Preserving Archives at Risk

Last week the latest issue of the International Council on Archives (ICA) Flash newsletter was published. There was a very interesting article titled, “Current Issues in Archives: Preserving Archives at Risk” that I would like to share, especially to all those who do not have access to the newsletter. The article was written by Abilyn Pua’ara Hou of the National Archives of the Solomon Islands…


Brandon Oswald and Abilyn Pua’ara Hou at the ICA Conference, Yaounde, Cameroon. Photo courtesy of Abilyn Pua’ara Hou and the International Council on Archives

Current Issues in Archives: Preserving Archives at Risk

My name is Abilyn Pua’ara Hou. I am one of the New Professionals for 2018, and I work as a senior digitization officer at the National Archives of Solomon Islands. My experiences and reflections are based on Brandon Oswald’s presentation at the ICA Yaoundé Conference: “Combating Climate Change the Traditional Way: Pacific
Island Archives and the Fight to Protect Their Cultural Heritage”. Oswald discussed how archives in the Pacific region protect their cultural heritage from adverse effects from climate change, and intentionally mentioned that other archives worldwide can also utilize some of the ideas brought in his presentation.

Solomon Islands is one of the countries in the Pacific where climate is not consistent.
Being in a tropical area, it is usually hot and humid all year round. This means archival documents and archive building are always at risk during wet weather and also during hot seasons.

The National Archives of Solomon Islands building is situated near a stream and located facing a dusty road. So, during the rainy season the stream rises up and
cause flooding in the area and sometimes reaches the floor of the building. During the hot season, there is dust coming into the building including into repository as well. There are other contributing risk factors such as electricity and water. In
my country utilities are very expensive; government has been spending millions
of dollars on these for its ministries and departments. Having an unreliable source
of electricity means our records are at risk for mold (the repository depends entirely
on air conditioners to keep the environment suitable to preserve the documents). Water rationing also causes risk; when tap water has been turned off and then on, it can cause damage to records. We experienced this in 2009.

Brandon strongly stated that of the many concerns that pose a threat to the culture of Pacific Islanders, climate change especially (in the form of rising sea levels) has been currently sitting at the top of the list. My reflection on the presentation as a
Pacific Islander is that we must become more proactive to deal with climate change
threats. Our lessons learned could provide inspiration for others who are affected by the same threats around the globe. What inspires me most was the interim and long-term protection that Brandon mentioned in his presentation on the climate change and Pacific Islands Archives. He stated it takes a while for archival professionals in the region to acquire an understanding and the interest in addressing the threats of climate changes on their archives.

In my experience, our government has been supportive towards our archives department to address issues that affect the building and to secure the archive from water threat and other hazards (cf illustration). The National Archives of Solomon islands has done many basic things like boxing and shelving records as part of their assessment towards climate change, to preserve the records in their repository. There were international helpers from outside institutions and individuals who came in with great ideas and developed the National Archives of Solomon Islands to a next standard in this century. A digitization project has also been implemented to digitize records that are fragile and at high risk. But we are still learning about digital archiving.

We are prioritizing the records that are most at risk. But, we plan to records while they are still in good condition as well; before they are at risk of environmental hazards.

Being part of the ICA New Professionals meant I was one of the first ever participants from the National Archives of Solomon Islands and indeed I am filled with great honor and privilege to experience the opportunity of sharing and being part of the international archives communities and people who have heart for our profession. I have attended many sessions during the conference in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and listened to great presentations from archivists and professionals who have been in the field for years.

I got to know these professionals, and grew more in knowledge of archiving and managing of archives. Hearing their stories of how well they developed an understanding of archive since manual based archiving to digital archiving developed has challenged me to decide which system is the best to manage records in this technological world and to determine which system will be the best to combat the risk of climate change in the region.

Lastly, I would like to thank Brandon Oswald for the great presentation that really challenges other archives to be more active in combating climate change and fight to protect their archives from climate change risk, while also showing how the Pacific Islanders utilize traditional knowledge and practices in the safekeeping of their collections.

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American Samoan Dance Group Celebrates 20 Years

Le Taupou Manaia (LTM) is a recognized name in entertainment not just in American Samoa, but Samoa, New Zealand, Hawaii and parts of the US where the group has toured. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Le Tapupou Manaia who celebrated with a 20th anniversary bash at the Tradewinds Pavilion in Pago Pago, American Samoa, last month. The group honored all of its former students, parents, friends and families who have helped the school over the years.

Established in 1999 in American Samoa with its mission statement: “Promoting Fa’aSamoa Preservation Through the Next Generation”, what sets Le Taupou Manaia apart from the rest is “Siva Fa’aTaupou” or “Samoa’s Princess Dance”. The group did this through the siva (traditional Samoan dance), teaching girls from an early age the proper dance movements and the meaning of songs and their proper portrayal in the form of siva. Since its formation, LTM has taught over 5,000 young tama’itai Samoa on the Siva-Fa’a-Taupou.


LTM has sister groups in Orange County, California; Apia, Samoa; and soon to be – Auckland, New Zealand, where they will travel to launch on March 30, 2019 at Malaeola Community Center, in Mangere – a combined Tour with Le Taupou Manaia, Samoa and California.

One of the feats of the group is it’s the only one from American Samoa to win the siva competition at the Annual Teuila Festival in Samoa; this was in 2004. Also, in 2004 the Mayor of Carson, California presented a Certificate of Appreciation following a Cultural Exchange with Carson City Art Center. In 2005 the dance group represented the Samoan community in Hawaii during the State of Hawaii’s 100th year (Centennial Celebration). The Mayor of Hawaii declared July 8th in Hawaii “ LE TAUPOU-MANAIA DAY.”

Throughout the month of March 2019 the dance group went on a tour of New Zealand. They performed at the annual Pasifika Festival, Auckland War Memorial Museum; visited colleges in NZ and performed there – Baradene, Epson, Carmel, Mangere and Avondale. They also collaborated and exchanged with Pacific Dance New Zealand Dance Studio under the direction of Sefa Enari, and Leleiga O Aiga (LOA) from Honolulu, Hawaii, another dance group that participated in The Pasifika Festival, under the direction of ‘MANUSAMOA” Henry Andrew Sataraka.

LTM would like to honor and appreciate all of its former students, parents, friends, and families that have helped the school in many ways, over the years. Most especially, Le Taupou-Manaia’s choreographer, and co-founder, the late Solipo ‘Shevon” Matai and family; the late Adeline Pritchard Jones, the late Meleke Bolwes, and the late Tausalamasina Malietoa.

Congratulations to everyone!

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The ‘Ori Tahiti

Late last year French Polynesia had advanced its bid to make the ‘ori tahiti traditional dance part of UNESCO’s world heritage. A government delegation has visited Paris for talks with the French culture ministry, which is to vet and support the application. French Polynesia’s assembly approved a resolution to endorse the campaign, and a decision on what applications France will submit to UNESCO will be made by the French President Emmanuel Macron.

Sadly, this past February the French Polynesia’s bid to make the ‘ori tahiti traditional dance part of UNESCO’s world heritage suffered a setback. Emmanuel Macron had decided against endorsing the bid when Paris next submits its applications to UNESCO.

During a debate about French overseas territories, Mr Macron said in the next round of France’s submissions he would support a project from Martinique, which wants to make its traditional sailing boats part of world heritage.

A little about ‘ori tahiti…

‘Ori Tahiti, which is the literal translation for “Tahitian dance”, is an original artistic expression rooted in ancient traditions, from which we ignore almost everything.

Originally, Ori Tahiti was the art movement of a civilization that depended solely on oral tradition. The only element of this art that has survived centuries of turbulent history is the direct and intimate link between oral language and dance movement.

The dance is an art that is often illustrated under the mythical image of the Polynesian Woman, Vahine, as perceived as one of the most sensual image of femininity and beauty. This rich history is not what the audience remembers and rather they tend to focus on the characteristic movements of the dance, the costumes, the music, the percussions, and the joy of dancing.

Two centuries ago, the Missionaries from the London Missionary Society arrived in Tahiti and described the Tahitian dance Ori Tahiti as satanic and obscene. During that time, Tahitian dance Ori Tahiti was forbidden. In 1819, the Pomare Code (laws code) prohibited all dances, songs and cultural entertainment.

It’s only in 1880 during the French National Day on July 14th that all traditional festivities were finally allowed and named under the festival called, “Tiurai.”

Today, the evolution of steps in Tahitian dance can be associated to the spiritual and cultural colonization of Polynesia, the pursuit of tropical resort tourism in place of cultural tourism, the accelerated development of Polynesian society in 1960s, and the lifestyle changes that came as a direct result of these developmental alterations.

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Lizard and Crocodile

Have you ever wondered how crocodiles and dolphins came to be? Well in Papua New Guinea there’s a legend that will tell us, as well as it will tell us how the two became enemies. The legend can be found in the book, The Turtle and the Island.


Lizard and Crocodile

Long ago along the great Sepik River Oxy, the lizard-man, lived at the mouth of the river. He was lonely, and so he made friends with Sombi, the long-nosed dolphin-man. They lived together in a house Oxy had built and spent their days happily. Sombi would go fishing in the river while Oxy hunted inland; they had plenty of food, and enjoyed each other’s company.

Then, one day, the two friends heard that a contest was to be held to choose the most handsome young man in the district. The winner would marry a beautiful young woman who belonged to the Bird-of-Paradise tribe. Both Oxy and Sombi wanted to enter the contest, but Oxy laughed and laughed at the long-nosed Sombi. “You would never win the contest!” he told him. “No one with such a long nose as yours would be chosen as the most handsome young man in the district!”

Sombi was hurt by his friend’s words and felt sad. However, he did not protest and agreed that Oxy should be the only one to enter the contest. But still those cruel words lay in his mind.

The day before the contest, Oxy asked Sombi to help him to decorate his body. “What shall we use?” Oxy asked. “We have no feathers, no paint, no oil to make my skin glisten and gleam.”

“We can use shells from the sea,” Sombi said. “I will gather lots of shells and stick them all over your body, and then you will look very handsome indeed.”

“A good idea!” Oxy agreed.

Sombi went down to the place where the river met the sea, and gathered a basketful of shells. But instead of choosing the most beautifully shaped and colored shells, he picked up the plainest and dullest he could find; for now his hurt and sadness had turned to bitterness and anger, and he was determined to pay back Oxy for his cruel words. Using a paste made from the thick black mud of the river bank, Sombi stuck those shells all over Oxy’s body.

Lizard and Crocodile (Papua New Guinea)

“Lizard and Crocodile,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2019.

“You look magnificent!” Sombi declared. As there was no pool of clear water anywhere near where Oxy might have seen his own reflection, the lizard-man did not realize that Sombi was deceiving him. For, in truth, he looked hideous, covered all over with knobby, misshapen shells in dull colors of brown and grey and muddy-green.

Straight away Oxy journeyed to the village of the Bird-of-Paradise tribe, and the next day he took his place among the other young men assembled for the contest. But the villagers were angry when they saw him; they thought he had come to mock them by making himself look as ugly as possible. “Go away!” they yelled, and threw sticks and stones at him, chasing him into the bush.

Oxy fled home, and when he got there, he attacked Sombi. “How dare you deceive me!” he cried. “You made me ugly instead of handsome! You- you long nosed one! You are no longer my friend!”

They fought long and hard, those two friend who had now become enemies; it was not long before Sombi felt his strength ebbing, and so he ran away to the sea, where he swam out across the water and turned into a dolphin. And forever that day he lived in the sea.

Then Oxy tried to remove the shells from his body, but he found they were stuck so fast to his skin that it was impossible to do so. So he hid himself in the muddy shallows of the Sepik River, for he was ashamed of his ugliness. And there he stayed forever and ever. He had turned into a crocodile, and to this day all crocodiles tend to hide whenever they see a man, or a group of people; and if people come to near, the crocodile will attack them.

Moreover, crocodiles and dolphins have remained enemies ever since that time, and stay out of each other’s way.

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Lei of Peace

Last week a very interesting and poignant article was written by Tom Furley for Radio New Zealand about how a Hawaiian delegation had gifted a mile-long lei to the city of Christchurch in the wake of the terrorist attack.

Almost 8000 kilometers from home, the six delegates from Hawaii stood in front of four plastic bins on the border of Hagley Park – directly opposite Al Noor Mosque where 42 people were killed. Inside the bins sat eight sections of lei – one for each mosque, the hospital, police, St John ambulance, Victim Support, Ngai Tahu, and one for the city of Christchurch.

The gesture began after the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, and has been repeated following other tragedies like the Parkland and Las Vegas shootings.

Lei of Aloha for World Peace delegate Robert DeVinck said it took 300 volunteers three days to weave together 14 truckloads of ti leaves. “These tragic situations, people need hugs around the world and a reminder that after seeing the face of evil, seeing hatred in such fashion, they need to be reminded that the majority of the world wants to do something to comfort them, to bring love and peace to them. Most people understand a lei is usually a ring of flowers, usually very fragrant flowers like tuber roses that you give to someone as a greeting, as a sign of love,” he said.

After being presented, the lei was held above waist height in the hands of the Muslim community, including Muslim Association of Canterbury president Shagaf Khan, Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, representatives from Ngai Tahu, emergency services, as well as members of the public there to watch.

“During the time they’re weaving this, they’re giving their mana, their spirit and their love into this lei,” Mr DeVinck said. “So as I was holding it just now I was thinking of all the volunteers that have brought their mana, their love and their compassion in that lei from the island where I live.”

St John District operations manager Wally Mitchell stood holding the lei alongside his ambulance and police colleagues. “It’s very moving to be given the opportunity to be a part of this coming together of people, not just from around the country, but around the world. It’s a show of love and connection that’s second to none – I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like that. Definitely not in New Zealand previously.”


Lei of Peace Gifted to Christchurch, New Zealand, photo from

A little about leis…

Leis are traditional Hawaiian flower necklaces given as a sign of welcoming and to show affection. Hawaiian flower leis are made of beautiful and colorful blossoms found in Hawaii. Green Maile Ti Leaf Leis – Ti Leaf Leis symbolize admiration, appreciation and respect. Ti leaf leis are often used as gifts for weddings, graduations, anniversaries and memorials.

The lei-giving custom was first observed by Captain Cook in 1779, though this tradition is believed to date back to at least several centuries before this sighting. Originally, the design and wearing of a lei was meant to symbolize the wearer’s social rank, which was reflected in both the type of flower used and how the lei was woven. Today, leis are frequently worn by Hawaii’s most important public figures, such as the governor, particularly for important public appearances and on holidays.

Leis are a popular Hawaiian gift not only for special occasions but also as a symbol of respect, love, welcoming, or appreciation. Though lei ceremonies have typically been reserved for important occasions, today leis can represent many different meanings, and are seen at nearly every public gathering, for nearly any reason, throughout the islands. Many visitors even receive a lei when they arrive to Hawaii on vacation. They are said to represent the “spirit of aloha,” which can mean several different feelings, including a greeting, farewell, hope, joy, or love. A lei created from beautiful flowers is meant to represent a non-verbal expression of aloha.


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The Wallis and Futuna Language Academy

I don’t often write about the island nation of Wallis and Futuna, so when an article appeared on the Radio New Zealand Website about the country, I got really excited. Earlier this month it is was reported that an academy promoting the languages of Wallis and Futuna has been officially opened by the visiting French overseas minister Annick Girardin.

Girardin visited Wallis and Futuna for five days, which was reportedly the longest stay in the territory of any French minister. She was given a large welcome by political and customary leaders as well as school children when she arrived from French Polynesia.

The academy, which will be run by Malia Laufoa’ulu, is tasked with modernizing the language and adopting new words. It also hopes to contribute to teaching the local Polynesian languages in schools.

It plans to offer language courses by correspondence and in conjunction with the University of New Caledonia, create a diploma in vernacular languages.

The minister said efforts have to be made to maintain Wallisian and Futunian as living languages for all generations. France only recognizes French as the official language of its territories.


Where is Wallis and Futuna? Map courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

A little about Wallis and Futuna…

Wallis and Futuna is a group of three volcanic tropical islands—Wallis Island (Uvea), Futuna Island, and Alofi Island—with fringing reefs located in the South Pacific Ocean between Fiji and Samoa. The Wallis Archipelago is the most populated of the island group and comprises a main island and about 20 smaller islands and islets. The main island, Wallis (Uvea), is hilly and dotted with numerous lake-filled craters surrounded by steep cliffs. The Futuna Archipelago consists of two mountainous islands, Futuna (Hooru) and Alofi.

The total population of the territory at the 2003 census was 14,944 (67.4 percent on the island of Wallis, 32.6 percent on the island of Futuna).

Archaeological excavations in Wallis have uncovered sites dating back to 1400 B.C.E. The Tongans arrived in the fifteenth century and took possession of the island after battles that have become legendary. Wallis emerged from the Early Tongan Maritime Empire in the 1500s.

Futuna and Alofi were sighted by two Dutch navigators, Jakob Lemaire and Willem Cornelis Schouten, in 1616. British explorer Samuel Wallis visited Wallis in 1767. The French were the first Europeans to settle in the territory, when missionaries arrived in 1837, and converted the population to Catholicism.

On April 5, 1842, the missionaries asked France for protection after part of the local population rebelled. In 1917, the three traditional chiefdoms were annexed to France and turned into the Colony of Wallis and Futuna. Today, the territory has been a French overseas collectivity since 2003. Between 1961 and 2003, it had the status of an overseas territory.

The culture of Wallis and Futuna is typically Polynesian, with strong emphasis on marriage and extended families centered on the church. The kava bowl and tapa cloth are important symbols of culture. Kava is drunk both ritually and secularly in Futuna. The kava bowl is used to honor chiefs and the existing hierarchy. Tapa cloth is made by women from the bark of the breadfruit tree for exchange at rituals that draw extended families together. The music of Wallis and Futuna has a rich tradition, and is overwhelmingly Polynesian in form. Traditional music is taught by specialists called “mâau.





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Preventing Cultural Appropriation in PNG

Earlier this year Radio New Zealand ran an article about how a law reform was being considered by Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) police minister that would ensure local culture is protected from misappropriation. This occurred after widespread outcry against a Chinese clothing brand which used photos shot in East New Britain Province, involving people in traditional tribal dress.


The minister, Jelta Wong, said an investigation was underway into how the company was allowed into the region. The government and the local traditional council were also discussing how to enshrine protections to prevent future incidents, Mr Wong said. “There needs to be more regulations and a proper demarcation of what is allowed and what is not allowed,” he said.

“And that’s where we’ve failed in the past to put across and we’re finally realizing the power of social media and world news and everything and it’s just blown out of proportion, Mr. Wong continued.

Tolai Tumbuan society had been misused and misappropriated by the company, Shanghai-based Icicle Fashion Group, which could “spill over into violence”, Mr Wong warned. Icicle has not responded to requests for comment.

In a letter which circulated online, a company representative told a concerned citizen that Icicle was “very much attached to cultural preservation”. The letter said the company had been authorized to use images for the campaign by the East New Britain Tourism Authority.

In February the Tourism Authority issued a statement calling for all advertising involving Tolai Tumbuan masks to be taken down. “The Tumbuan society is a very sacred and respected culture in our province,” authority chair Douglas Pidi said in a statement. “What has transpired over the last few days has demeaned the Tumbuan society.”


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