“Fale’s Voyage in the Whale”- Tonga

This month’s Pacific Islands legend comes from Tonga. It comes from the book Tales form the South Seas. Enjoy this adventurous story…

Fale’s Voyage in the Whale

On the island of Niue there lived long ago a woman called Fale who was a very clever maker of pretty patterns on the native bark-cloth. This cloth is made by pounding and pasting together wetted layers of the bark of a tree. She used to sit on a rock on the seashore, marking the designs on a cloth with the sharp edge of a shell. She carried several shells for this purpose in a fold of her girdle.

While Fale sat there hard at work one day, a great sperm whale came cruising close in along the coast. He swam slowly into the bay on the margin of which Fale was working, and he blew out a cloud of spray through his blowhole, and beat the water loudly with his great powerful tail and fins.

Fale looked up from her bark-cloth and she made fun of the whale for his noisiness. “What a big rough-headed fellow you are,” she said.

When the whale heard this, he was angry and he determined to punish the woman for her impudence; for was he not the king of whales? He went out to sea down into the deep water, so that Fale thought that he had gone. But he was only waiting his time, and he came up again soon after and lay very quietly on the surface of the water, and watched for Fale.

Presently she put down her cloth, and taking her basket and a pronged spear she walked out on to the coral reef to fish.

The whale swam silently in, and when Fale turned away from the sea, he suddenly stretched out his long fin and seized her. He put her in his great mouth and swallowed her, and then he turned and swam out and plunged deep into the silent, dark ocean.

Fale was not killed when the whale swallowed her. She was taken right down into the monster’s stomach, but she remained alive. In the dark cavern she did not fear, but pondered on how to escape from the whale. At last she thought of the shells with which she had been working at the bark-cloth. She still had some of these in the folds of her girdle.

Fale's Voyage in the Whale (Tonga)

“Fale’s Voyage in the Whale,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2019.

Taking the sharpest of the shells, Fale began to cut away at the soft sides of her prison. She cut and slashed away, making the cuts deeper and deeper, and she wondered how thick the sides of the wall could be. The great whale soon began to feel the pain, and he writhed and turned about and made for the surface. Then he swam swiftly towards an island in the distance.

Fale went on cutting her way through the whale. Presently she felt the creature stop. She continued to cut away with her shells, and at last she saw the daylight again. On crawling out of the opening she had made, she saw that the whole had stranded on the sandy beach of an island, and that it was dead.

Fale wondered whatever this island could be, and how far she had come from her home. Being very cold after her strange and gloomy voyage, she sat on the beach in the hot sun to warm herself.

Soon she heard loud voices, and looking about she saw many people running along the beach towards her. They had come to seize the whale and cut it up for food. Great was their amazement to see a strange woman sitting there, and it was greater still when they heard her story. Her tongue and theirs were much alike. They told her that the island on which she had landed was Tonga, which lies about three hundred miles from Niue.

The people treated Fale with great kindness and gave her of their best, for they greatly admired her courage in cutting her way out of the whale. So she lived all the rest of her days in Tonga. The little children loved to listen to the tale of adventure, and they would dash into the sea and play at being whales.

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4th National Arts Festival Opens in Vanuatu

The Vanuatu Daily Post recently reported that the 4th National Arts Festival will be held at Lakatoro, Malekula, August 18th-23rd 2019.

The festival aims to promote the cultural diversity across all 83+ islands by bringing all the different cultures to one center stage showcasing traditional knowledge and skills and highlighting different aspects of culture including custom dances, ceremonies, traditional songs, traditional methods of food preparation/preservation/production, weaving, oral traditions and so forth to encourage the transfer of this knowledge to the younger generation in order to preserve the rich cultural heritage that Vanuatu has.

Minister of Justice and Community Service, Don Ken, yesterday asked participants of the 4th National Arts Festival held at Wilkins Stadium at Lakatoro on Malekula, Vanuatu, to ensure respect prevails throughout the week of the festival.

He stated this yesterday during the official opening of the festival as he welcomed participants from other provinces to Malampa Province.

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The minister, who is from Malekula, thanked participants for bringing their cultures to display in Malampa Province. Mr Ken called on the protection of traditional ways of preparing local food during times of disaster. Similarly, he encouraged the continued use of local houses that can withstand cyclones. Similarly, he encouraged the continued use of local houses that can withstand cyclones.

Another member of parliament from Malekula, who is currently Speaker of Parliament, Esmon Saimon in his speech, said custom and culture are part of a nation’s identity and these must be preserved.

Events Coordinator for the 4th National Arts Festival, Howard Aru, who is also a writer for this newspaper had revealed earlier that around 1,000 delegates around Vanuatu were expected to gather at the event.

This will be the first National Arts Festival to be held outside of Port Vila or Luganville, spearheaded by the national organizing committee led by the Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Center.

The festival also has support from Government, business houses, and the private sector. Some schools such as Lycee LAB will also be participating in the festival.

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PROGRAM:

Day 1: Traditional Economy (Kastom Ekonomi)

Day 2: Traditional House (Kastom Haos)

Day 3: Traditional Food (Kastom Kakae)

Day 4: T r a d i t i o n a l Knowledge and Natural Disasters (Kastom Save mo Najoral Disasta)

Day 5: T r a d i t i o n a l Knowledge and Education (Kastom Save mo Edukesen)

This event is poised to attract a total daily attendance of some 3,000+ people (comprising the over 1,000 delegates and visitors) who will gather to relish and celebrate this week-long prestigious national cultural festival.

 

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PNG Artist not Sold on Renaming Oceania

Let’s continue the debate on Oceania vs. Moana…

Radio New Zealand writer, Christine Rovoi, wrote a new article about how the recent call by Pacific scholars for Oceania to be renamed Moana is not resonating with an artist from Papua New Guinea (PNG) or people from her part of the world.

Julia Mage’au Gray said PNG had over 800 living languages so trying to find a word to fit one thing is “a very Western idea”. The dancer and skin marker said the scholars’ focus should instead be on transferring knowledge of cultures and languages onto the next generation.

“It’s nice to hear how important it is for this word to make everybody feel something united,” Gray said.”But at the same time, it means not a lot to me. The word Moana, I just don’t relate. I understand the importance of needing a label. But I’m tired of labels.”

Pacific scholars and artists gathered in Auckland last month for the panel discussion Va Moana Talanoa – Salty Blood and Tears: Ocean Stories. From the talanoa, or discussion, Moana was pitched to replace Oceania as it identifies all Pasifika peoples, their lands, waters and cultures.

But Ms Gray, who attended the talanoa, said this was not the case for about 6.5 million people in PNG, the Pacific’s largest and most populated country. “PNG is a really massive island. While it’s small, it’s massive because of the amount of people and languages,” she said.

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Ms. Gray added, “Where we are is 20 kilometres from the coast and even though 20km doesn’t sound very far, in PNG 20km is a completely different language grouping. So the word Moana doesn’t really mean a lot to us.”

But Tongan academic Hūfanga ‘Okusitino Māhina maintains there is a need for change. “The moral here is for all of us to change things from a condition of imposition to a state of mediation,” he said. “The latter has always been the problem because we seem to be freely submitting ourselves to the palagi (white people). And we accept it as a fact – whatever they impose on us.”

This was the case also the case with the word Pacific, Dr Mahani said. “Which means peaceful on the ocean of moana, which is both peaceful and powerful,” he said. “And I think, to call it Pacific is an insult to our daring warriors and navigators because they braved their way through the intersection of the peaceful and the powerful, hence the word moa.”

“Moa, in the Tongan language means powerful, destructive, forceful ways… that eventually drive the navigators to death.”

 

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Moana vs. Oceania

Recently, Christine Rovoi, wrote an interesting article for Radio New Zealand about how a group of Pacific scholars and artists wants the name Moana to replace Oceania. Moana, they say, identifies all Pasifika peoples, their lands, their waters and their cultures.

The group gathered in Auckland last month for the panel discussion Vā Moana Talanoa – Salty Blood and Tears: Ocean Stories. One of the speakers Tevita Ka’ili, a professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Hawaii, said it was an opportune time to discuss a new name.

Prof Ka’ili, who is also dean of the Faculty of Culture, Language and Performing Arts at BYU, said it was important Pacific islanders agreed. “Beautiful that we have this place for us to talanoa a name for Oceania or maybe the multiple names that we use to sort of identify ourselves but also express our deep history and culture as people from the moana nui,” he said.

He added, “This is part of our history. Our history is communicated and expressed through symbols. And this is one of the symbols that we use to communicate that particular history. And that history is a deep history because of our deep history to the moana and oceania.”

Prof Ka’ili said he had taken a lot from the discussion, or talon, and would share it with his students. “I teach cultural anthropology and we have a section about identity, section about the names of people from different parts of the of the moana nui.”

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New Zealand artist Rosanna Raymond said it was important for Pasifika peoples to have knowledge of who they are. “So you can take on the responsibility of challenging a very big Western framework that we are constantly inhabiting,” she said. “So a lot of this talanoa needs to come – not just on the pages but in the way we talk to our children and the way that we express ourselves.”

Vincente Diaz, of the University of Minnesota, agreed it was not going to be easy. “The idea that we’re all from the same place – that’s also an idea that was forced upon us by outsiders,” he said.

Diaz added, “Just like the term Pacific, it’s a kind of misnomer that is also built on certain assumptions that are just way, way off. On the other hand, we have common histories. Not only from that history of colonialism but also there’s a lot of evidence that we have shared origins – our languages.”

The professor of American Indian and Indigenous Studies said he was also hopeful such talanoa sessions would help Pacific islanders take stock and work through their difficulties. More dialogue would help them understand each other better, he said. “The two big places where that’s been happening are our own art festivals – festivals of Pacific Arts,” he said. “Over the past couple of decades, that’s been really key for people getting to know each other.

Prof. Diaz believes that Academia was still an imperfect forum but an appropriate one. “But academia has actually been the other place that has been in some ways rightfully maligned and in other ways under-appreciated. For me, my first boat out of my island was sports. But the canoe or the waka that has been the most productive, generative, stimulating has been academia,” he said.

“Two or three decades of trying to forge Pacific studies, some kind of studies that take stock of the whole region and its diversities and commonalities. There’s a lot of contradictions. And a forum like this is struggling to keep apace with those contradictions.”

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Pacific Culture to Aid Science to Save Oceans

Recently, a United Nations (UN) regional meeting concluded in Noumea, New Caledonia, with the aim of providing Pacific solutions to the issue of ocean conservation. This meeting was the first of nine global meetings on the UN’s so-called ‘Decade of the Ocean’.  The head of the United Nations body responsible for ocean conservation believes that indigenous Pacific knowledge can help define the science needed to save the ocean.

Vladimir Ryabinin, from the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, spoke at the conclusion of the meeting and expressed his opinion that it is important for Pacific’s traditional knowledge to help establish conservation science. “Traditional Knowledge for us would be the way to gauge the usefulness of scientific solutions and then also transform the solutions into something that is useful, really useful,” he said.

This global meeting followed a recent UN assessment concluding that the ocean is failing, with an increase in temperature and acidity negatively impacting fish stocks and biodiversity. It said the world has until 2030 to prevent collapse.

Jens Kruger, who is the Pacific Community’s Manager of Ocean Affairs, said that Pacific culture is the biggest regional theme to unify the science to save the world’s oceans. Mr. Kruger said he expected “capacity building and the transfer of marine technology” to be the strongest “cross-cutting” themes during the UN meeting on the so-called Decade of the Ocean in New Caledonia, but this is wrong.

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Funafuti Lagoon, Tuvalu

Pacific scientists, government representatives, NGOs and academics recently met in Noumea, New Caledonia,  for the first of nine meetings around the world to discuss scientific solutions to save the oceans.

A recent UN report concluded the world’s oceans are failing and we have until 2030 to prevent collapse. Mr Kruger said it was clear the indigenous Pacific voice has something unique to bind the scientific solutions to save the oceans. “We talked a lot about culture and bringing culture into our deliberations around ocean science. We need to be consistent and united in that message that culture is a cross-cutting issue when it comes to reversing the decline in ocean health,” he said.

A Pacific youth representative said her generation will be the region’s leaders in efforts to reverse the decline of the ocean. The Pacific Youth Council’s Tyler-Rae Chung said the coming decade provides the region’s youth the opportunity to make bold decisions for the future.

Ms Chung noted that the upcoming generation of scientists need to start thinking about the future they want for their ocean. “And I’m looking forward to seeing more young people being able to push forward and to going back into our nations and in our little pockets of communities and just talking up, talking about the decade before it actually happens and how they can be involved,” she said.

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Vanuatu’s Right to Information Law Update

Good news. One of Vanuatu’s leading journalists says the right to information law has contributed to an air of openness in the country.

The Right to Information Act was passed two years ago and will be extended to cover all government departments from August. Over the coming months all departments and agencies will have to give information they hold, if requested.

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Bird’s eye view of Port Vila, Vanuatu

Dan McGarry of the Vanuatu Daily Post said government bodies have been more forthcoming with information since the law came in. “If we’re having a conversation and we find somebody was not necessarily being forthcoming, it’s useful for us to say ‘so is your department under the RTI already or is it coming?’ or ‘when is it coming?’, just to bring that awareness back into the conversation that information is meant to be available to the public unless there’s a good reason to withhold it. So for that we’re really quite happy and I think the government is to be commended for having enacted this.”

A recent article on the travel expenses of a ministry head would not have been possible without the improved air of openness, he said. “We’ve actually got people within the administrative bodies in government coming forward with this kind of information rather than waiting until we dig it out.”

Mr McGarry said the paper also plans to test out the law with formal requests. “The problem is it is extremely time consuming, it almost necessarily will involve expense and we’re a very limited media organisation.”

The law will be extended to cover not only government departments but also statutory bodies like the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs, the National Council of Women and the Ombudsman’s Office.

As a reminder, under the Act, government agencies and relevant private entities are required to “publish and disseminate an initial statement of its organization in each official language,” with the statement to include certain types of listed information, and to update that information every six months. (Id. cl. 6(1) & (2).) In addition, they must “publish all relevant facts, important policies or decisions which affect the public,” provide reasons for certain decisions, and publish information related to tenders and finalized contracts. (Id.cl. 6(3).)

The Act also obligates the government to publish information regarding its functions and activities, including:

(a) laws, rules or guidelines applicable to elections; and

(b) electoral rolls for public inspection; and

(c) the broadcast of sessions of Parliament across Vanuatu; and

(d) transcripts of parliamentary proceedings; and

(e) copies of all Bills and subsidiary legislation; and

(f) terms of reference, submissions and final reports of Parliamentary Committees; and

(g) Court decisions.  (Id. cl. 7(1).)

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New Samoan Language App

Radio New Zealand ran an interesting article that I would like to share. It was about how Samoan pre-schoolers on New Zealand’s South Island have turned language learning into a game using a smartphone application they helped develop and design.

The O Luga o le Motu Samoan Language App, which translates to On Top Of The Island, was produced by the Tine o Tasi Centre – a bilingual Samoan early childhood education provider with pre-schools in Christchurch and Dunedin.

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During the Samoan Language Week the director of the center Saul Luamanuvae-Su’a said the App promotes the language, culture and identity with the tamaiti. “We were prompting our children to just get an idea of what reminded them of Samoa,” he said. “Get them to describe the item, say it in Samoan and some of the kids didn’t know what that was. They were using each other as information tools. They are able to support each other and we were able to take these children to record studios to record all of the content that you hear on it.”

Mr Luamanuvae-Su’a said the iPhone App – launched last year – presents a series of pictures of life and items found in Samoa with scrambled letters under each picture. “Children are required to match the audio and the picture correctly to progress to the next level,” he said. “This App also teaches the children about digital technology.”

“What is even more remarkable and creative is the lead role they played in the development and design of the App, with their voices used for the words and songs,” Luamanuvae-Su’a said. “This gave the pre-schoolers a sense of ownership, empowerment and pride in themselves and their achievements.”

Mr Luamanuvae-Su’a said the centre partnered with firm Kiwa Digital to create the application. “Bryan Field is an illustrator from Kiwa Digital. He interpreted the ideas of our pre-schoolers to create the final designs that appear in the app,” he explained.

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