Lu sipi, a Marker of Tongan Distinction
Toloke, Elizabeth Na'asipa
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National dishes and other food items play a crucial role in sustaining cultural norms as well as affirming an individual’s sense of place and identity. In Tonga, lu sipi is such a dish. In Tonga and for Tongans living outside their homeland, the processes of preparing and eating lu sipi embody distinctive characteristics reflecting Tongan culture, identity, and history. Within those characteristics, lu sipi for Tongans in Tonga connotes and denotes daily routines and a way of life that holds significance, particularly on Sundays. For Tongans abroad, lu sipi promotes island memories and nostalgic feelings of island life and belonging. Considering those themes, this dissertation explores lu sipi as a marker of Tongan distinction. In order to understand lu sipi and its place as a distinguishing feature of being and becoming, my research used qualitative description, talanoa and thematic analysis with three comprehensive participant interviews. My research participants included two self-identifying Tongans and an academic expert on South Pacific island culture. Their views, expertise and experiences have provided a platform to understand lu sipi within Tongan culture in Tonga and in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Their narratives included lu sipi’s symbolic and actant properties that elevate lu sipi beyond mere nutritional need. In these ways, my dissertation not only reveals my participant narratives, but in doing so shows the changing nature of lu sipi consequent to migration and the globalised forces that have impacted lu sipi’s authenticity.