as a royal Herald

Wednesday 14 January 2015 | Published in Regional


Valerie honoured as a royal Herald

NUKU ‘ALOFA – The New Zealand-Tongan shotput golden girl Valerie Adams has been formally appointed as a Herald to Tonga’s Lord Vaea’ with the royal title Tongitupe-‘O e-Funga Tau.

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

Adams will in future 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 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 royal occasions take place to receive visitors.

Women usually can the perform minor roles of Heralds – such as formally presenting gifts on special occasions – but they never get formally appointed heraldic names.

Although her new title means Adams now has obligations and royal duties to fulfil if she is on hand 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.

When a person is given a heraldic title, their duties include sitting down in front of the chief when he is giving an audience.

A 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 of her mother’s village 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-‘O e-Funga Taua and not Valerie Adams.

If Adams attends formal Tongan occasions in New Zealand or abroad the 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 later tweeted to say she had completed her first kava ceremony in Houma with Lord Vaea: “An amazing honour. Got a new name: Tongi tupe- ‘O Funga Taua”. The 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.

Adams was World Shotput 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.