‘Working and tending the land and seashore are vital pathways to health and healing’. (Ruha Fifita

Fonua is key to understanding how the land features in healing in terms of healthy life-ways, being able to feed others and be generous to others. It is also vital to appreciating the origins of the stigmatising idea that illness and particularly serious mental illness may be the result of punishment for wrongdoing (mala’ia), particularly to the church.

Dr Mapa Puloka’s use of his tax allotment for benefit of his patients was often remarked upon in feedback screenings in New Zealand, and speaks to the desire for more culturally sensitive and person centred treatment and attention of Tongans in hospitals and prisons.



  1. Ideas of fonua in historical and alternative Tongan historiography. A wonderful PhD thesis that attempts to decolonise Tongan history is Dr Paula Onoafe Latu’s 2017 PhD thesis, entitled: An Alter-Native Holistic Historiography of Tonga history from their own traditional oral culture and through their own people’s eyes
  2. Read about a case of ta’aki akafia from my thesis. Treatment at the grave also happens in New Zealand and can be quite contentious, particularly for the family of the affecting spirit, who may or may not be consulted before actions at the grave take place.
  3. Contemporary meanings of fonua that establish strong links to land from birth to death in Tonga and link to climate change. ‘FEFINE, FONUA, TONGA: A Voice Towards Climate Change’ is a performance piece by Dr Paula Latu. Download it here.

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