A cooking pit fit for the first taumafa kava of King George Tupou V is a worthy cause. Hon. Ma'afu, head of the Ha'a Havea clan and chief of Vaini and Tokomololo, dug an earth oven pit with his kinsfolk in Mataliku, opposite Pea's cricket pitch. The pit is estimated to be over 250 feet long, 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep.
Honourable Ma’afu is also known as Tukuiaulahi. Apparently, on his birth he was put out at sea along the strongest current shelf to die, but he lived, thus, he is nicknamed as Tuku[put] I[on] au[current] lahi[stronger], Tukuiaulahi.
Prior to the unity of Tonga in 1845 civil unrest ruled the Kingdom of Tonga. Taufa'ahau (later to become Tupou I) led the rebellion agains't the Ha'a Havea lahi of Tongatapu. Taufa'ahau and Ma'afu are closely related, and of the same kin, however, they, (Ha'a Havea Lahi), distrusted the brave and young Taufa'ahau. From birth his destiny was foretold, and he was subjected to death - but he instead lived to fight the war clubs of his kinsfolk. Taufa'ahau survived and united Tonga under the Tupou monarchy. He became the founder of modern Tonga and lived until he was nearly one hundred years of age.
Longest Earth Oven Cooking Pit during King Tupou IV State Funeral
The Ha'a Havea underground earth pit is 250 feet long. To bring heat to the red hot stones the fire wood is stacked high with dried wood. It is left to burn for at least 4 hours with the red ember stones sparkling and emitting red iron volcanic eruptions. "It's time to lay the food out", the commands is barked! Yams, taro, kape and kumara are laid on top of with banana leaves to stifle the red hot spitting stones, then the meat follows in crates, carefully prepared and packed in layers and finally the taro leaves with coconut. A long line of men lift and place the iron boxes of crated food into the pit.
They work in union, the Ha'a Havea clan. It is pitch black and in the middle of the night, and one commands the lift and lowering. The work gang performs in union lifting and placing the food and crates on top of the hot red stones. The men wear matted and dirty ta'ovala as sign of their relationship to the king, and quietly work together. This is the morning breakfast for the visitors from overseas and the northern group. “Be careful of the red hot stones!” But, it seems they have practiced this before, despite the low visibility, the performance is carried out with little injury.
The tell tale sign of early morning is the collision between dew and the rupture of oven pit being slowly and carefully picked opened. The early morning air is mixed with the smells of freshly baked pork. Awaken and rise, for the cooked food is ready for the visitors to begin their day with some refreshment. Food from the longest earth oven pit in the Kingdom, fit for a King and his Ha'a Havea clan!