Making Music during Covid-19 in Fiji

I came across an interesting article in the Fiji Times Online and written Ana Madigibuli that I’d like to share. It’s about how the newly formed Fiji Suva Musicians Club is trying to help out musicians during the pandemic…

Paying rents, putting food on the table, paying for school bus fares, forking out money for bills and meeting family obligations are just the tip of the iceberg for some people during this Covid-19 pandemic period. People who’ve lost jobs because of the pandemic have had to re-evaluate their way of living as to cater for their daily expenses with some struggling to make ends meet.

One of those groups of people are musicians whose jobs have come to a standstill because gigs have been deferred indeterminately. Some of those affected during this trying time are musicians who do gigs in resorts and nightclubs daily.

To cushion the effect of the pandemic crisis, a group of musicians have quickly come together to form a club Fiji Suva Musicians Club that can assist grassroots musicians who have been critically affected by the pandemic. In order to get these musicians back on their feet, the club has come up with alternative ways to raise funds for them.


Fijian musician- photo from

Club president Waisiliva Baledrokadroka said the club was all about getting grassroots musicians and artists together who have either lost their jobs or are finding it hard to cope with expenses during the pandemic period. “It’s about time we created a club where we can come together and just bond over our love for music and raise funds for each other,” he said. “At the moment we have 39 club members and we are hopeful that we will get other artists to join.

“Even though this pandemic has affected our livelihood, it has also made us stronger because we have come together to work towards a common good.”

He said currently there isn’t enough work available for musicians around the country. “These past few months we have tried to do something for ourselves like our curry night or kava barrel events that can raise funds for musicians,” he said. “If we stand together and be united we can definitely go far. Even though most of us have lost jobs this is something we can benefit from. Not only are we raising funds for ourselves we also want to give back to the communities.”

“We have friends supporting us from Dubai, Australia, England, New Zealand, the United States of America and other parts of the world who are connected to us through music. Listening to good music during these trying times can help us forget about our worries.”

He said they also hoped to raise funds to get equipment and instruments for music artists.

“Most of us don’t even have our own instruments and equipment and we cannot demand good money if we don’t have those resources with us,” he said. “Like a farmer, you go with your cane knife. For us, we need to go with our instruments or equipment in order to play.” He said there are many reasons for creating the club, but most importantly it was just to develop their music and bring artists and their families together during the pandemic. “In order to achieve something great we hope to work together and support each other better.”

Club events co-ordinator Clare Fong said the club also had a few events planned out for its members as part of its community outreach program. “Looking at how the nightclubs and some resorts won’t be opening or operating soon we hope to raise funds for the family of musicians who have been affected. “Right now musicians’ jobs are all on the line and all we can do is work together. We have people supporting us financially during this time and we are grateful to them”

Fong said they hope to look after the welfare of families of musicians who have passed on and to visit them. “We have done one visitation and we have eleven other families we hope to visit in the future. We are also looking to do entertainment at the Old People’s Home, and do  clean-ups at a beachfront or orphanage and provide lunches for the less fortunate on the streets.”

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Vanuatu Celebrates 40 Years of Independence

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of Vanuatu’s Independence. It has been a nine day party in the country.

Tahlea Aualiitia and Elsie Lange wrote an article for MSN News…

Dressed in bright colors, waving flags and swelling with pride, a sea of Ni-Vanuatu people have gathered to celebrate 40 years of independence, observed with a nine-day public holiday.

Crowds celebrated without fear or being mindful of social distancing as Vanuatu spent another week without a single recorded case of coronavirus — contrary to most parts of the world.

Thousands gathered last Thursday, July 23, for a Victory Parade, marching through Port Vila to kick off the anniversary, building toward Independence Day on July 30. For four-and-a-half hours people marched, singing and dancing, from the Tagabe area to Independence Park, marking the beginning of the holiday period.

Vanuatu was previously governed under the joint control of Britain and France, and then known as New Hebrides. To this day, the three official languages of Vanuatu are Bislama, English and French. In the 1970s, an independence movement rose, with political parties forming to advocate for the Indigenous land rights of the Vanuatu peoples.

On July 30, 1980, Vanuatu gained its long-fought independence under the leadership of Father Walter Lini and the Vanua’aku Pati. Pastor Sethy Regenvanu, one of Vanuatu’s original independence fighters, said despite the cultural and language diversity the unity of the people would bring about change.

One people, one nation’ for 40 years

“There’s a lot of factors that separated us and we had to try and work our way towards a common purpose, towards unity of people, to fight together to become one people and one nation, as we have been since the last 40 years,” Mr Regenvanu said. An early member of Vanuatu’s oldest political party, the New Hebrides National party — later known as the Vanua’aku Pati, which was formed on a platform of independence — Mr Regenvanu was always “confident” Vanuatu would gain its independence.

“We have always been independent people before white people came to Vanuatu. We were people who were living in our islands independently, depending on subsistence agriculture, and our way of life, culture and customs,” he said. “We came from this background, and we were confident that with this background and with the dispute of Independence, that we would get it.”

Ralph Regenvanu, Pastor Regenvanu’s son, is the current leader of the Opposition in Vanuatu and said his parents’ fight for independence has been a huge influence during his political career. “The Constitution, which my father helped draft, has been very useful in putting Vanuatu in a good direction — the challenge is how do we balance them in a modern nation state especially with modern challenges like climate change and now the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Regenvanu said.

Mr Regenvanu said while some Ni-Vanuatus cannot come home for celebrations due to COVID-19, the country “values” them. “I just encourage them to stay safe and try to enjoy the day as best they can wherever they are, in the company of other people from Vanuatu,” he said. “Know the country is here and we are looking forward to whenever they can come back, and we definitely value their contributions.”

Happy Independence Day, Vanuatu!


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Pasifika Festival’s 2021 Refresh Plan

Radio New Zealand journalist, Sela Jane Hopgood, wrote an interesting article about how the 2021 Pasifika Festival will see a new twist to the layout of the villages, with some island countries combining in a shared space.

Since it began 28 years ago, Auckland’s award-winning Pasifika Festival has grown to become the largest Pacific Island cultural festival of its kind in the world.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) has announced that Hawai’i, Tahiti, Tokelau and Tuvalu are the countries affected by its 2021 refresh plan. In short, the four islands, or villages as the event refers to each country, will share one stage but have their own separate sections within the shared space at Western Springs.


Manager of Events Production Leisa Siteine said ATEED was always looking at ways of improving, refreshing and updating the festival, as it was one of the longest running in New Zealand. “There’s always going to be some changes within the different climates to try and live up to our objective and vision, which is to be the premiere Pacific festival in the world. The proposed refresh plan that we came up with for 2021 actually looks to support our smaller Pacific communities through a revitalise village concept and get them working collectively on programming, food and craft stall requirements,” she said.

Ms Siteine said that ATEED actively consulted the village co-ordinators over the proposed plan. “This idea is not something new. We have talked about this to the co-ordinators for several years because it has been a struggle for some of the islands. This plan is about how can we assist those islands to shine and enhance the festival.”

RNZ Pacific understands that ATEED e-mailed the co-ordinators in April about discussing the refresh plan and in June, ATEED met with the co-ordinators individually to go over the proposal.

However, Pacific Media Network reported that the proposal was met with disappointment by the Tuvalu stage co-ordinator Molia Alama Tulafono, who said she was upset “that a decision was made without any consultation with her team and the wider Tuvaluan community.”

“It’s a mystery to us here at ATEED and we were surprised to see that come out in the media before it was actually presented to us,” Ms Siteine said. “We are not saying that we won’t take that response on board, but at the same time we do have a mandate to deliver, which is a high-quality event, that the co-ordinators who did provide feedback on were happy with. The changes aren’t taking away any opportunity for any of the islands. They will all have the opportunity to participate,” she said.

The tone of the feedback presented to ATEED was that the countries who would be sharing a space had struggled to provide performance content to deliver to a two-day festival. “There’s a lot of programming to do for Pasifika Festival and the smaller islands don’t have that support in the community to be able to deliver that,” Ms Siteine shared.

She said with the current restrictions due to Covid-19 such as border closures, it was not likely that international performers would be able to help the smaller islands. “Even though this is really an Auckland based festival, we do have groups that love to come over and participate, from as far as Hawai’i and that’s not going to be available in 2021.”

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Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival 2020

Radio New Zealand Pacific Journalist, Dominic Godfrey, wrote an article about the upcoming Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival that gets underway this week. 

Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival runs from 24 July to 3 August and, due to Covid-19, is available online or in cinemas around Aotearoa.

For the first time, a Pacific person is selecting the finalists for the festival’s NZ short film competition, and there’s a strong showing in other categories.


New Zealand Best Short Film Competition entries have been chosen by the renowned Samoan-New Zealand film-maker Tusi Tamasese. Mr Tamasese is the first guest selector of Pacific heritage. The Orator and One Thousand Ropes director said being born and raised in Samoa has shaped his outlook. “How we see the world in a different way. Sometimes I’m looking for a certain sort of originality, something that I haven’t seen before,” he said. It’s also because Pasifika films are coming through and it’s bringing just a little bit of how just how we see the world, Pasifika see the world, in story telling.”

This year’s selection reveals a wide range of human emotions and experiences, he added. His views are echoed by one of the curators of the festival’s Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts, Leo Koziol. “For about nine years now, myself and Craig Fasi of the Pollywood Film Festival, we’ve put together a programme of Maori and Pasifika shorts and this year’s a great year once again to have the best of Maori and Pacific short film making, you know the real new talents coming through.”

And the six talented Māori and Pasifika film-makers will be competing for the inaugural Wellington UNESCO City of Film Award for Best Film this year with a prize of $NZ3000. Jurors from fellow UNESCO cities of film Mumbai and Sarajevo join the third from Wellington to judge the competition.

One of the talented film-makers competing, said Mr Koziol, is the Cook Island and New Zealand Maori audio-visual artist Robert George whose movie I Am the Moment profiles Tongan performance artist Kalisolaite ‘Uhila. “Who is based at Tokyo who does performance and art and is actually exploring the Japanese traditions of performance art and integrating them with Tongan and that’s a beautiful artistic film.”

Another entry Kapaemahu, he explained, explores the relationship between the ancient healers of Tahiti, the Mahu, who brought their gifts to Hawai’i. In pre-colonial times, the Mahu were notable priests and healers of the third gender, similar to Samoa’s fa’afafine and fakaleiti of Tonga.

“If you walk down Waikiki Beach,” there are some stones there that were dedicated to the Mahu that came in ancient times and brought these gifts and learnings of healing, and, you know, real traditions that were embraced by the Hawaiian people for centuries,” said Mr Koziol. Kapaemahu is by contemporary Hawaiian Mahu, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu.

Leo Koziol said the competition’s emerging talent is Samoan-New Zealand film-maker Mark Papali’i who described his film Emily as a story of love and grief inspired by the loss of a loved one to cancer. “It was really hard for me to feel. There was nothing I could do to kind of help my friend, and in a way I wanted to see if showing this film could make other people feel the way I felt in that situation, kind of guide them.” Mr Papali’i said the strength of the two main characters’ relationship – Emily and her mother – was inspired by the strong women in his family, or aiga, which he said is central to both Fa’a Samoa culture and his story-telling.

Other Pasifika highlights included at Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival is the feature Loimata, The Sweetest Tears which honours the great Samoan va’a-tele, or ocean going yacht, maker Ema Siope.

Also, Tupaia’s Endeavour which uncovers the history of the Tahitian priest, navigator and translator who accompanies James Cook aboard the Endeavour on his first Pacific voyage.

Click here to view the schedule.

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The Inaugural Kiribati Language Week

Radio New Zealand Pacific Journalist, Sela Jane Hopgood, wrote an interesting article about how members of the Kiribati community in New Zealand have celebrated the inaugural Kiribati language week by launching education resources promoting their language and culture.

The largest population of Kiribati families reside in Warkworth and Rodney district in the northern part of the Auckland region. There are nearly 600 people of Kiribati descent living in Warkworth, with families settling there for work opportunities such as seasonal employment since the 1980s. Reflecting the Kiribati diaspora, the Waitematā District Health Board’s Pacific Health team opened a new clinic in Warkworth last year dedicated to the Kiribati community in that area.


Where is Kiribati? map from

Rae Bainteiti, a full-time student at Massey University, arrived in New Zealand under the New Zealand Aid Program as a scholarship recipient in 2016. Mr Bainteiti co-founded a youth charitable trust with a group of young leaders called Kiribati Aotearoa Diaspora Directorate (KADD).

The Trust is focussed on the community and how they can empower members to reach their full potential in their new home of New Zealand. One of KADD’s objectives is to promote the Kiribati language and culture, especially engaging young people to get involved.

A new bilingual story book called Nei Raoi Stays Home targeting children is funded by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples and is in partnership with Mahu Vision Community Trust. Mr Bainteiti said the book was written and illustrated by Moevasa Taboru with the help of their friends from the Kiribati community. “Moevasa studied graphic art and has pursued her love for art by working with KADD. She consulted her friends who work in the Ministry of Education in Kiribati as well as a master’s student in education leadership to translate the material for the book,” he said.


The second project launched this week was a 3D animated cartoon called Reirei ma Nei Mauri, which was developed by KADD to promote the Kiribati language to pre-schoolers, kindergarteners and toddlers both in Kiribati and New Zealand.

Nei Mauri is portrayed as the protagonist in this cartoon. The word Mauri dubbed on the main character is loosely translated as ‘health’ and ‘greetings’ and generally means the state of being protected and keeping danger at bay.

The metaphoric translation in the context of this project is the protection of the Kiribati language from the danger of extinction resulting from migration. “This is the first Kiribati cartoon that teaches three lessons about vowels, colours and numbers,” Mr Bainteiti said.

There are also Covid-19 lockdown diaries from i-Kiribati kids in the Rodney district, exhibited at the launch and supported by the Mahu Vision Community Trust.

“Beyond the project we wanted to engage artistic i-Kiribati people and we found a young qualified animator as well as a young music production person to help with the cartoon.

“Auckland libraries and Warkworth library did workshops with the kids to tell their stories about how they felt during lockdown and they developed their own paintings and about 20 kids came together.

“It became like a healing workshop for them as well as they paint and tell their stories in the English and Kiribati language,” Mr Bainteiti shared.

He said this week had been a reminder as to why it was important to treasure the Kiribati language in New Zealand. “We have Kiribati families move to New Zealand for economic reasons, not just because of climate change and so they start raising their families here and of course the English language is important, but at the same time we have to retain our native tongue as it is a form of our identity.

“The people who attended the launch, their eyes were beaming with pride and happiness, feeling proud to be who they are in their home away from home,” Mr Bainteiti said.

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Vanuatu’s ‘Strong Women’ Film Festival

Vanuatu’s Daily Post recently ran an article written by Jason Abel about a truly awesome event. The country’s Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, launched the Strong Women Vanuatu premier film on Wednesday this week at the Seaside showground.

The initiative was organized by the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS), in partnership with P&O Cruises and DFAT Australia’s Balance of Power program. The Director General of MOJCS, Ms Dorosday Kenneth, welcomed all government officials, private sector, invited guests and the community for coming to the official launching of the “Strong Women Vanuatu” film.

She said that recently the country has been hit by COVID-19 and TC Harold and the people are present to see some of the resilience shown by some of Vanuatu’s strong women within their different walks of life. “Especially the hard works of women in uniting families and the community nowadays in showing the resilience, Vanuatu is proud of today. On behalf of the MOJCS, in partnership with the P&O Cruises, Balance of Power, a program initiated by DFAT Australia, youths and mamas, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to the launching of this short film, which features 10 of the strong women in Vanuatu,” the DG said.

PM Loughman and the Leader of Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu were also present at the premier of the film. Loughman acknowledged the presence of all government officials, public servants, community members, chiefs and the public for attending this special occasion. “Women have and continue to play an important and prominent role in the making and shaping of Vanuatu,” he said.

PM Loughman continued, “Women are the backbone of our families and our nation. As we draw closer to our commemoration of the country’s 40th Independence anniversary, this video showcases just how much of the roles, these women among others who have played important roles as well into the nation’s building. This evening we are here to celebrate the achievements of this amazing women. As we face the challenges of 2020, rebuilding after TC Harold, the trend of COVID-19, and the impact of tourism through the closure of our borders, I am reminded daily on the strengths of our women and how much we ask for it.”

“Across the sphere, from health to economy, security to social protection, the impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic are made worse for women and girls towards the future. Knowing this, it is given more importance to the residents and achievements of women, particularly those, whose stories we are about to see,” he said.

“Each of these 10 women have faced unique challenges. This short film is a representation of the spirit and strength of not just these ni-Vanuatu women, but for all who have achieved extraordinary things across the different sectors of life especially in art, health, sport, education, business and tourism.”

Loughman also said, “Vanuatu, like the rest of the world, is facing a downfall in relation to its economy and had seen most of the families, whose likelihoods will be affected, are those whose mothers and fathers depended on the tourism sector, and yet I believe in the resilience of this sector. These 10 women, are an example of women’s strength and the people of Vanuatu. I am pleased to attend this special occasion, in launching this joint partnership event between the MOJCS and P&O Cruises with the support of DFAT’s Balance of Power program.”

“As the Head of the current government, I am proud of Vanuatu’s recognition of the role of women, in serving the growth and development of this country. This year, we have three female Directors General.  We also have 8 different directors within the government departments. That means, 6% of the senior public servant are women. This is a big achievement.”

“As Vanuatu matures in its development aspiration, together with the national framework established within the second national agenda equality policy, 2020-23, which will be later launched on the 23rd July, it is with my belief and commitment that Vanuatu will move towards a balanced representation between men and women, and voices in all levels of government, including Parliament.”

“As we look around, we can see some familiar faces, amongst the women here. Each of these women have their own story. They all changed and are all driven to achieve their goals. We hope that one day, we see these goals delivered by women, in Parliament, and representing the voices of women in further building this nation. As we celebrate our 40th Independence anniversary, their contributions will continue to shape our future. I would also like to congratulate these ten women on their achievements as well,” PM Loughman said.


The Central Market, Port Vila, Vanuatu

The public enjoyed the premier of the ‘Strong Women Vanuatu’ film which saw crowds, particularly girls and women cheering on the women’s achievements on film.

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First of Its Kind Cultural Policy- Los Angeles County

Here is an announcement that I have been meaning to share. It is in regards to creating a countywide cultural policy that I believe could be borrowed not only in the Pacific Islands region, but it could be adapted throughout the rest of the world…

Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture announced the adoption of the Countywide Cultural Policy by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a county cultural policy that is the first of its kind in the nation. Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis introduced a motion, co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, to adopt the policy at the June 23, 2020 Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The Cultural Policy provides direction and guidelines for how Los Angeles County and its departments will ensure that every resident of LA County has meaningful access to arts and culture. The intent of the policy is to foster an organizational culture that values and celebrates arts, culture, and creativity; strengthens cultural equity and inclusion; and integrates arts and culture in LA County strategies to achieve the highest potential of communities and constituents across all aspects of civic life.

The Cultural Policy calls for not only the Department of Arts and Culture but all LA County departments to strive to operate in a manner that supports cultural equity and ensures that all individuals and communities can participate fully and equitably in cultural life through the arts. County commissions, agencies and authorities, municipalities, and private sector partners are also encouraged to incorporate the principles of this policy.

“In good times and in bad, the arts provide us the clearest window into the human experience. Equity is at the heart of Los Angeles County’s efforts to embrace and empower the voices of our local artists. Only they can unify and heal us at this critical moment through their artistic storytelling. Arts and culture play a critical role in the economic and social resiliency of LA County, not just in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest, but also in the long-term health and vitality of our community,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “By adopting the Countywide Cultural Policy, LA County prioritizes equity in the arts and recognizes that cultural inclusion is vital to the health and well-being of our communities.”

“The arts have the power to provide joy, solace, and healing,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “This policy provides guidelines to make sure that every resident in this diverse county has meaningful access to that joyous healing power.”

“Everyone has the right to participate fully in the cultural life of their community, to enjoy the arts and to benefit from them,” said Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture Director Kristin Sakoda. “Arts and culture have a role to play in addressing complex issues and supporting inclusion across sectors of our civic lives, from education, youth development, justice, and workforce to infrastructure, neighborhood revitalization, economy, health, well-being, and more. Investing in the arts is investing in our communities—now is a time to expand the ways we do that with a view to cultural equity.”

“In my role leading the County’s Economic Resiliency Task Force Arts and Culture Workgroup, I heard from many of the region’s arts organizations and they are reeling from the impact of this pandemic,” said Los Angeles County Arts Commissioner and Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative Advisory Committee co-Chair Tim Dang. “The arts are not a luxury; they are embedded in the very fabric of our lives. Artists and creative workers are uniquely situated to help us imagine our future post-pandemic. I thank my fellow CEII co-chairs, Helen Hernandez and Maria Rosario Jackson; the CEII Advisory Committee; the Economic Resiliency Task Force Arts and Culture Workgroup; my colleagues on the Arts Commission; the Department of Arts and Culture; and the Board of Supervisors for their visionary leadership in championing the arts.”

To ensure that the Cultural Policy represents the needs and opportunities inherent to LA County, the Department of Arts and Culture sought input from hundreds of community stakeholders and partners, as well as national policy experts. Arts and Culture staff documented and integrated stakeholder feedback, leveraged concurrent stakeholder engagement activities, and worked closely with the Board and County Departments to draft the Cultural Policy.

In this inaugural year of the newly established Department of Arts and Culture, the adoption of the Cultural Policy is another milestone in the County’s support of the arts. Arts and Culture will provide leadership, accountability, and coordination to support implementation and ensure arts and culture are utilized in the pursuit of the policy’s goals.

For more information please visit the Los Angeles County Arts & Culture WEBSITE.

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Funafuti, Tuvalu

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Pacific Islander Heads New Zealand’s National Museum

I came across interesting news that I’d like to share. It is about a person of Pacific descent who has recently been appointed to Head of History and Pacific cultures at New Zealand’s national museum for the first time.

Togialelei Dr Safua Akeli Amaama takes up the job at Te Papa Pacific and New Zealand Histories and Culture department after heading the Samoan Studies school at the University of Samoa. She said she was looking to deepen relationships and create a bigger platform for the region’s cultures. “I see this as a way for a balance across what different narratives there are. Having been in the region for a long time and being able to visit different islands, I’m really keen to reach the other nations and have those discussions and dialogues, and connections to collections.”


National Museum of New Zealand, Photo from

Te Papa’s chief executive Courtney Johnston said the appointment was a cause for celebration for the museum. “We are delighted to appoint someone of Dr Akeli Amaama’s calibre to this crucial leadership role,” Ms Johnston said. “Te Papa was lucky enough to have Dr Akeli Amaama as our curator of Pacific cultures for five years, and we are excited to welcome her back into the Te Papa whānau.”

Dr Akeli Amaama was a curator of Pacific cultures at Te Papa from 2008 to 2013. Te Papa’s Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai said that Dr Akeli Amaama brought a fantastic range of experience to the role. “As well as her experience in curation and research, Dr Akeli Amaama brings wide experience in collaborating with communities,” Dr Hakiwai said.

“She has exactly the kind of experience and leadership we need at Te Papa, as a museum where the principle of mana taonga – connecting treasures to their source communities – is at the heart of everything we do.”

Dr Akeli Amaama will retain her roles as an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Museum and Heritage Studies programme at Victoria University, and as an Associate Researcher for the Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

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Tonga’s New Children’s Book

I’ve been meaning to share this article by Sela Jane Hopgood of Radio New Zealand about a new children’s book featuring the popular Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league team is to be released this year on Tongan Language Week.

“The Rise of the To’a” is co-authored by two teachers in Auckland, ‘Alisi Tatafu and David Riley, and it follows the journey of a young Tongan boy learning about Tongan culture. Intertwined through the chapters are short stories of each of the 33 rugby league players from the 2017 to 2019 squad. The team is currently ranked fourth in the world. In 2017, Mate Ma’a Tonga, or MMT for short, had their most successful campaign, becoming semi-finalists at the Rugby League World Cup.

The highlight of the tournament was an upset win over New Zealand 28-22, after trailing 16-2 at half-time, marking the first time a tier-two team had defeated a tier-one team.

Due to the team’s outstanding performance at the World Cup, on the 29 November 2018, King Tupou VI declared a public holiday in Tonga called Mate Ma’a Tonga Day, and the entire squad was invited to the Royal Palace and acknowledged for their contribution to sports.


‘Alisi Tatafu was the MC for the Mate Ma’a Tonga welcome ceremony in Auckland for the RLWC, which attracted large numbers. “I was fortunate enough to travel with the team for nine of their games in 2017 and it was then when I thought, I need to write a book about Tonga and this team. I wanted this book to be a tribute to Tongan culture and the Tongan rugby league players who showcased our culture beautifully to the world with their success in the game,” she said.

“This is a team that unified Tongans from around the world. Our flags started appearing everywhere from Paris to San Francisco to Wellington and Brisbane.”

Ms Tatafu said she was blessed to have witnessed the passion the players had for not only the game, but for their country. The players really fed off the energy from their family, friends and community.”

David Riley is a teacher and a writer, with a goal of making reading attractive for young people and to inspire them with stories from New Zealand and the Pacific. “I teach students who are from Pacific backgrounds and I have noticed that majority struggle to find reading enjoyable and when you look at the books that are out there, a lot of them are not relatable or topics of interest for the students. By including the story of MMT in this book will hopefully grab the attention of new readers,” he said.

Mr Riley initially thought he was writing a book about rugby league, but he was surprised to find that there was more behind the men in red and white jerseys.”I learnt a lot from this book and what makes MMT so popular and it all comes down to how embedded the culture is in every Tongan through centuries of heritage being passed down. I know many Tongans would appreciate this book.” he said.


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“Origin of the Tukunga Kauta”- Tonga

This month’s Pacific Islands legend comes from Tonga. The story can be found in the book, Po Fananga, Folk Tales of Tonga by Tupou Posesi Fanua. Enjoy!

Origin of the Tukunga Kauta

Once upon a time there was a Tu’i Tonga (king) whose mind was not at peace, so he ordered that the beautiful soothing rhythm of the ula dance should be beaten for him to hear. This was done as he commanded, but the people became very tired of beating the drums. So they all decided that they would stand in a row, and that when one was tired, he would hand the drumstick to the next person, while he, himself rested.

In this village (called Niutoua) there was a traditional spirit who pitied the people; his name was Mofitaita’u (Rare fever of the year). He came and took his place behind the last man in the row. When the poor man in front of him became so tired that he could hardly hold the drumstick, Mofitaita’u took it from his hand and the man fell down and went to sleep. 

Origin of the Tukunga Kauta(Tonga)

“Origin of the Tukunga Kauta,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2020.

Mofitaita’u continued the beating. When he knew everyone was fast asleep, he ran away with the drumstick.

When the people awakened, they chased him, but by this time he had reached the shore. He thrust the drumstick into a rock and disappeared, and today that place is known as Tukunga Kauta (Place of the drumstick).

This was the last time Mofitaita’u was seen and also of the drumstick. The people were no longer made to beat the rhythm of the ula, so they were happy once more.

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