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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands

Food Ceremony

Food Ceremony

Kava does not grow on the atolls, but the coconut supplants it to some extent as the cup of hospitality. A drinking nut is always offered to a guest as soon as he arrives, and a visitor in the village is constantly being called to from the houses to enter and drink. A drinking nut properly cracked around the pointed end and opened is placed before each person at meal times and is usually drunk at the end of the meal. The top of the nut is left on to protect the juice from flies. A more common method of drinking is to pierce the largest eye (mata) of the nut and to suck the juice noisily.

Considerable ceremony is associated with food. The usual presentations to visitors are gifts of food. Processionals with singing, speeches, and gifts are called ta'alolo, the Samoan name for similar ceremonies, and also by the old Tokelau term, momoli faka itu fenua (the carrying between the divisions of the land). In these processionals one part of the village goes to the other, bringing a great gift of food. The bearers march in pairs, singing some ancient chant. The food is laid before the house of the person or the head of the people for whom it is given, and the leader of the visiting party makes a speech of presentation (tauati). A dance often follows for the entertainment of the people to whom the gift is made, and the procession returns to its own part of the village. In a few weeks the recipients of the presents make a similar procession with gifts in return.