Vanuatu to Stake Claim Over Bungy Rights

Radio New Zealand ran an interesting article about how AJ Hackett, an international bungy jumping company,  should negotiate with people in Vanuatu to compensate them for the successful business he has built on the back of the centuries-old tradition of bungy jumping.

On Pentecost Island, one of the 83 islands that make up Vanuatu, “land divers” tie vines around their ankles before leaping from a 10-meter platform. The traditional practice goes back centuries, and AJ Hackett’s website credits it as the origin of bungy jumping.

The Vanuatu parliament in Port Vila is now considering a bill to protect their people’s traditional knowledge and culture, and help them benefit from commercial uses of it – and specifically names bungy jumping.

Wellington indigenous intellectual property law expert Lynell Tuffery Huria told Summer Report now is the time for AJ Hackett to do the right thing, and start a dialogue with the people of Pentecost Island. She said the driving force behind the act is that Vanuatu people want some recognition of their traditional knowledge and traditional rights and to get compensation for this knowledge, which they have shared freely.

Under the act a board would be established that people would apply to if they wanted to use traditional knowledge and they would negotiate with the owners for an appropriate level of compensation.

The law would only apply within Vanuatu and the lines were blurred on how it could be enforced against operators such as AJ Hackett, Tuffery Huria said. “I think what they’re trying to do is send a signal to people who go into Vanuatu – you cannot take our traditional knowledge without our permission. It’s staking a claim, setting a standard for their people and protecting their people.”

New legislation progressed slowly in Vanuatu so it could be some time before it becomes a reality but it was a revolutionary piece of legislation of a kind that is increasingly coming into force among indigenous nations around the world.

Tuffery Huria said that while she didn’t want to speculate on how AJ Hackett would respond, “…he could engage in some sort of negotiation with the people of Pentecost to determine some sort of benefit agreement and that’s something that they’ve proposed in this new bill…

“There would be a sharing of any benefits you gain from use of their traditional knowledge.”

AJ Hackett has yet to respond to RNZ questions about the Vanuatu issue around copyright. The AJ Hackett Bungy website acknowledges that the Pentecost divers in Vanuatu are a part of bungy’s origins. The website says “bungy has always been a life-changing experience. It begins with a small group of people in Vanuatu”.


Photo from


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The Prison Songs of Lili‘uokalani

Last week the Hawaii Herald Tribune ran an interesting article about how the Lyman Museum in Hilo, Hawaii showcased the prison songs of Queen Lili’uokalani during a one-day exhibition on February 4.


Photo from Lyman Museum

For more than a century, the original manuscripts to seven of Queen Lili‘uokalani’s original songs have been kept under lock and key at the Hawaii State Archives. Musicologist Cynthia Morris finally brought to light these poignant songs, composed by Lili‘uokalani during her incarceration at ‘Iolani Palace from February to September 1895.

Her prison songs stand as important contemporaneous testimonials, composed in the midst of turbulence and upheaval — songs of resistance, hope, spiritual protest, and subversion. These songs also provided a rare glimpse into the life and perspective of a queen who was dethroned and imprisoned, yet able to communicate with and inspire her subjects by way of her compositions.

Queen Liliuokalani was convicted of having knowledge of a royalist plot, and was fined – she was sentenced to five years in prison and hard labor – although it was later reduced. Instead she imprisoned in an upstairs bedroom of Iolani Palace and was denied any visitors other than one lady in waiting.

Queen Liliuokalani spent her days reading, quilting, crochet-work, as well as composing music. She wrote approximately 165 songs. Only two of the seven songs she wrote in prison, “The Queen’s Prayer,” and “Ku’u Pua i Paoakalani” have been published.


The Lyman Museum, photo by

The Lyman Museum began as the Lyman Mission House, originally built for New England missionaries David and Sarah Lyman in 1839.  Nearly 100 eventful years later, in 1931, the Museum was established by their descendants.  Today, the restored Mission House is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and may be visited by guided tour.

Throughout the year, the Lyman Museum offers a wide range of educational programs from special lectures and talks to hands-on workshops on Hawaiian skills and crafts.  The Museum also hosts school and group tours throughout the year.

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Pacific Language Fund Launched in New Zealand

Another interesting news item from the Pacific that was posted late last year was an article on the Radio New Zealand site about how the New Zealand government had launched an innovation fund aimed at promoting Pacific languages in the country.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said the government was telling Pasifika communities that their languages mattered. The fund is designed for community groups who will be able to apply for grants of up to $5000 during a 12-month pilot period.

Mr Sio said the fund was part of the $20 million allocation for Pacific languages that was announced in the Budget. It was targeting initiatives that supported and increased awareness around the value of Pacific languages and grew the number of speakers of the various tongues.

The support came after consultations with the local Pasifika community and was an acknowledgement of both how important and fragile Pacific languages were. “The 60 percent who are born in New Zealand, said to me that languages were very vital for their sense of belonging, their own sense of identity. So that first and foremost was one of the reasons why it was one of our key goals under Lalanga Fou – thriving Pacific languages and cultures,” he said.

Mr Sio said he hoped the fund would help people recognize the power of multilingualism. There were economic advantages for people who could speak more than one language, he said, and this was backed up by research from Auckland University’s Professor Stephen May, from the School of Maori and Indigenous Education. He said, “Bilingual in any combination provides cognitive, educational and social advantage and he says in terms of the future, monolingualism is a disadvantage, that the new power-brokers will be multilingual speakers, with English as one of them.”

Mr Sio said the asset of multilingualism had never been seen as something to be valued in the past and that needed to change. Pasifika communities were well-positioned to grasp these increasing opportunities in the digital era.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples was also establishing a dedicated Pacific Language Unit. The ministry holds seven Pacific Language weeks every year to maintain and promote heritage languages.


Honiara, Solomon Islands

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“The Jealous Wife” (Hawaii)

Perhaps, you’ve noticed that we haven’t posted a legend in awhile on this outlet. We took some time off because our artist, Tara Bonvillain, had a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Congrats! But, now she’s back to a routine and took some time to illustrate our first legend of 2020. This story comes from Hawaii and it’s about  our favorite goddess, the fiery Pele. Have you ever wondered how Pele decided to live on the Big Island of Hawaii? Well, read on! The legend comes from the book, Tales Told in Hawaii. Enjoy!

The Jealous Wife

When Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, was in search of her husband who had run away with a woman form the heavens, she came to the land where Aukele lived. Aukele was so charmed with the beauty of Pele that he pretended to his wife, Nama, that he went fishing every day, when in truth he was with Pele and her sister, Hiiaka.

At last Nama got tired of hearing the excuses of her husband and cried, “Say, cunning, do you think I’m a fool?” She was so angry she drove Pele toward the Hawaiian Islands.

The Jealous Wife (Hawaii)

“The Jealous Wife,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2020.

Pele sought refuge on the island of Kauai. No sooner had she started her fires than Nama drove her to Oahu. Pele found Oahu too shallow, so she moved to Molokai. On Molokai she struck water and moved to Haleakala, Maui. She was about to give up her home there because it was too large a place to heat. When the jealous wife spied her glowing fires, she came and fought and killed Pele.

Pele’s spirit escaped to the island of Hawaii where she dug a pit in Kilauea, and there she lives to this day.

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RNZ Celebrates 30 Years of Pacific Islands News

Since I often use Radio New Zealand to share news about the Pacific Islands, I was delighted to hear that last week on January 24 marked the 30-year anniversary of RNZ Pacific, formerly called RNZ International.

On 24 January 1990, Radio New Zealand International beamed into the Pacific, on a new 100 kilowatt transmitter. New Zealand has had a short-wave service to the Pacific since 1948. The station broadcast on two 7.5kw transmitters from Titahi Bay, which had been left behind by the US military after the Second World War.


Rainbow over Tuvalu

In the late 1980s, following growing political pressure to take a more active role in the Pacific area, the New Zealand government upgraded the service. A new 100kw transmitter was installed and, on the same day the Commonwealth Games opened in Auckland, the service was re-launched as Radio New Zealand International.

“What we were able to understand was how important radio was and still is in the Pacific, where as here radio had become a second cousin to television… different thing in most of the countries we worked with,” said RNZ International’s first manager Ian Johnstone, from 1990 to ’93. Mr Johnstone said news of a dedicated Pacific service into the region was welcomed by Pacific communities. He also said it was important for New Zealanders to remember that New Zealand was part of the Pacific. “One of the nice things is we say we are part of the Pacific, we are the southern corner of Polynesia, and let’s remember that.”

Linden Clark was manager from 1994 to 2016. She said the strength of the service had been its connection with Pacific people in New Zealand and the region. “The history of of RNZI – RNZ Pacific – is absolutely marked by fantastic contributions from a whole range of people – not only employed people – but those who have given their time in all sorts of ways – both of the Pacific region and the Pacific communities here in New Zealand. “That is the history of the station and I think that’s partly why it means so much to everybody who has had something to do with it.”

She said RNZ Pacific had built strong relationships over the years. “We have always been about trying to support and partner with those Pacific media, radio stations, individuals and journalists, rather than broadcast and talk to them. We want to talk with them and use their expertise and develop that and that’s been really satisfying.”

Adrian Sainsbury, who’s RNZ Pacific’s frequency manager, said in the early days, it was difficult to get Pacific stations to take bulletins as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio Australia was the dominant broadcaster in the Pacific. “And we built up, over time an extensive network. And as I say, from a handful, of possibly two or three, we are now right up to 20 now, across the Pacific, stretching right up to Micronesia,” he said.

Sainsbury said RNZ Pacific was now the only dedicated Pacific broadcast service on short-wave across the region.

The signal can sometimes be heard as far away as Japan, North America, the Middle East and Europe.

Thirty years later the service has developed and established itself as the region’s most comprehensive and reliable source of regional news and is relayed daily by over twenty Pacific radio stations. It broadcasts on a range of platforms including analogue and digital short-wave, satellite, and online and has an estimated audience of 1.8 million people in the Pacific. The RNZ Pacific website attracted nearly eight million pageviews in 2019.


Rainbow over Samoa

I encourage you to read the entire article by clicking here.
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Tonga’s Earliest Game- Taupita

Recently Matangi Tonga Online ran an article that I thought was quite interesting and worth sharing about Taupita, which is Tonga’s earliest known game. The article was written by David Burley and Sean Connaughton:

There are rare moments on an archaeological project when, without expectation, an event or discovery will occur providing extraordinary insight into the past, or where the past connects with the present in an utterly astonishing way. Both occurred in late July of 2007, as we were carrying out archaeological excavations in the village of Nukuleka at the northeast entrance to Fanga ‘Uta Lagoon. This story is about the documentation of a shell game, taupita, but a shell game, as we found out, with an almost 3000-year-old history. It also is a story that binds Tonga’s earliest Lapita ancestors to the people of Nukuleka today.

Archaeological excavations at Nukuleka were undertaken early in the 1960s with additional projects in more recent years. It is clear from these endeavors that the bivalve species Anadara antiquata (kaloa’a) was abundant and a preferred food source for the earliest inhabitants. Though populations of this species have diminished, it continues to be an appreciated delicacy, sold at the Nuku’alofa fish market and commonly served at feasts or as part of Sunday fare.

The importance of Anadara to early Tongans went beyond consumption as part of a daily meal. With slight modifications to the lip of the shell, individual valves became tools for peeling taro, bark, or for use in scraping other materials. Anadara shell scrapers are one of the most abundant artifacts in early Tongatapu sites.

Our 2007 excavation project at Nukuleka hired a crew almost entirely from the village. It was a good group of men who worked hard, and who took interest in the project and what we were finding. The work day included tea-time and lunch breaks, where the crew played checkers or cards, always with faka-Tonga type vigor and the ruckus that inevitably results. Yet there was another game for these men to play if the checkerboard was in use or the cards left home. This was taupita, described by the men as a “war with shell”. But it wasn’t any type of shell, it was Anadara antiquata valves taken from the excavation fill we had removed from the site.

20200102 no1 Taupita 955px

Photo by

The game of taupita involves two players sitting opposite each other, each having an equal number of Anadara shells at the outset. As the game begins, the challenger holds the Anadara valve by the lip with the inner side up. The opponents shell is positioned on the ground with inner side down. Using as much force as possible, and the umbo as a hammer, the player strikes downward on the umbo of the stationary shell. If the shell breaks, another is set in place and the player continues. If the shell fails to break, or the player’s shell fractures, the opponent becomes the striker.

Taupita is a fast, back and forth game of individual wars with all of the gusto of cards or checkers. A winner is declared when a player’s shell runs out. As entertaining as the game was to watch, far more intriguing, and quite unexpected, was its by-product. This was a heap of broken shell refuse, but where several of the Anadara valves had their umbo removed. These were identical to the ones we had been excavating from the site, and the ones we had been interpreting as net weights.

Taupita is a popular game in Nukuleka, as we were told by the crew. Shell could be collected from the beach with little difficulty, and anyone was able to play, though most often it was a game for the young. We recorded the rules and we had our crew play the game with freshly collected shells, not the fossilized material being pulled from the site.

With the project of 2007 in the rear-view mirror, we can identify many important discoveries from the excavations, not the least being a documentation of Nukuleka’s considerable antiquity. But none are as unique as taupita. A tea-time observation fortuitously identified a game having a 3000-year-old history with important implications for archaeological interpretation.

To read the full article simply click here.

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Pasifika Festival Will Donate Proceeds to Samoa Measles Response

Proceeds from this weekend’s Pasifika festival in New Zealand’s capital will go to the Samoa measles response fund. About 15,000 people attend the Wellington event each year and this year festival workshops are asking for donations to help Samoa recover from the measles epidemic.

In Samoa eighty-three people, mostly children, have died in the space of three months – with multiple fatalities a daily occurrence at the height of the epidemic. More than 1800 of the more than 5600 people infected were admitted to hospital.

Donated funds from Wellington’s Pasifika Festival will help the ongoing support New Zealand is providing to Samoa through medical aid and expertise.


The Wellington Pasifika Festival will take place at Odlins Plaza on the Wellington waterfront. The event bring together arts, culture, food, local knowledge and more. Those who attend can grab themselves a bit to eat, partake in family friendly activities and enjoy the works of traditional and contemporary Pacific artists.

The program kicks off with a blessing and welcome speech from Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito Tofae Su’a William Sio. From there the packed lineup includes such acts as Niue Culture Group, Tawa Methodist Church, Tautua Dance, a Pacific cuisine cook-off, Annie Crummer and much more.

Here’s the Program:

12 noon 

  • Blessing
  • Welcome speech by Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito Tofae Su’a William Sio

12.15pm – Akatokamanava Organisation of Wellington Incorporated

12.25pm – St Teresa Tongan Youth Choir

12.35pm – Kiribati St Joseph Community

12.45pm – Wainuiomata Samoan Methodist Church Youth Group

12.55pm – Tamaiti o le Laumua

1.05pm – Niue Culture Group

1.15pm – Porirua Methodist Church

1.25pm – Wellington Solomon Islands Community

1.35pm – Makatu’unga He’ofa Wellington Tongan Community

1.45pm – Tawa Methodist Church

1.55pm – Awerangi Thompson

2.05pm – Pacific Cuisine Cook Off Competition

2.25pm – Tautua Dance (Cook Islands)

2.35pm – Mafutaga Tagata Matutua Exercise Group

2.45pm – Tautua Dance (Samoa)

2.55pm – Le Moana

3.00pm – Wayne Laai

3.15pm – Youngsolwara Poneke Vogue

3.25pm – Kupega Affect

3.35pm – The Company NZ

3.45pm – Arialan

4.15pm – Annie Crummer

4.55pm – Ex Nihilo Gospel Band

5.35pm – Mercy Band featuring Starr

6.00pm – Festival Ends

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