Cook Islands Tivaivai Exhibition

A few weeks ago journalist, Melina Etches, wrote an article for the Cook Islands News about how an “exceptional” and large exhibition of stunning and unique Cook Islands styled tivaivai, drew many visitors through the doors of the Ruatoka Hall.

Tivaivai is a form of artistic quilting traditionally done by Polynesian women. The word literally means ‘patches’. They are valuable in ritual exchanges which mark family ‘life’ events, and other gifting events which draw people together through family and social networks.  Tivaivai mark and recall these events through their patterns and convey ideas about place, culture and history.  Tivaivai are steeped with social and cultural importance.

People who attended the show were dazzled by the vibrant colours of patterns and detailed unique designs, exclamations of “amazing, beautiful, breath taking…” were heard throughout the hall. There were some who were simply speechless.

“If I could stay the night in here with all this tivaivai, I’d feel like a queen,” said one of the Arorangi Ekalesia vainetini.


Vibrant displays of the Rarotonga CICC vainetini tivaivai. Photo by Radio New Zealand.

The Rarotonga Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC) vainetini (women) exhibition had been planned to coincide with the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity to the island of Aitutaki, which takes place next month.

There was a mix of distinctive hand sewn tivaivai taorei (patchwork), tivaivai tataura (embroidery and crochet) and tivaivai manu (applique) that revealed the creativity and techniques of the talented vainetini and the time they have committed to a craft that they love.

A member of the CICC vainetini executive board, Poko Tuariki from the Arorangi Ekalesia said, “I’m proud and privileged to be part of this truly amazing art work by our vainetini. It’s good to see that the tuitui of the vainetini is still popular among the Mama’s. It’s alive and well and there are also new designs coming in.”

The art of making a tivaivai is a journey – a journey that reflect personal connections and relationships, the sharing of good and challenging times and for some, an art that offers comfort and relief.

In 2018, Myra Tatakura returned to Rarotonga after intensive mitral valve replacement (heart) surgery in New Zealand, that had pretty much knocked her about. Tatakura’s mother had taught her the three basic stiches, and a friend Trishia Downie invited her to join the Mama’s at the market as a way to “face the world” again.

That gave her the courage to get out there again.

“I had locked myself away from the world after I came home; I found solace in my sewing, it all started with a pair of cushion covers…”

The progress and improvement of her sewing skills are revealed in the stiches of her pieces. “I finally got the hang of it,” she says, and has completed 12 pairs of cushion covers in a year.

“This awesome show is also like my tivaivai graduation,” she laughs, “after these cushions, I’ll be graduating to sew a big tivaivai, I love it. Thank you to my Mum, to all the women in my life for the support given to me throughout my tivaevae journey.”

Mamatira Patia from the Avarua Ekalesia featured an exquisite “tarona” crown patterned tivaivai taorei (patchwork) that she had completed with Mama Vaine Eliaba some years ago.

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New Book Features Marshall Islands Fishing Story

Radio New Zealand recently posted an article about how the Marshall Islands went from being a bystander in commercial fishing in the Pacific to operating the world’s busiest tuna transshipment port, two fish processing facilities, a purse seine vessel net repair yard, and a fleet of locally-flagged and -based fishing vessels is documented in a groundbreaking new book.

“Our Ocean’s Promise: From Aspirations to Inspirations – The Marshall Islands Fishing Story” is a 196-page overview of the Marshall Islands expanding engagement in the tuna fishery value chain.

The book documents how the Marshall Islands has benefited from purse seine fishery revenue rising from about $4 million annually to over $30 million a year since 2010 through the country’s participation in Parties to the Nauru Agreement’s (PNA’s) globally recognized conservation and management regime that ensures sustainable fishing as well as dramatically increasing the islands’ share of tuna revenue.


Where are the Marshall Islands? Map from

“I personally witnessed the transformation in Marshall Islands’ fisheries through the collective endeavors of the PNA grouping of countries that control most of the tuna that is taken in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean,” Dr Transform Aqorau, the founding PNA CEO, writes in a foreword to the new book.

“As host of the PNA Office, the Marshall Islands was instrumental in promoting the PNA purse seine Vessel Day Scheme, and was a vociferous advocate of the PNA initiatives.”

Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) Director Glen Joseph conceived the idea for a book narrating the history of commercial fishing in this central Pacific nation.


A partnership with the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) provided necessary support for the work on the book that was researched and written by Giff Johnson, the long-time editor of the Marshall Islands Journal, the weekly newspaper published in Majuro.

Joseph recognized the FFA for its key role in supporting MIMRA “to document our story in the region.”

While the book takes the reader on a journey that begins in the 1920s, it focuses on the period from the late 1970s – as the Marshall Islands was gaining its independence and beginning to engage in the tuna fishery as a sovereign nation – to the present day.

It features a forward look at MIMRA’s latest initiatives to participate in the many levels of the tuna value chain, well beyond the limited role it once played as a collector of license fees from distant water fishing nations.

“The ‘oceanscape’ in 2021 is unrecognizable from the 1970s, with numerous opportunities at MIMRA’s doorstep and the agency well-prepared to pursue those opportunities,” writes Johnson in Our Ocean’s Promise.

“Our interest goes back to our humble beginning, and that is the ocean’s promise, which is our heritage, culture, food security, economic opportunity and highway to global engagement,” said Joseph in a quote from the new book.

“All we aspire to is to sustainably and successfully manage our fishery.”

The book includes the first-ever detailed chronology of Marshall Islands and regional fisheries developments that catalogs the many challenges and roadblocks it and other independent Pacific islands faced as they worked to develop sovereign control first over their 200-mile exclusive economic zones, and more recently to implement the PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme in order to shift the paradigm of the commercial fishery to one of rights-based management controlled by Pacific islands.

MIMRA will be launching the new publication with a formal book ceremony in Majuro on October 8 Marshall Islands President David Kabua is scheduled to keynote the launch event and FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen is expected to deliver a virtual message to the program.

The book is published by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and available at

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Fijian Language Week 2021

Earlier this week the Fijian community launched the online Fijian Language Week, sharing events to be held across New Zealand.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, who joined the Fijian community online, marked Macawa ni Vosa Vakaviti – Fijian Language Week, welcoming this year’s theme of showing how language is an important contributor to wellbeing.

“At the start of the year, our Pacific communities chose an overarching theme of wellbeing for the Pacific Language Weeks series, given the impact Covid is having on every community around Aotearoa,” Minister Sio said.


This is the seventh of nine Pacific Language Weeks to be held this year and the theme is, Noqu Vosa ai vakadei ni noqu Tiko Vinaka, which in English means, My language provides stability to my wellbeing.

“Measures of wellbeing include life satisfaction, finances, health, housing, human rights, and relationships and for our Pacific communities, cultural identity and knowledge of language, values and beliefs is a major contributor to wellbeing.

Knowledge of self, of cultural identity, values and language gives people a sense of pride to stand strong in who they are, which in turn provides a sense of wellbeing,” he said.

Due to Covid-19 Alert Level 3 restrictions in Auckland, and Delta level 2 for the rest of Aotearoa, Fijian Language Week has been shifted online for all activities.

Covid-19 has presented many challenges to the wellbeing of our community, a key component to our Covid recovery is getting vaccinated.

During the Fijian Language Week a vaccination drive in Auckland will be held from Thursday 7 October to Saturday 9 October, at Mangere Centre Park.

“Guided by the community, Fijian Language Week will incorporate its theme into online activities and events, including the announcement of Language Champion Honours.

The inclusion of Language Champion Honours as part of the Pacific Language Weeks, has been celebrated at language week closing ceremonies and is one the key transitional changes implemented this year.

Our Pacific communities voice we needed to acknowledge the significant contribution, service, and leadership, made by Pacific pioneers, past and present, who have championed their language in Aotearoa, and it has become a highlight of the language weeks this year,” Sio said.

A thriving community of 19,722 people, according to the 2018 Census, identify as being Fijian and call New Zealand home. This number has increased from 9,861 in 2006.

“Let’s celebrate with our Fijian community and embrace this wonderful language and culture woven into the fabric of Aotearoa,” Minister Sio said.

Fijian Language Week runs from the 3 October and concludes on the 9 October.

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Call for Tuvaluans to Vaccinate Amid Week-long Celebration

A Tuvaluan leader in Aotearoa New Zealand urged his community to take their eligible family members to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The call came as Tuvaluans celebrated dVaiaso o te Gana Tuvalu – Tuvalu Language Week which was celebrated last week.

This year’s celebrations in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland had been moved online because of the lockdown restrictions in the city.

The Tuvalu Auckland Community president Uelese Malaga said the theme is ‘Fakaakoigina tou iloga kae tukeli ke magoi mote ataeao’ which in English means embracing our culture and a more secure, vibrant future.

Malaga said ‘Fakaakoigina tou iloga kae tukeli ke magoi mote ataeao’ also highlights the important role language and culture has when securing a vibrant future for Tuvaluans across Aotearoa.


Tuvaluans celebrating their culture.

He said it encouraged the language and culture to be embraced to build strong foundations of perseverance, success and health equity.

The weeklong program encouraged Tuvaluans to take a holistic view of their well-being and positive outcomes amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaga said the theme also reminded them of the power of embracing both traditional and new ways of doing things amid the global health crisis. “When my father would teach me how to carve, he would always say: ‘action speaks louder than words’. These words give me strength and are words that are still true today,” Malaga said.

He said last year, Covid-19 hit the small Tuvalu community hard. “Our families struggled. Even I found it hard at times. But there’s one thing I know for sure, after 79 years of my journey in this life, together with faith action and unity all things are possible. So let us come together and protect ourselves from Covid-19. Take action – do it for each other. Get your vaccine,” Malaga said.

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This Week’s Tuvalu Language Week Moved to Online

This week New Zealand is celebrating Tuvalu Language Week.

Te Vaiaso o te Gana Tuvalu – which started Monday and ends on Saturday – moved online due to the uncertainty around Covid-19, the Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said.

“However it is a timely reminder of the power of embracing both traditional and new ways of doing things. It has been confirmed this year’s remaining Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Pacific Language Weeks will be celebrated online. “Tuvalu Language Week is the sixth Pacific language week of 2021, and in line with the others already celebrated, its overarching theme is well-being, he said.


“The Tuvalu Auckland Community Trust selected, “Fakaakoigina tou iloga kae tukeli ke magoi mote ataeao”, which in English means, “Embracing our culture and a more secure vibrant future.”

“This relates to the role of language and culture in assuring a vibrant future for Tuvaluans throughout the country. This is a holistic view of well-being for the Tuvalu community essential in the uncertain times we face, with Covid-19 resurging when we least expect it,” Minister Sio said.

Tuvalu is made up of nine inhabited islands with a population of approximately 11,000. It is the fourth-smallest nation in the world.

There are approximately 4,653 people who identify as being from Tuvalu living in Aotearoa, according to the 2018 Census.

“Tuvaluan communities in New Zealand are also more keenly aware of the impact climate change continues to have on their island home and the future survival of their heritage and language,” Aupito William Sio said.

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‘One Planet for All’ theme for Tonga Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020

The Kingdom of Tonga’s opening of its UAE Embassy this week, only its sixth diplomatic mission in the world after London, New York, Beijing, Tokyo and Canberra, signifies much more than simply filling a geographical gap in consular coverage.

Combined with the Pacific island state’s robust participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, it represents a major step to spotlighting its vast tourism and unique agricultural potential – as well as tackling the threats posed by climate change – on a stage shared with governments, investors and visitors from the Middle East and beyond.

Speaking at the Embassy opening on Monday, His Majesty King Tupou VI said: “Recognition of our long-standing relationship with the royal families and shared concerns around global issues such as renewable energy and climate change is only further strengthened with the establishment of a diplomatic mission here in the UAE.

“Connecting minds and cooperating with developed nations such as the UAE at the World Expo 2020 enables the Kingdom of Tonga to emulate the successes and leverage opportunities for investment, trade and relationships to create a better future for her people.”

Honorable Akau’ola, Tongan Ambassador to the UAE, non-resident Ambassador to the GCC and Commissioner General for Tonga at Expo 2020, described the UAE as “a model of development” and said the Embassy and Expo 2020 would provide a significant stepping stone to the Middle East.

“We recognise the huge opportunity offered by the next World Expo, and establishing the Embassy here, almost a year out, bolsters our position and marks the start of our hard work to get the word out that we will be ready to fully engage in Expo 2020,” he said.

The next World Expo, the first in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, is an unprecedented opportunity for the country of just over 100,000 people to connect with the world – from opening up its vast but undeveloped tourism potential to boosting trade in high-grade exports such as tuna and vanilla.

The Kingdom of Tonga’s participation is driven by King Tupou VI, with the underlying aims of supporting youth and ensuring that, while Expo provides an opportunity to grow the kingdom and the private sector, it is the grass roots of the nation who benefit.


Photo from


The last Pacific monarchy, Tonga is one of 192 participating countries at Expo 2020, where each country will have its own pavilion for the first time in the 168-year history of World Expos.

That, according to Honorable Akau’ola, is a key reason why Tonga is ramping up its already solid relationship with the UAE – one that began relatively recently in 2007 but has intensified through a shared common interest in renewable energy and a deep connection between the Tongan royal family and the leadership of the UAE.

“One of the biggest constraints for small, developing countries like Tonga was limited resources: how could we even look at trying to penetrate a World Expo, let alone trying to put together a pavilion? The UAE came up with the one nation, one pavilion policy which has changed the whole World Expo system,” said Honorable Akau’ola.

“At Expo 2020, countries will be located by theme rather than geography. Instead of dictating where we will be and what we will do, the UAE asked us how we see our country within the theme of Expo 2020, and how the UAE can use the Expo to help participating countries. This is unprecedented.”

In an indication of the importance the Kingdom places on the event, Queen Nanasipau’u chairs the Tongan Expo 2020 Committee, steered by the private sector rather than government, and the royal family is expected to play a central role both in the run-up to and during the six-month Expo.

“This will be the first time that Tonga hasn’t just arrived the day before Expo opens and left the day after it closes. We understand and appreciate the magnitude of the next World Expo, and His Majesty will have a proper presence – not just at the opening and closing ceremonies – but sitting down with potential investors and answering their questions,” Honorable Akau’ola said.

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Safeguarding Pacific Island Seas

A very important and interesting article about climate change written by Anna Naupa was recently published online from the Lowy Institute that I believe should be shared… 

Some months ago, I was part of a special ocean and culture story-telling workshop on my home island of Erromango, in southern Vanuatu. There, I listened to traditional elders recount ancient sea wisdom and oral histories about ocean connections with other islands, passed down through generations over thousands of years. Far away, in the virtual domain, Pacific island governments were preparing key statements about the ocean to safeguard Pacific island futures, culminating in the annual Pacific Island Forum Leaders meeting on 6 August 2021 that produced the “Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate-Change Related Sea-Level Rise”.

This forward-thinking Declaration sets an invaluable precedent on maintaining maritime boundaries, without reduction, in the face of climate change-related sea-level rise. It aims to mitigate against loss of resources for island nations, demonstrating a significant interpretation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to maintain rights and entitlements of national maritime zones despite shrinking coastlines, something that scholars have suggested provides the most environmentally just solution.  

The Declaration strongly positions the Pacific states to present a clear message to the upcoming COP26 in November 2021 about the ocean-climate nexus. It is a culmination of a plethora of multilateral strategies and diplomatic statements regarding the shared stewardship and safeguarding of the Pacific Ocean, some of which include:

  • A statement in March by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at the 7th Our Ocean Conference hosted by Palau calling for sustainable ocean management.
  • A commitment at US President Biden’s April Leaders’ Summit on Climate pledging to work with islands on climate resilience, and coastal and marine resource management strategies in cultural contexts.
  • A call in July by Pacific island countries for the preservation of maritime zones at the 5th France-Oceania Summit, signalling the clear intent of Pacific leaders with regards to France, one of the major, enduring colonial powers in the Pacific with whom many share territorial borders.

However, as the village story-telling session highlighted to me, the role of culture in maritime zone preservation is often overlooked and needs greater prominence in regional diplomacy.

The role of indigenous communities in marine governance is well-known. Whether in relation to Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary or the Cook Islands’ Marae Moana Marine Park, Pacific island governments have harnessed indigenous knowledge and traditional resource management to support shared stewardship of marine resources. Even Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate Outcomes emphasized this for building island resilience.

Indigenous knowledge has also been effectively used in maritime boundary determination across the Pacific where island nations’ UNCLOS-determined economic exclusion zones overlap. After 32 years of unsuccessful attempts to agree a maritime median boundary line under the relevant UNCLOS provision, in 2016 the governments of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands resorted to traditional knowledge and negotiation methods, which successfully secured a boundary agreement.


The status of Pacific maritime boundaries as of July 2020 as detailed by the Pacific Community’s Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Programme (GEM) / © Pacific Community (SPC), 2020

Vanuatu’s long-standing maritime border dispute with France for the islets of Matthew and Hunter has also drawn on indigenous knowledge and history, in both Vanuatu and neighbouring New Caledonia, as the basis for maritime boundary setting. With the United Nations mistakenly accepting a Fiji-France/New Caledonia maritime delimitation agreement in 1983 despite sovereignty claims by Vanuatu, the corrections to maritime boundaries are now under more pressure to be resolved in light of the preserving maritime zones Declaration issued in August.

With only 35 out of 48 overlapping boundaries mutually delineated between countries in the Pacific Island region, the Declaration’s call for urgent and collective action to secure maritime zones of Forum member states will require significant diplomatic, legal and cultural dialogue. The latter point could present the greatest challenge if indigenous knowledge is not afforded the same level of recognition by both bilateral partners in a boundary negotiation.

For example, in 2009 New Caledonia’s indigenous Kanak independence movement, the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), signed the Keamu Agreement with chiefs of Vanuatu’s southernmost province, acknowledging the disputed Matthew and Hunter islets have traditionally been part of Vanuatu’s southern islands, an indigenous claim that has been downplayed by France. (Interestingly the 2021 France-Oceania Summit supports cultural cooperation, but narrowly focused on intangible heritage and human exchange rather than border negotiations.) This raises fundamental questions about the prominence of authentic cultural dialogue in bilateral maritime negotiations in a region that “treasures the diversity and heritage of the Pacific and seeks an inclusive future in which cultures, traditions and religious beliefs are valued, honoured and developed.”

With the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change condemning the planet to a certain, warmer, harsher, destiny – something our Pacific islands on the frontline of climate change have been experiencing and warning the world about for decades – the preserving maritime zones Declaration is a clear assertion of sovereignty and the inextricability of contemporary ocean affairs and climate change. All state parties to the Declaration, including Australia and France’s Pacific territories, need to advocate for Pacific indigenous knowledge to be central to maritime border diplomacy as an extension of this sovereignty exercise.

From the wisdom of ancient Polynesian and Micronesian navigators who traversed thousands of miles of ocean using stars, wind and currents to chart their course, to the well-worn, ancient inter-island trade routes of Melanesia, the knowledge of our Pacific Ocean has been passed through generations and is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. As I sat in the village listening to my own people’s accounts of traditional sea routes between islands, I am a witness to its continued relevance in practice.

To read the full article click here.

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Making Samoan Language an Equal Partner with English

The Samoa News recently ran an article written by Fili Sagapolutele about how Sen. Magalei Logovi’i declared that an Administration bill seeking to establish by law the Samoan Language and Culture Committee of American Samoa was tabled for future discussion.

The hearing commenced after last week’s Senate session, where the bill was introduced during first reading. The bill calls for the establishment of the commission to provide authoritative guidelines on Samoan language and culture in education, government, the economy and social life.

Furthermore, it establishes Samoan and English as the official languages of the Territory and as languages of instruction in all public schools of American Samoa.

Among the issues that the bill seeks to address is a current law, which states that classroom instruction in public schools shall be in the English language, but the Samoan language may be used when necessary to facilitate teaching in the English language.

Over the years there have been calls by educators and past leaders to change the law arguing that there are students who are better equipped to learn if the Samoan language is also an official language of teaching, along side the English language.

The Administration bill seeks to amend current law allowing classroom instruction for public schools to be conducted in both “Samoan” and the English language.

“To ensure students acquire proficiency in Samoan, English and academic subjects, the [ASG] Department of Education shall develop quality literacy programs based on research and the current needs of students,” according to the bill.

With only a few days left in the current 2nd Regular Session, Magalei called the committee hearing to review this proposed legislation, while Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono and others voiced their support.

Sen. Togiola T.A Tulafono said this same issues had been raised over the years and therefore it’s not new and recommended that the Senate not rush into making a final decision on such an important matter without more research along with an expert witnesses called to give testimony.

He recalled a provision of the law pertaining to the Office of Samoan Affairs that includes what’s called Institute of Samoan Language and Culture — and is set by statute based on legislation introduced several years ago by the late Sen. Fai’ivae Apelu Galeai.

Togiola believes that there are provisions of the current statute on the Institute of Samoan Language and Culture that may be similar or connected to provisions cited in the Administration bill that need to be reviewed.

He said that he is not sure if the current Administration had reviewed the statute on the Institute of Samoan Language and Culture, which has its own governing board, and it’s important to also look at this current law.

He also said the proposed law can be costly and this was a set-back for the Institute of Samoan Language and Culture in moving forward, “the cost” – which is an issue he says will also affect the proposed Commission.

Magalei declared that the decision for now is that the bill remains in committee for future review and a possible hearing, with witnesses to testify.

According to the bill’s preamble, there is a need to ensure the Samoan language remains vibrant to support the survival and development of the Fa’aSamoa. 

The preamble cites previous ASG reports which show that 90% of American Samoans speak Samoan as their home language or their first language, that the majority of students in public schools read three grades below level, and that more than 90% of high school graduates entering American Samoa Community College required Remedial English and Remedial Math.

Additionally, children learn the best when the first language of instruction is their mother tongue, and using the mother tongue in the classroom has been found to enhance classroom participation, decrease attrition, and increase the likelihood of family and community engagement in the child’s learning, and most research now concludes that learning achievement is enhanced when children are taught in their mother tongue for at least the first six-years of primary school before a second language is introduced.

Therefore, “it is critical that the Samoan Language be declared by Territorial law as one of the Official Languages in American Samoa and is recognized as of equal importance with the English Language in education, government, economic and social life of the people of American Samoa.”

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Embracing Tongan Language Week

I just love Pacific Islands language week in New Zealand, and I especially love how it continues despite constraints due to Covid… Radio New Zealand recently posted a report written by Sela Jane Hopgood about how primary schools in Auckland were among many institutions across the country taking up the call by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples to embrace Tongan language week online.

This year’s Uike Lea Faka-Tonga or Tongan Language week was a virtual affair because of the nation-wide lockdowns for Covid 19 said Minister Aupito William Sio.

The theme is Fakakoloa ‘o Aotearoa ‘aki ‘a e Ako Lelei, which in English, it means, Enriching Aotearoa New Zealand with holistic education.

Tongan Design Flag

Tongan Design Flag. Whakata Gilberthorpe School 2021.

“Of course, right now, learning the traditional way – such as attending school or university – was on hold due to the current Covid-19 restrictions. Alert Level 4 and 3 means students must learn from home, and follow the golden rules,” Sio said.

Aupito said education is highly valued in the Kingdom of Tonga and this year’s Tonga Language Week explores the importance of education and how Aotearoa can benefit. “Holistic education completes the picture for many people – this knowledge gives them a sense of wholeness, and confidence in their own identity,” he said.

Glenbrae Primary School in Glen Innes is a part of the Manaiakalani Education Trust – a community of learners, whānau and educators in the Auckland suburbs of Glen Innes, Pt England and Panmure (collectively known as Tāmaki) who embarked on a project to raise student outcomes and build capacity and engagement through the combination of media and digital technologies and effective teaching practice.

Its principal Christina Patea said that meant the transition to move Tongan language week online was smooth and the students adapted extremely well. “It’s just great to see our students who are proud of their culture and heritage be able to share this with our community even if it’s not face to face,” she said. “Our Tongan whānau have really gone all out with decking out their lounges with the colour red, doing their Tongan dances and singing hymns with pride.”

Glenbrae Primary School is predominantly Māori and Pasifika with a high percentage of Tongan families and Patea explained that it was very important for the school to acknowledge the Tongan culture.

“Part of the theme this year is about learning from the home and lockdown has done that, we’ve learnt a lot from the Tongan families who shared the culture with us in the virtual way. It is a tough time being in lockdown, and so this week of celebrating a culture has helped bring smiles to a lot of people in our community,” Patea said.


New Zealand Olympian, Valerie Adams. Photo from

Nga Iwi Primary School in Māngere have been hosting daily Zoom every day this week at midday and on Wednesday’s video conferencing session the students had a surprise New Zealand celebrity guest join in.

“We were very honoured to have the presence of Valerie Adams and her sister Lisa jump on our Zoom this week to celebrate Tongan language week with us,” Principal Michelle Fepuleai said.

She explained that Valerie is the niece of one of their Tongan staff members and they were grateful she made time for them while she was in managed isolation quarantine.

“She spoke first about her upbringing in Māngere, being an Olympian and representing New Zealand, but also carrying the Tongan flag close to her heart and her inspiration, which she said was her late mother,” she said.

Stanhope Road Primary School in Mt Wellington has over 60 cultures in their community, with a third being Pasifika and Tonga being the largest ethnic group in the school.

Leilani Salesa is a teacher at Stanhope Road, and she said because the celebration of the Tongan language has moved online, the staff decided to get students into positions of leadership and expertise and lead the content that was shared online on their Facebook page. “We had our juniors doing activities like spelling out Tongan words using resources they found at home. We were getting multi-generational videos where grandparents and parents support their children to participate in learning new Tongan words,” she said.

Salesa shared that the staff members participated in the fun too by sharing a video of them all attempting the language in their bubbles.

“We have no Tongan teachers in Stanhope, but that didn’t stop us from researching into the culture, so that we can lead by example for our students.

“As part of the action plan for Pacific Education, we want to enable every teacher at our school to do their best by Pacific learners,” Salesa said.

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Sustaining the Kava Boom in Solomon Islands

Recently journalist Samson Sade of the Solomon Times wrote an interesting article about the current retailing of Solomon Islands kava. 

Go to any village in rural Solomon Islands and chances are you will find someone cultivating kava, the new craze, said to be replacing more traditional crops such as copra and cocoa.

Unlike copra and cocoa, kava is new, not many people drink kava, or have a good understanding of the technical aspects of the crop – which often determines the quality of the kava once harvested. Trainings are being implemented throughout the Solomon Islands by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), the most recent was in Arosi, Makira-Ulawa Province.

MAL principal field officer (PFO), Michael Tanisapa, said that “increasing production of the targeted cash crops and making sure farmers meet market requirements are of paramount importance.”

“To guarantee farmers acquire knowledge to improve their farm output, MAL has implemented such activities through the provision of projects to farmers and support through technical advice, awareness and trainings to boost their capacity.”


Photo from

Such an approach is important since most farmers are driven by the ‘hype’ around kava where the current local price is around SBD$250 per kg. The US market is currently retailing at around USD$100 per kg, or SBD$800 per kg, but this is the finished product so it is properly packaged and sold online.

So, there is certainly good reasons to be excited. But it may not be that simple to sustain this boom in kava interest.

As kava from the Solomon Islands expands outside of the Pacific Islands, and expands into different industries worldwide, quality assurance becomes a very important issue. Not too long-ago kava was banned in the European market, one of the more lucrative markets globally.

Since than many Pacific Islands have developed quality assurance policies and have invested, through private enterprises, the local capacity to test kava.

A major success story is Fiji Kava Limited, also known as Taki Mai, one of two large kava processing facilities in Fiji. It is the first kava company to list on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and in 2019 opened the world’s first kava tissue culture laboratory, which will clone parent kava plants and grow standardised, quality-controlled plantlets at its factory in Levuka, the old capital of Fiji.

This is perhaps the only way to sustain and grow our kava market – we need to learn from those that are leaders in the kava industry. What seems clear is that we need to have proper policies in place to guide and develop the quality of our kava.

To date, what we certainly have is quantity – but quality is what counts. Solomon Islands kava is already being sold in the US, though in small quantities it does show the potential the crop has for our rural farmers.

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