“Losing Immortality”- Vanuatu

Today seems like a good day to post a new Pacific Islands legend. I haven’t posted one in awhile. This legend comes from Vanuatu and can be found in the book, To Kill a Bird with Two Stones by Jeremy MacClancy. Enjoy!

Losing Immortality

According to a widespread custom story, the first men and women did not die. When old and their skin wrinkled and tired, they went to a nearby river where the running water gently pulled their old skin off, so that they emerged young again.

But once, the daughter of an old woman did not recognize her mother when she returned from the river as a young woman. Her mother tried to persuade her that it was only her skin that had changed and that she was still the same person. But the daughter would have none of this; she wanted her mother back and began to cry.

Full of regret, her mother returned to the river, found her old skin and put it back on. Her daughter saw her when she cam back and was delighted that her mother had reappeared.

But her mother was old again and old people die, which she did eventually. So it is from that day that the people of these island lost their immortality and began to die.

Losing Immortality(Vanuatu

“Losing Immortality,” illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2020.

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10th Annual Guam International Film Festival

The tenth annual Guam International Film Festival (GIFF) is set to begin Saturday, November 7th, 2020 and will run every weekend through December 5th, 2020. This will be the first virtual version of the Festival which will stream live online for free, worldwide. It will also be televised simultaneously on KGTF Channel 12, PBS Guam.

The month-long cinematic event will showcase an official lineup of 34 films from Guam and 23 international films from the Cook Islands, Indonesia, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Bulgaria, Chile, Russia, Italy and more. GIFF has had a record-breaking year in 2020 with submissions from over 800 international entries from 84 countries.


The emphasis of this year’s film festival is centered around indigenous Pacific Islander films with a special retrospective showcase featuring award-winning and nominated local films that have screened as part of GIFF within the past decade.

“I’m happy to commemorate the Festival’s tenth anniversary by honoring our own stories,” said GIFF Program Director Kel Muña. He added, “With so many unsettling moments taking place this year, we wanted this GIFF to be a special ‘thank you’ note; an expression of humble thanks and gratitude to our local GIFF audiences, participating filmmakers, and community & business leaders that have supported the Festival and its mission by way of community, education and entertainment throughout the past ten years.”

Returning to lead the GIFF Grand Jury for its tenth consecutive year is head juror Dr. Tom Brislin of University of Hawai’i at Manoa along with Gabrielle Kelly of the American Film Institute. Kimberlee Bassford, a student Academy Award winner and Sundance-supported filmmaker, will be making her GIFF debut as a Festival juror.

For more information regarding the festival, including film showtimes, please visit the website at www.guamfilmfestival.org.

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Traditional Food Production- the Key to Sustainable Future

I came across an article on the Radio New Zealand site about an interesting, special event that took place last week.

Voices of Food Systems‘ was  an online conversation relay which started on Friday, October 16, as part of UN World Food Day. The conversation was about how Pacific countries would be the first in the world to engage in a global call to transform the planet’s food production.

Voices of Food Systems is a new United Nations event which aims to start governments, communities and citizens thinking about transforming food production and distribution into sustainable and nutritious systems. It is an effort to address world food systems globally with the aim of tackling Sustainable Development Goal 2, to end world hunger.

Food production is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fiji’s president Jioji Konrote opened the marathon conversation before handing over to Pacific Islands Food Revolution founder and event host Robert Oliver. “And then we have a panel right afterwards with serious Pacific leaders,” said Oliver. We’ve got Honourable Ralph Regenvanu of Vanuatu. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa of Samoa. Adi Tafuna’i of Samoa. Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu who is the Minister of Health in Tonga.” They’re not just political leaders according to Oliver, but cultural ones.

The 24-hour event aimed to kick-start moves towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly food production. Integral to future sustainability and health is reviving traditional Pacific food production, added Oliver. “The knowledge from the past is the blueprint for the future, albeit formatted for the modern world. I mean, no-one wants to throw away their iPhone or go backwards, but people don’t need to forget who they are in the process to kind of go forward.”

With 84 percent of deaths in Fiji largely attributed to the wrong diet, noted Oliver, the solution lies in traditional food systems. “Food systems are like any other system, they evolve sometimes with an intention that does not (maybe) include things like conservation, health. Small island economies, for example, can get lost out in a food system that’s designed just for growth.”

Part of the UN strategic vision was to transform world food systems within the next decade in order to keep emissions reductions on track for the sector while tackling world hunger. Food had an important relationship with other planetary systems, according to Oliver, including biodiversity and a changing climate.

“I always view a plate of food as being at the centre of a wheel. There’s all these spokes going out to what in the UN language are development agendas and Sustainable Development Goals. But of course what we love about food involves sharing and community and all the good stuff.”

Watch the replay on YouTube:



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Regulating Tabua Export in Fiji

Radio New Zealand posted an interesting article about anyone who plans to take the traditional tabua, or whale’s tooth, out of Fiji will now be required to seek the government’s consent.

A tabua is a polished tooth of a sperm whale that is an important cultural item in Fijian society. The tabua remains an important item in Fijian life, it takes precedence over everything else and occupies first place in Fijian ceremony, whether for family, intertribal or state occasions.

The gifting of tabua was traditionally a great ceremonial event in Fiji. They were given as offerings for war or peace, as tokens to symbolize marriage or as payment of bride price. The gifting and exchange of tabua was a serious business and the recipient was bound by tradition to honor the accompanying request. Their power and significance meant that they were traditionally the possessions of chiefs and other renowned individuals.

The ministry of iTaukei Affairs said the restriction is being introduced because of concerns more of the traditional artefact is circulating abroad than in Fiji. The ministry also said that over 1000 tabua had been taken out of the country in the past five years and the current annual export quota of 225 has been exhausted.


A Fijian Tabua- photo by altamirafineart.com

Curator Marika Tuiwawa said while the reduction in export quota has been effective, there are still many tabua being taken out of the country. “We started off with a quota of 500 tabua per annum and until right now, the quota is around half of that or 200 plus,” Tuiwawa said.

Tuiwawa said a new proposal is to have a licensed tabua shop to ensure all tabua exports are regulated. This would require buyers to have consent from the government to take the tabua out of Fiji, he said.

The ministry’s Deputy Secretary Saimoni Waibuta said there were also concerns of an information gap between the main institutions responsible for the monitoring of tabua movement in and out of Fiji. Waibuta said the lack of baseline information on tabua numbers in villages and among individuals is also challenging. “Concern number four is the tabua replicas that are currently in circulation and is expected to gain momentum should the current trend continue and moreover the price one has to pay to obtain one,” he said.

Waibuta said this had prompted the ministry to look into the possibility of being given the exclusive licence to operate a tabua shop and to regulate the price of tabua. “The need to protect and respect our cultural values that are accorded to this artifact in our iTaukei communities are more daunting now than ever before,” he said.

Waibuta said protecting the cultural significance of the tabua was not only an “extension of how a culture should be preserved or sustained, but having pride in one’s identity”.

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New Drums in the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands News recently reported that a set of pates and pau (traditional drums) carved by Miimetua Simona and purchased by the Ministry of Culture were blessed last week. Drums are significant in any cultural Cook Islands dance show. 

The sounds of the pate, pau mango and pau elevate and boost the performance of the ura pa’u (fast beat). “It is important the correct types of wood are used for the instruments,” said Simona.

Miro (Pacific Rosewood) and tamanu (Island Mahogany) are used for the pates and albesia wood is carved for the pa’u and pa’u mango, the slender drum sticks are made from the toa tree.

Simona was taught to carve by his father Avele, who is from Aitutaki. He was determined to master the skill on his own and improved his craft as he continued to make drums. “I don’t rush, I take my time and finally, I’ve mastered it,” he said. “We Aitutakians are known as good carvers, we are passionate about carving.”

Simona completed his first set of drums for the Ministry of Culture within four weeks. Canvas was used for the drum bass instead of the traditional goat skins, mindful of past issues of travelling with animal skin products across international borders.

Minister of Culture George Angene acknowledged Simona’s skills and was pleased with the quality of the cultural instruments. “It is time that the ministry has its very own set to use instead of borrowing,” said Angene.

Secretary of Culture Anthony Turua said in the past few years the number of performances have increased and the demand has been quite high for cultural teams, regionally and internationally and for promotional purposes.


Cook Islands drums- photo from http://www.youtube.com

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Engaging Fijians with Language and Culture

Radio New Zealand recently ran an article about how a Pacific community leader in New Zealand said while there’s been an increase in the local Fijian population he would like to hear more of them speaking the language.

This week is Fijian Language Week and nearly 20,000 of the islanders in New Zealand are expected to celebrate Fiji’s 50th independence on Saturday.

Auckland-based Fijian Nacanieli Yalimaiwai is also a director of Pacific charity trust The Fono. Yalimaiwai is calling for more participation of his people to ensure their language and culture is preserved for future generations. “About seven percent of NZ-born Fijians speak the Fijian language. That’s very low and should be worrying for our people,” Nacanieli Yalimaiwai said.

“Having the Fijian Language Week helps us to promote the language for our young people who are born and grow up in New Zealand. They are immersed in the mainstream English language and as a result learning Fijian becomes secondary or less important,” he said.

Yalimaiwai said studies have shown that people who are competent and well-versed in their mother tongue have become better at speaking English. He urged young Fijians to immerse themselves in their language and culture. “You then begin to understand who you are and where you’re from and you will feel pride in knowing your identity,” Yalimaiwai said. “This helps you become a more confident person outwardly to be able to relate to not only people from your own ethnic group but others around you in the workplace or school.”

Yalimaiwai said there is much work to be done and a collective effort is needed by everyone. “We are also grateful to the Ministry of Pacific Peoples and the New Zealand government for giving us this platform to help our people learn their language and culture.”

Yalimaiwai said learning one’s language and culture is similar to wearing your lei or salusalu everyday. “The more you speak it, the better you become at it.”


A Fijian Kava bowl- Suva, Fiji

Meanwhile, the Auckland Museum is revisiting Fijian stories to celebrate the language week. The museum is sharing Fijian items from its Natural History and Documentary Heritage collections. It will also feature a video of useful phrases in Fijian and a colouring-in sheet.

Fijian Annah Pickering from the museum’s Pacific Advisory Group will introduce the monumental Flora Vitiensis, which, when it was published, documented every known plant in Fiji. Pickering said the language week provided an opportunity to learn, speak and celebrate the various indigenous dialects of Fiji through traditional cultural experience of our way of life.

“As indigenous people, our heritage and the foundation where we come from is important to Fijians. “When I think of migration, I think about my own family who, like so many families, migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand and in many respects, we still feel like we are migrating and on a life long journey,” Annah Pickering said. “Our Vuvale (Family), Vanua (Land) and Ocean (Wasawasa) connect who we are.”

At Auckland Museum, you will be introduced to Fiji collections of kau, masi, tabua, tanoa and give you an insight to our ways of thinking, beliefs and traditional cultural practices, Pickering said.

She said the museum will also host a long read about the marvellous masiratu which features on everything from Fijian stamps to banknotes. “Learn about why this intricate, deep forest-dwelling plant is so iconic in Fiji.”

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The Vaka Taumako Project- Solomon Islands


The Vaka Taumako Project has recently announced that it has made a documentary titled, We, The Voyagers, which is represented in three parts:

Part 1: We, The Voyagers: Our Vaka

Part 2: We the Voyagers: Our Moana

Part 3: They are fundraising for Vaka Valo Association filmmaker Daisy Mahai to make Part 3 during August, 2020 – December, 2021.


According to the Pacific Traditions Society Website

Pacific Traditions Society (PTS) is a small non-profit organization with educational purpose, based in the USA. The Vaka Taumako Project (VTP) was the idea of Te Aliki Koloso Kaveia of Taumako. He needed outside help, so he asked Mimi George. In 1996 the VTP started, as a research project permitted by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources of Solomon Islands. PTS was the responsible non-governmental organization (NGO), and Mimi George was Principal Investigator. The VTP was led by Koloso Kaveia, with support of PTS.

After Te Aliki Kaveia died in 2009, Te Aliki Jonas Holani led the Vaka Valo Group of Taumako to keep on training young people in voyaging arts. The VTP of PTS then gave support to Vaka Valo Group.  In 2014 Dr Simon Salopuka helped Holani to register the Vaka Valo Association Trust Board (VVA) in Solomon Islands as a charitable organization, with Simon Salopuka as Executive Director, and Mimi George as non-voting International Director. VVA charter includes the mission and goals of VTP, but is a completely independent NGO. In 2017 the VTP ended in Solomon Islands. Since then the VTP of PTS works only by request of, and in support of, VVA. 

Help Vaka Valo Association efforts to:

  • Train new generations to build, sail, and navigate using ancestral designs, methods, materials & tools

  • Document and publish ancient knowledge

  • Become a self-supporting organisation by 09/22

Here is the 2020 trailer for the We, the Voyagers film series. 

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Learning Traditional and Treasure Ways in Cook Islands

I found an interesting article in the Cook Islands Online News that was written by Katrina Tanirau about how there is no better place for future generations of Cook Islanders to learn about traditional cultural practices than at Highland Paradise – the 600-year-old village site that was home to the Tinomana tribe.

Nearly 3000 children have had the joy of competing in the Highland Paradise Cultural Competition since its inception nine years ago.

Tutu Pirangi says they were proud to host the ninth annual school cultural competition at Highland Paradise – Maungaroa on Friday after rain postponed the event by a day. “When we initiated this competition, our aim was to create a passion for our culture, a way of engaging our children in cultural practices in the most authentic and traditional way,” Pirangi says. This competition is an integral part of our overall vision to preserve and showcase our culture to ensure it is never forgotten.”

The different categories of the competition are: Tau Umu, Rutu Pau, Rangaranga, Taki Tua, Ko Akari, Ute and Akatangi Ukarere. For some of the students, Pirangi says it’s probably the only opportunity that they will have to prepare an umu on their own. “It’s a fun interactive way for them to learn.”

Originally there were five schools, Arorangi, Rutaki, Papaaroa, Takitumu and Te Uki Ou who were to take part in the competition. Apii Arorangi have attended the cultural experience every year, but sadly due to the passing of a well loved and respected woman Niotangi Heather in Vaka Puaikura, the school did not participate in the event.“Kia akapumaana mai te Atua i to tatou tumatetenga,” says Pirangi.

Grandfather and mataiapo Danny Mataroa says when children participate in the competition, they get to know each other and learn about traditional ways, while treasuring the experience. Hopefully later when they go overseas they will return because of their love for Cook Islands culture, Mataroa says. “Sometimes we get so churchy, that we become so strict on our kids and limit them from mixing with other kids that they just want to leave the island when they’re older,” he says.

Principal of Papaaroa School June Hosea says it’s events like this that encourage the students to learn and make use of traditional skills. “If it wasn’t for this event, I don’t think we would be motivated to do this,” Hosea says. “The kids love it, learning how to weave and husk a coconut – some have never husked one.

“Because of Covid it’s helped us realise we need to get back to our knowledge and it is events like this that encourage our children to do just that. I’m very happy the kids are participating in this.”

Tutu Pirangi expressed gratitude to their sponsors for their continued support – Primefoods, Rangi and Mataamua Taru, Cook Islands Tourism, Ministry of Cultural Development, Solomon and Tuakana Pirangi, Eddie and E Matike Dance team, Danny Mataroa and their judges. Most of all they are grateful for the long partnership with the schools, because without them there would be no competition. “We thank them for their foresight and commitment and for including the competition in their programmes each year,” Pirangi says.

“We understand this can be a challenge for the schools and we therefore seek that Cook Islands culture be incorporated into our Cook Islands schools’ curriculum – so that Cook Islands culture isn’t just extracurricular but a core part of learning.”

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It’s Tuvalu Language Week, 2020!

The theme of New Zealand’s Tuvalu Language Week is a call to resilience according to the Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio who was interviewed by Radio New Zealand.

Vaiaso o Te Gana Tuvalu was launched online yesterday morning with a church service hosted by Reverend Alee Talava, the Vice Chairman of Te Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu Pulega Niu Sila. There were also remarks by various dignitaries including Minister Aupito and the Tuvalu High Commissioner Paulson Panapa.

Aupito said the week’s theme of ‘Fakatili Te Kiloga Fou‘ or ‘navigating the changing environment’ fitted the current climate as it pertained to Covid-19. But he also said it was a reminder of the threats of climate change to the nation of Tuvalu.


Tuvalu from the air, photo by ICAS

The minister urged Tuvaluans to be strong, resilient and future-focussed as they navigated the dual challenges of the pandemic and the climate.

The week is the sixth of nine official Pacific Language celebrations promoted by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples. It is the fifth time Tuvalu has been included in the initiative with language learning, history, traditional dancing and arts and crafts events being held across the nation this week, although many would be digitally hosted.

Aupito said Pasifika had already shown their adaptability in marking the weeks through such new and unique ways. He said the new normal would include a fusion of tradition and modern methods of celebration.

The minister said the Tuvalu community in Aotearoa had been proactive in establishing digital platforms to connect and support their community online. “They have confidently embraced the use of new technology to share their language and culture while also growing their reach of engagement with their community across Aotearoa and with families back in the islands.”

He said digital communication had also been critical in efforts to stamp out Covid-19. “While Covid-19 is foremost in our minds, Tuvaluan communities in New Zealand are also more keenly aware than most of us of the impact climate change continues to have on their island home and the future survival of their heritage and language. Tuvaluans have made their voices heard loud and clear on climate change. They have taken their message to the United Nations and have played a leading role in awakening the world on the need to address climate change, not just to save Tuvalu, but to save the world.”

Aupito praised Tuvalu’s courage and said New Zealand would support the people of Tuvalu to ensure their country had the infrastructure and resources to strengthen their resilience to adapt and pursue mitigation measures against climate change.

Tuvalu will also celebrate its 42nd year of independence on 1 October.


A sleepy lagoon, Tuvalu, photo by ICAS

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Language Fund to Support Pacific Wellbeing in NZ

I’ve been meaning to post a story which was posted on the Radio New Zealand Website and written by Sela Jane Hopgood about how Pacific language providers and groups in New Zealand were able to apply for grants of up to $NZ50,000 to deliver a range of initiatives. Although the deadline for the grants was September 14, I thought the article was still worth sharing. 

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said the aim was to “revitalise, grow and strengthen the value of Pacific languages, culture and identities” in Aotearoa.

According to the comparisons from the 2013 census to the 2018 census, the proportion of speakers of Pacific languages had declined across the board, and for some languages such as those of the realm countries, (Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau), and small island groups, the decline was even more significant.

Aupito said Pacific languages, cultures and identity were essential to the health, well-being and lifetime success of our Pacific peoples and their communities. “The strength and resilience of Pacific Aotearoa is not only vital to their own prosperity, but integral to the prosperity of all New Zealanders, and is particularly important in helping Pacific people during our economic recovery and rebuilding efforts,” he said.

The minister said the loss of language was the loss of history, disconnecting past with the present. “It is a loss of self-identity and strength that not only hinders Pacific peoples’ deep connection with their heritage, but it also limits the cultural diversity and strength of New Zealand and effects the growth of the Pacific economy of Aotearoa.”

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples was looking for eligible Pacific language providers and groups who could deliver a range of initiatives. In the past, this included the Nafanua Communication and Culture Samoan Comic Series; where funding was provided to Nafanuatele Mafaufau and supported her in creating her online comic “O le Aiga Samoa: The Samoa Family”. The comics were written in Samoan and translated into English, and provided an insight into the Samoan home and what customs and cultural practices could be seen on an everyday basis.

There was also the Pasefika Kids in Books Initiative, where Sandra Fatu Nu’u wrote children’s books in Samoan, and Rugby Superheroes Vol. 1, the Flying Fijians written by Ryan Gounder who created bilingual books depicting Pacific Rugby heroes.

With funding provided by the Ministry, Gounder was able to complete the first book in the series written in both English and Fijian which highlights ‘The Flying Fijians’. Ryan hopes to continue writing these books and is currently working towards Volume 2 in his series depicting the Manu Samoa squad.

The 2019 Wellbeing Budget provided $NZ20 million over four years towards the support of Pacific languages and cultures, funding a range of initiatives critical to reversing the decline in the uptake and use of Pacific languages. “It was our communities that identified Pacific languages as the key to their wellbeing. By supporting the languages of our Pacific peoples, we enable them to lead more confident, resilient, prosperous lives,” Sio said.


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