Helping Tongans Affected by the Volcanic Eruption

The full extent of the impact of the Tongan volcanic blast and subsequent tsunami remains unknown, and communications remain largely severed between the Pacific nation and the outside world.

Tonga was covered with volcanic ash and the uninhabited volcanic island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai all but disappeared following the blast. The volcano sent ash around 20 kilometres into the sky in Saturday’s eruption, but it is likely the tsunami of around 80 centimetres hitting Tongan shores generated the most damage.

Here are some suggestions how you can help:

Red Cross Australia

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the Tonga Red Cross Society had supplies to support 1,200 households that were pre-positioned in the country.

It added its regional network would be mobilized to provide relief in response to “one of the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades”.

Powerful waves have hit the shores of Tonga after a tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific nation following underwater volcanic activity.

Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific head of delegation, said: “From what little updates we have, the scale of the devastation could be immense – especially for outer lying Islands. We are trying hard to establish contact with our colleagues at Tonga Red Cross and establish the scale and specific nature of the support they need.

“Trained Tonga Red Cross teams will be on the ground supporting evacuations in coordination with public authorities, providing first aid if needed, and distributing pre-positioned relief supplies. Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1,200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits.”

To donate, visit redcross.org.au

A GoFundMe fundraiser has been launched by Pita Taufatofua, the flag bearer for Tonga in the 2016 Olympics, to raise $1 million for disaster relief. As of Thursday, the campaign had collected more than $557,000 of its $1 million goal.

Save the Children

Save the Children said they stand “prepared to respond where needed, but communications channels have been affected”.

The charity said the immediate concern in the area will be air and water safety due to the ash and smoke. The government has asked the public to wear masks and use bottled water for now.

The full extent of the damage in Tonga is still unclear with communication lines down.

Save the Children Fiji CEO Shairana Ali said: “The booms from the eruption of the Tonga volcano could be clearly heard in Fiji. Our thoughts have been for the safety of our Tongan brothers and sisters, and Save the Children is well-placed to assist as needed. The people of Pacific Island nations are sadly becoming used to facing disasters. They are incredibly resilient communities.

“We urge everyone to follow the guidance and Save the Children stands ready to assist.”

To donate, visit savethechildren.org.au

UNICEF

UNICEF Pacific allows people to donate to “where the need is greatest” and said it is ready to work with the Tongan government “to ensure urgent life-saving support is provided to families and children”.

UNICEF Pacific representative Jonathan Veitch said: “UNICEF will work with the government, civil society organisations, and other development partners to ensure immediate response efforts on the ground, which includes providing clean water, and emergency health supplies for children and families affected.”

The charity, part of the United Nations, said emergency supplies would be moved from Fiji and Brisbane warehouses.

It added: “These include essential water, sanitation, and hygiene [WASH] kits, water containers and buckets, water field test kits, tarpaulins, recreational kits, and tents, that can be immediately mobilised for distribution.

“With borders closed in Tonga due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF will work with the government and its partners on the ground to reach children and families with the support they urgently need.”

To donate, visit unicef.org.au

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photo from gossipbell.in

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Solomon Islands Panpipers

Recently Jimmy Nolan wrote a short article for the Solomon Times about how panpipes were the sounds of Solomon Islander ancestors…

One of the unique features of the Solomon Islands is the talented panpipers, melodic tunes created from bamboo pipes, passed down from generations before.

Many say it is the music of the Gods – debatable – but what we can all agree on is that it is the sounds of our ancestors.

Panpipes are certainly not unique to the Solomon Islands; the earliest known images of panpipes appear in drawings of animal dances from Catal Hüyük in Anatolia (present day Turkey) dating from the 6th millennium BCE.

The ancient Greeks also have songs and folklore on the origins of the panpipe – as do other cultures the world over, in South America, Europe, parts of Oceania and Asia.

Panpipe in the Solomon Islands was one of the many ways various aspects of our culture was preserved – our reverence for the dead, or the birth of a child, a sweet lullaby, a ritual – they were all captured in chants accompanied by the panpipes. This is the unique aspect of panpipers in Solomon Islands – it is an aspect of our culture or history frozen in the melodic sounds of the panpipes.

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Solomon Islands panpipers. Photo from pt.dreamstime.com

Panpipe music is found in most of the main islands of the Solomons, each with their own unique blend, often distinctive from the other. Who is better is subjective, it really depends on who you talk to, and where they are from?

Today panpipes have been incorporated into modern music, and while some may say it dilutes the original sounds of our ancestors, we can argue that it ensures that the sounds of our ancestors march on into the future.

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Cook Islands’ ‘Akatara on Exhibit in Venice

Rod Dixon wrote a feature for the Cook Islands News about an exhibition in Venice that explores the sculptural beauty of command clubs from Oceania, including the Cook Islands.

The Palazzo Franchetti in Venice is currently hosting an exhibition entitled Power & Prestige: the Art of Clubs in Oceania. Devoted to objects symbolising power and prestige in Oceania, it includes a number of ‘akatara from the Cook Islands.

The exhibition has been organised by the Fondazione Giancarlo Ligabue in collaboration with the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris. It is curated by Professor Steven Hooper, a specialist in Oceanic art at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

Steven Hooper told Cook Islands News the origins and purpose of the exhibition. “I have been studying art from Oceania for fifty years and there has never been an exhibition that focuses on ‘clubs’, yet museum storerooms all over the world, including in the Pacific, are full of them.”

“If you just needed a stick with which to hit someone,” says Hooper, “you didn’t need to go to all the trouble to make these extraordinary sculptures with their beautifully finished surfaces and complex shapes. Something more profound was going on.”

The exhibition hopes to challenge simple explanations and present these neglected artworks as sculptures worthy of global attention.

“We have included several examples from the Cook Islands because the craftsmen of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century made exceptionally beautiful staff clubs,” said Professor Hooper.

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From left – the second, third and fifth items on display are Cook Islands’ ’akatara. 21121047. Photo from http://www.cookislandsnews.com

In advance of the exhibition he contacted Jean Mason at the Cook Island Library and Museum Society for the names of certain Cook Islands weapons included in the exhibition. Mason said she wasn’t fazed about getting involved in what is traditionally considered a man’s “area of expertise”.

“They were made in almost all Oceanian cultures and we wanted to bring them out of the storerooms to show that they were not just weapons – many of them were probably never used in combat – but are remarkable sculptures that served as exchange valuables, dance accessories, authority staffs and sometimes as god images from the pre-Christian era.”

“I think you can say with confidence this knowledge has been utterly lost in the Cook Islands,” said Mason. “There are no men I know, living today, who have the knowledge of traditional Cook Islands weaponry nor the battle techniques they employed. I was always interested in this area because so very little is known or has been written about it.”

As part of her research, Mason is collaborating with local ta’unga Henry Tavioni on an experiment to determine how ancestors achieved the patina, which makes the polished wood of Cook Islands weapons look as if they were made from iron.

“We started by soaking freshly made weapons (clubs and short spears carved by Henry) in a taro patch for one month, four months and six months, respectively,” said Mason.

“So far we have removed the items that have been immersed for one month and four months; other items remain in the mud, as the experiment is not yet completed.

“It seems that one month is insufficient time for producing a shiny patina even when polished; the artefact still showed pink (wet wood) under the black skin when given fresh carved patterns. After four months some of the thicker parts of the wood showed pink under the black skin when carved. It is obvious then that a thinner implement will absorb more mud to give it the deep black colour in a short time, while thicker implements take longer. The experiment is ongoing. We might carry on for one year to see the effect. It’s believed this is how long Atiuans, in the past, kept their weapons in mud.”

Experiments such as these are what Professor Hooper hoped for, as a spin-off of the Venice Exhibition. “It will be very good,” he says, “if the exhibition and its accompanying book stimulate research on this topic in the islands, especially to recover the lost knowledge of techniques that were used to create them.”

Hooper says that, when the Covid 19 pandemic recedes, a similar exhibition may be shown in the Pacific region.

The Venice exhibition includes 126 artworks from places as far apart as Rapa Nui, Hawaii and West Papua, and is on display in Venice to 13 March 2022, after which it moves to the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris from 8 June to 25 September 2022.

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Vanuatu Scores High in Happy Planet Index for 2021

Let’s kick-off the new year with some good news for Vanuatu from last year…

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported that The Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) has applauded the results of the 2020 Happy Planet Index (HPI) which was launched on October 26, 2021, ranking Vanuatu second out of over 150 countries in the world behind Costa Rica.

This is the third time Vanuatu has ranked in the top 5 countries in the HPI since it was first published in 2006. Vanuatu is the only Pacific Island Country listed in the current HPI—a result of a lack of well-being data availability in the region.

The 2020 HPI uses data from the 2019-2020 NSDP Baseline Survey to inform self-reported life satisfaction.

The Melanesian Well-being Indicators, collected as part of an expanded Household Income and Expenditure Survey such as the NSDP Baseline, have opened doors for collection of standardized international metrics of well-being as well as localized indicators that consider the Vanuatu context. The indicator series, prominently featured throughout the NSDP M&E Framework, is now a part of normal statistical data collection and the responsibility of VNSO for ongoing collection and analysis.

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A cruise ship docking in Port Vila Bay, Vanuatu. Photo from ICAS.

The Director of VNSO, Mr. Benuel Lenge and the Project Advisor to VNSO Mr. Jamie Tanguay shared how Vanuatu maintained its status within the 15 years on BuzzFM 96.3. Mr. Lenge conveyed his appreciation to the VNSO team for the data collected. “Any institution that uses information regarding Vanuatu must go through the VNSO. Indicators regarding wellbeing is something that is new but overall, we have been providing statistics for a while now since 1970s,” he said.

Lenge continued, “Apart from the HPI, we also have very good record of economic and social statistics. We have different ways of gathering data with one, census. In 2010, we started creating statistics that relate to the HPI. Previously, the assessment has been done based on certain estimates. At one time, Vanuatu was the happiest place on earth, as they were using estimates. However, from 2006-2010, we have been able to collect some relevant data to put on Vanuatu on the spotlight. In 2006, we were ranked fourth but the first in the Pacific region.”

Mr. Lenge further relate that such ranking reminds shows that the wellbeing of people does not depend on Gross Domestic Products (GPD), but on land accessibility and resource management.

Mr. Tanguay said that with Vanuatu labelled under the UN as in the category of poor countries, a lot of people paused to observe the rankings. He added the HPI is trying to look at how countries can adapt to long and happy lives instead of destroying the environment.

“They used three indicators for this,” he explained. “Life satisfaction, is a factor used as an estimator. We have been reporting since 2010, and collecting in the field. “We are the only Pacific country doing that. And then the life expectancy and the ecological footprint, which refers to the amount of carbon emission that the country produces as well as trades, exports, imports and resources used to make economic outcomes,” he said.

“The calculus is pretty simple. We take life satisfaction, multiply the life expectancy and divide it by the ecological footprint. HPI does this with every country that has data they need.

“The office is proud of such achievements. HPI looks efficiency on how a country manages its resources, to produce long and happy lives. The things that keep us going is the low ecological footprint and relatively life expectancy. Changes in this dimension can impact our position in the future.”

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Solomon Islands “Ukulele” Song is a Global Hit

This will be the last post of the year and we’ll end on a positive with a global hit from the Solomon Islands!  It has a been a great pleasure to share the cultural news from around the Pacific Islands throughout the year. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2022. Stay positive. Stay strong.

Recently the Solomon Times posted a story written by Peter Zoleveke Jr. about how Solomon Islands well-known solo music artists Bradley Pitua (Blad P2A) & William Kadi (Khazin) put the country’s flag on the world map with their 2021 hit island jam ‘UKULELE’, which was voted first at the DJOOKY Music Awards – the world’s largest online song competition over the weekend.

While the country faces one of its darkest occurrences in history following the recent unrest, the music duos flared out with something positive for the local citizens to be proud of and dedicated to the young populace.

DJOOKY Oceania ambassador Victor Lopez confirmed out of 18 international finalists ‘Ukulele’ song came first with a rewarding music proposition that the artists can benefit from ‘making it to America’.

“Apart from winning first place, they are also given the choice of the prize money ($20k) or an all-expenses trip to LA where they will record a song with Brian Malouf (Michael Jackson & Madonnas Producer) at Capitol Records,” Lopez who is also the Manager of Solomon’s finest Door Man Project (DMP) artists Evin Rush, Arak, Mossa, Devande and Blad P2A.

“This isn’t the first time we have entered in this competition, DMP & Mossa had taken out 2nd & 3rd Place of the competition at the beginning of this year. This time around it was a blessing to have Blad P2A win first place with all that’s been happening in Honiara. These were done through online voting where local fans also got the opportunity to also be part of history despite challenges during the Covid – 19 pandemic.

“The current climate had made it extremely difficult to go out and get votes due to the violence and lockdown but the boys defeated the odds and reached their fans online to have them vote to win the competition,” Lopez expressed.

Kadi a Lawyer by profession and one of the co-founders of the boy band 56 Hop Rod – it’s about being patriotic representing the island nation and a massive dedication. “Thank you, everyone. If the world has to know about the Solomon Islands, it should be about the amazing level of talent and creativity in its youth, whether it be in sports, music, or other arts. It should be about our humility, perseverance, and drive to excel,” Khazin posted on his social media page. “This is for our generation and the younger generation who will take our music and art to the highest level there is. Everything on God! Thank you to those who paved the way, we are blazin now.”

Likewise, Blad P2A “Thank you to all the fans, family and friends who voted for us during one the toughest times our country has ever faced, we had to rely on very few resources to reach out to as many people as possible to show support and vote in such a short period, and to be honest with the unfortunate timing of the competition we never thought winning this competition would be even possible!

“This win wasn’t for us, this win was for the Solomon Islands and all our talented musicians here in solo and the pacific!”

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Vanuatu Language Department’s Inaugural Website

Journalist Jason Abel of the Daily Post recently reported that the The Language Service Department (LSD) based at the Prime Minister’s Office compound has officially launched its first official website in Vanuatu. 

The launching of the new website by LSD Director, Stewart Garae, was witnessed by Right To Information (RTI) officers and LSD staff. Mr. Garae said the achievement, which follows on the signing of the agreement between LSD and the Bible Society last week, is momentous. “It is the first website and a milestone,” he said. “Soon, our database will be ready, and it will be accessible through the website. This website is created in accordance with the RTI Act.”

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He acknowledged the RTI office for allowing one particular officer, Mr. Kevin Valea, to assist LSD with its website contents. It coincides with the RTI act for information to be accessible by the public. “Once the LSD database is ready, in the first quarter of 2022, other government departments can also access their documents in all three official languages,” he said. “This is also another service provided within this website. Everyone can access the website.”

“I am encouraging the people of Vanuatu in all six provinces to visit the website and access the National Language Policy of the Republic of Vanuatu, created accordingly to the public’s requests and presented in Bislama, English and French. There is also a language policy department within LSD and the partnership agreement between LSD and the Bible society,” he said.

He acknowledged the technical advice provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO), including the process of the website domain to the Telecommunications Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulator for approval. “The collaboration between LSD, OGCIO and RTI has resulted in this achievement,” he noted, acknowledging all LSD staff for their commitment and unity.”

He further acknowledged the Director General to the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr. Gregoire Nimbtik, for his blessing so the project could proceed and fulfill the LSD business plan. “Our first identity is language and this website consists of all three official languages,” Garae said. “This website will be more proactive once our database is accomplished and the establishment of Vanuatu’s terminology, including the National Language Council, for people to access its activities. This launching is the first part with more updates to follow.”

RTI officer Valea made a brief update on accessing the website contents and its functions, before the dedication by Vanuatu Christian Council representative, Pastor Solomon and refreshments to commemorate the accomplishment.

In Vanuatu, language is the first culture of an individual – his/her identity.

 

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The Future of Pacific Languages

Pasifika in New Zealand are being urged to take part in a survey, and share the importance and value they place on their own languages.

The government launched the Leo Moana o Aotearoa Pacific Languages Survey last month – a first for the country.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said data from the 2013 and 2018 censuses showed speakers of Pacific languages in Aotearoa have declined.

Aupito said the new survey supports the revitalization and sustainability of languages from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Rotuma, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu.

The ground-breaking survey will also give researchers valuable insights into the state of Pacific languages in Aotearoa, Aupito said. “What’s special about the online survey is that it will tell us about people’s attitudes to Pacific languages in New Zealand, including the importance and value that people place on their own languages.

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Tuvaluan women making baskets. Photo by Brandon Oswald

“It’s also the first time data about the use of Pacific languages in New Zealand has been gathered in this way. Sadly, the number of people using our languages in Aotearoa has declined over the past two decades, and in the case of some languages, to the point where we are in danger of losing some. Our Pacific languages must be valued and used. They’re the cornerstone of our Pacific cultures and identities.”

Aupito is calling on young Pasifika to participate in the survey, adding it’s important that their voices are heard because the youth are the future of their community. “This survey will enable a greater reach, will be able to penetrate into sectors of our community that may have not had the opportunity to voice their views around languages.

“The survey will also be able to have greater reach into our youth population where the languages and cultures are still important for our young people. But I think it’s still more important now that we’re saying to them that some languages are endangered, other languages need to maintain strengthening and of course other languages we have to raise its profile,” he said. 

The Leo Moana o Aotearoa Pacific Languages Survey is part of a wider project that will support Te Gagana Tokelau, Vagahau Niue, Te Reo Māori Kuki ‘Āirani, Gagana Samoa, Lea Faka-Tonga, Te Gana Tuvalu, Vosa Vakaviti, Fäeag Rotųam and Te taetae ni Kiribati.

“In the words of the Samoan proverb that was the theme of this year’s Samoa Language Week: Poupou le lotoifale. Ola manuia le anofale. Strengthen the posts of your house, for all to thrive,” Aupito said.

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The finished baskets! Photo by Brandon Oswald

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Solomon Islands’ Indigenous Diplomacy

Writer, Gordon Leua Nanau, recently wrote an interesting article for the Solomon Times about how Pacific leaders should look to Guadalcanal’s system of popo and supu diplomacy as examples of how to utilize local practices to address national problems.

As Solomon Islands emerges from the period of civil unrest known as ‘the Tensions’ (1998–2003), and the subsequent Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which ended in 2017, many within the country are looking for new ways to strengthen the state and reconcile long-held grievances.

To this end, it is becoming increasingly apparent that oft-overlooked local forms of diplomatic practice, which can be broadly classified as Oceanic diplomacy, have much to offer.

One such practice is the longstanding and effective diplomatic system that has existed between tribes, clans, and individuals in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, which we might call the popo and supu system. At its core are food exchanges, feasting, and presentation of valuables. These are done through crafted popo – a wooden bowl filled and decorated with cooked food – or supu – a heap of uncooked food and live pigs – with reciprocal protocols that maintain community integrity.

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Old photo of Solomon Islander with feast bowl. Photo from http://www.pinterest.com.au

While the popo and supu system continues to play a significant role in managing relations between people across Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands state has also adopted elements of the system in its efforts to resolve conflicts within the state as well as in its external diplomatic rituals.

Supu diplomacy is practised throughout Guadalcanal, although the popo option is mostly used in the Lengo region of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal diplomacy is premised on two foundational creeds: kukuni (respect) and kininima (reverence) that ensure peaceful coexistence, compassion, and relationships. Popo and supu are two variations of presenting food and valuables epitomizing a complex mix of underlying principles, values and relational affiliations founded on kukuni and kikinima.

In Lengo, supu is for lower-order and urgent events – such as compensation for swearing – while popo is a higher-order ceremony that takes time to prepare. There are events where both popo and supu are required, especially when reconciling highly charged disputes resulting in injury or death.

Popo and supu play key roles in negotiations, arbitration, compensation, and reconciliation. While popo and supu can be a manifestation of power, status, fame, humility, and celebration, they can also be expressions of remorse, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

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A Solomon Islands bowl. Photo from http://www.artemisgallery.com

The importance of these diplomatic rituals is heightened, due to the understanding that in situations of maltreatment, it is not just the individual offender or victim that is affected but their entire family and clan. The threats, shame, humiliation, hardship, pain, and guilt affect members of both sides. When not resolved through popo or supu, levu ni-mate (enmity) remains and could result in paybacks, further acts of humiliation and, in extreme cases, sura (raids/tribal war).

Problems are solved and people make amends through popo and supu exchanges that herald normalcy and legitimize peace. Reconciliation in the spirit of popo and supu is to mend intra- and inter-personal relationships broken because of the neglect of kukuni and kikinima.

While this form of Oceanic diplomacy is alive in Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands state is increasingly calling on it to resolve differences between groups, commemorate important events, build new relationships, and reinvigorate existing ones.

For example, the Solomon Islands Government has in recent years incorporated supu into official national welcoming ceremonies. This was seen in 2019 when the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, visited Solomon Islands and was presented a supu in welcome. Likewise, in 2018 at the opening of the sixth Melanesian Arts Festival, participants from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, East Timor, Australia, and Taiwan were presented a supu to welcome and accept them.

Moreover, both popo and supu have been used to mark the commencement of major national projects, in order to build relationships between stakeholders and ensure cooperation.

Modern state institutions have also used these practices to reconcile conflicting parties, especially where lives and properties were destroyed. Years after the Tensions, the state reconciled with members of the Marasa community on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal. This involved perpetrators revealing their remorse and seeking forgiveness by presenting supu, while the victims also presented supu to accept the apology. Such occasions are always two-way exchanges, as any party not reciprocating may be deemed disingenuous.

Finally, in a notable example of this diplomacy being used to reconcile both inter and intranational actors, RAMSI also used supu to successfully appease a situation where a soldier shot and killed a local community leader during a fight. Presenting a supu signifying titi ulu (absolving one’s head) to the family of the deceased, then RAMSI special coordinator Graeme Wilson said, “I assure you all of our sincere and heartfelt condolence on this sad occasion”.

 

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A Modern Retelling of CHamoru Legends

Journalist Lindsay Nash wrote an article for the Pacific Daily News about a new book that was recently published…

Stories have the unique ability to connect storytellers to listeners, writers to readers, people to their culture, and the present to the past.

This couldn’t be more true in “CHamoru Legends: A Gathering of Stories,” retold by Teresita Lourdes Perez and thoughtfully translated into CHamoru by Maria Ana Tenorio Rivera.

The Bronze Medal recipient of the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Regional Non-Fiction, CHamoru Legends shares stories that have been passed down orally from generation to generation for millennia.

Published by the University of Guam Press, CHamoru Legends is a reversible book featuring the legends in English on one side and in CHamoru on the other. It is the type of collection that can sit proudly on every book lover’s bookshelf — a beautiful volume of oral history and visual art that narrates the CHamoru experience in Guam and across the Northern Mariana islands.

Perez gathered stories from the community — from elders, family, friends, books and old newspapers and settled on 12 legends to share in the collection.

She then sat with Rivera and book editor Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero to talk about each story as she wrote it. They discussed what the legend meant, the intentions of the story, the plot, the lessons to be learned, how the story had changed over time and how it affected each of them.

Later, visual artists stepped in to bring the stories to life through their own interpretation of the legends.

What resulted is a vibrant anthology of the CHamoru experience through history — the first such collection written, translated and illustrated by CHamoru people.

While one cannot escape the effects of colonialism on the CHamoru collective, the stories are told as they have been shared through time, each oral version possibly differentiating from the original, as oral stories often do. Each passing memory is another reflection of the culture and its people, symbols and characters — and the changes they’ve endured.

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The legends told in the collection “resonate with many CHamoru people, because we seek to connect with our past and our people, and these stories nurture a sense of belonging,” writes Dr. Sharleen Santos-Bambo in the foreword.

It is that connection that becomes a focus through three reflections in the anthology from the author, who begins by telling a story her Auntie Diddi once told her of a demon dog that jumped out and frightened her and her baby sister, when she was young.

When the author later shared the story with her cousin, the child of that baby sister, the cousin also knew the story, but slightly differently. The demon dog was a witch woman in her version. There never seemed to be an ending to the story. But that didn’t matter.

“…I am sharing it with you as a storyteller who believes our indigenous ways of being and knowing are always linked to the stories we’ve been told and to the stories we tell, whether these stories are our extremely personal and family tales or whether they are the more commonly told legends that we share with our island community,” Perez writes. “We are linked to the storyteller.”

 

And so the legends begin — first with the tale of the famed siblings, Pontan and Fo’na, and followed by the story of father and son in “The Boy Who Escaped to Rota”; then of love and tragedy in “The Two Lovers”; of mother, daughter and nina in “Sirena”; and of warring families in “The Flame Tree.”

The ancient connects with the modern again when the author pauses to continue her reflections, this time focusing on the “tree of life,” the coconut tree.

She describes how when she left Guam for a stateside school as a college student, the trongkon niyok went from being something that was part of her daily life to a symbol of tropical paradise and grass skirts.

When Perez later returned home, as a mother, she also returned to this tree of life, “this old woman tree” who she believed needed to also be a part of her child’s life.

Leaving the modern world behind, the author continues the retellings, sharing the story of a brother and sister who take in an old woman who transforms into i trongkon niyok; the story of two brother chiefs whose children give their lives to save their people in “The Lemmai Tree”; a story of friendship between the cow and the carabao”; and a story of vanity in “The Ko’Ko’ and the Hilitai”.

The last reflection is perhaps what best ties the past and the present — and the entire collection — together: stories of the author’s own experiences with the spirit world: her auntie’s demon dog, her own ghostly encounters, her grandfather’s sense of Sight.

“How do I begin to tell you of the spirits here, of the taotaomo’na that are all around us, of the abandoned lots or dense jungle areas that are alive with them, of the trees that keep them anchored, trees shrouded in mystery?” Perez writes her in the last reflection.

These spirits, she says, are still here and will be here long after we are gone.

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16th Annual Tisa’s Tattoo Festival

The Samoa News reported that a strong support of women with Malu (female-specific tattoo), Laei a Samoa and their mothers from across the sea, was felt throughout the organic venue of The Tatau Festival 2021 at village Alega a few weekends ago.

The malu is a simple and delicate design. These tattoos are rarely seen because the design spans from the upper thighs to below the knees. During Samoan ceremonial dances the women would display their malu during the traditional siva dance.

“I am honored to have the gracious support of the most powerful female leaders of the Samoan Islands in the celebration of Tatau Art, in 2021,” said Tisa Faamuli, founder of the event and owner of Tisa’s Barefoot Bar in American Samoa.

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A malu example. From http://www.pinterest.com

The Honorable Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata and newly elected Prime Minister of Independent Samoa, the Honorable Naomi Fiame Mata’afa, share one cultural art factor in common. They are both members of the Laei a Samoa community, the Malu Tatau Art. These two ground-breaking women, are the first to return to the most senior level of civic leadership in modern times, to walk in the foot steps of the Goddess of War Nafanua and Queen Salamasina

A special thank you to these two incredible women —Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata of American Samoa and Prime Minister Naomi Fiame Mata’afa of Samoa, for their voice and support of the Global Malu Movement and Laei a Samoa.

“I am honored and welcome this rare opportunity to unite all Malus, under strong leadership of our current female leaders. It has been my dream to revive and elevate, the journey of Twin Goddesses Taema and Tilafaiga and the origin of the Tatau, brought on to our shores by Twin Goddesses, long ago,” Tisa said noting that hundreds of centuries later, “the chant is still fresh in the minds of my grandchildren’s generation, as they danced to the beat of ‘Le mafuaga lenei na iloa ai le Tatau I Samoa’ at the fest stage each year,” Tisa said.

Shout out to nine young Malus that participated in the spirit of the Siva Fa’ataupou contest, on Social Media. Your contribution to the Tatau Art this year, is one of the most significant recognition of who you are and where you come from.  The presence of young Malus was felt throughout the venue at the two-day celebration.

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Another malu example

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