Arts and Cultural Center Breaks Ground in Samoa

Recently Neferititi Matatia of the Samoa Observer wrote an article about the groundbreaking ceremony that took place a couple of weeks ago at the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture compound for the China-Samoa Friendship Park and Arts and Culture Center.

Present to witness this milestone for Samoa was Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the Secretary of the Communist Party of China’s Huizhou Municipal Committee, Chen Yiwei, and China’s Ambassador to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng. Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the project is funded by the city of Huizhou, Guangdong Province. “The site of the arts and cultural center covers a land area of 9,224 square meters and a total floor area of 4,375 square meters. We will now have a center which will house the national treasures of our culture and heritage, a venue for performing arts and orchestra, an art shop, exhibition space for and a restaurant,” he said.

Minister Tuilaepa also believes that the friendship park located at the Eleele-Fou covers a land area of 41,000 square meters that will provide an outdoor performance space, open sports field, an ecological garden, dining area and a playground for children. He said, “The friendship park complements the Waterfront Development Project undertaken by the Government of Samoa, New Zealand and other partners. We look forward to the ‘new face’ for Apia in the coming months.”


Town center, Apia, Samoa

Tuilaepa expressed his gratitude to the Chinese Government, through the help of Huizhou City. “We appreciate the significant contribution by Huizhou by making these two projects a reality. We take this opportunity to acknowledge with appreciation other ways through which Huizhou City is assisting, namely through the e-teaching platform equipment to the education sector, the computer laboratory for Samoa College, Guangdong (Huizhou) Scholarship Fund for secondary students around the country and the medical equipment and supplies provided for the hospitals in Samoa,” he said.

Tuilaepa continued, “We have seen improvements in our infrastructural landscape, increased opportunities or capacity building both short and long term, the deployment of technical experts areas which China has the comparative advantage and in the construction and maintenance of Samoa’s sports facility.”

The Prime Minister also highlighted his confidence with the support of the Government of China for the Pacific Games in 2019. He said, “With the assistance of the Chinese Government, Samoa continues to boast high quality sporting facilities, which have no doubt contributed to Samoa’s recent successful bid to host the upcoming Pacific Games in 2019.”

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International Museum Day 2018

Happy International Museum Day!

Today, May 18, the worldwide community of museums will celebrate International Museum Day. The theme for this year’s festivities is “Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics.” In 2017 International Museum Day garnered record-breaking participation with more than 36,000 museums hosting events in 157
countries and territories.


The Robert Louis Stevenson House and Museum, Vailima, Samoa

Here’s the official press release from the International Council of Museums (ICOM):

Hyperconnectivity is a term invented in 2001 to design the multiple means of
communication we have today, such as face-to-face contact, email, instant
messaging, telephone or the Internet. This global network of connections
becomes each day more complex, diverse and integrated. In the hyperconnected
world of today, museums join the trend. This is the reason why the International
Council of Museums has chosen the theme “Hyperconnected museums:
New approaches, new publics” for the International Museum Day 2018.
It is impossible to understand the role of museums without taking into account all
the connections they make. They are an inherent part of their local communities,
their cultural landscape and their natural environment. Thanks to technology,
museums can now reach way beyond their core audience and find new publics
when approaching their collections in a different way: it can be the digitization
of their collections, adding multimedia elements to the exhibition or something
as simple as a hashtag that allows visitors to share their experience in social

However, not all these new connections are due to technology. As museums
strive to maintain their relevance in society, they shift their attention to the local
community and the diverse groups that make it up. As a result, these past
years we have witnessed the birth of countless common projects organised
by museums with the collaboration of minorities, indigenous peoples and local
institutions. To engage these new publics and strengthen their connections
with them, museums must find new ways of interpreting and presenting their
We invite cultural institutions of all types around the world to join in this celebration
and shift their approach to their collections by exploring all the connections that
tie them to their communities, cultural landscape and natural environment.

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Tangaroa Creates the Great Shell of the World- Tahiti

In the Polynesian culture the sea is often considered to be the source and foundation of all life, and Tangaroa is known as the god of the sea. Because he has the status as “supreme creator god,” many stories were told about him. Here is a Tahitian legend that shows how Tangaroa created the earth and all living things from within his shell…

Tangaroa Creates the Great Shell of the World

In Tahiti, Tangaroa is the ancestor of all gods. He dwelled in the realm of darkness, for there was no light. There was nothing at all, just Tangaroa and the shell in which he lived. For an infinite stretch of time, Tangaroa lived in blackness. There was no moon pulling the tides. There was no water and no land. No trees or crabs or waving wands of soft coral. There was no salty taste in your mouth after swimming because there was no water, not salt, and no you. There were no people, or fish, rats or roosters. There were no sand-fleas or coconuts or black-tipped sharks. There was nothing.

This is how it was until Tangaroa turned over in his shell, causing the great shell to crack. He turned again. The great shell fell open. He stepped out of the darkness and called out: “Who is there up above me?” Silence was his only answer.

“Who is below me?” Again, there was no answer.

“Who is there in front of me? Who is there behind me?” Still, there was only silence. Tangaroa felt something growing deep within him, a feeling of great anger.

“Rocks!” he cried out. “Come to me!” But there were no rocks, so nothing came.

“Sand!” he yelled. “Crawl to my feet and lay yourself down!” There was no sand.

“Wind,” he roared. “Blow sand to me.” But there was no wind. Only a great, empty silence.

Tangaroa, the divine one, was angry at this disobedience. He lifted up the enormous shell in which he had dwelled for so very long. Slowly he turned the heavy shell over. The round unbroken half became a dome and was now the sky. Tangaroa named Rumia, the Overturned.

After that, Tangaroa rested. But he grew restless and tired of being alone. He took another huge shell and smashed it into pieces. It formed millions of rocks and tiny grains of sand.

Still, silence filled the world. The great Tangaroa needed something to command. So he reached inside his own body and drew forth his backbone. He threw it onto the shell fragments that had turned to rock and sand. It became a majestic mountain range. His ribs were still attached to the backbone. They became the ridges, cliffs, and hills that towered over the sand.

Tangaroa reached back inside himself and pulled out his inner organs. He flung them into the sky-dome. They became the white clouds that float overhead. Sometimes they fill with water, as they did inside Tangaroa, and rain down upon the land.

Tangaroa Creates the Great Shell of the World (Tahiti)

“Tangaroa Creates the Great Shell of the World,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2018.

Then he used his raw, red flesh to bring richness and fertility to the earth that plants and animals could grow upon it. His legs and arms made the world solid, so it would hold together and not slide off into the sea. One by one he plucked out his fingernails and toenails. These he offered to the fishes and shell-creatures for scaly skin and houses for the crabs.

This god wore feathers like a bird. He plucked his feathers to make the breadfruit and the pandanus. He made all the plants whose tops are green and whose roots drink water from the land. Then he pulled out his long intestines, long, wet armfuls! From these he made eels and shrimps and spiny lobsters, which live in fresh streams and the salty ocean.

Tangaroa worked so hard to make the world that his blood ran hot. His body had become an open cave after all these gifts he had offered, so his blood spilled out and floated away. Some went up into the sky and made the sunsets and sunrises glow red. Some hid in the clouds to become rainbows after a storm. All that is now red was made from Tangaroa’s blood that floated away that day.

Tangaroa’s head remained on his body. He had made the world and yet he lived on. From that time forth, everything became ripe and fertile. The world grew and grew.

Next, Tangaroa called upon the other gods to come dwell in the heavens and the earth with him. Finally, when the world was ready and the gods had come, he made human beings.

In the beginning of the world, there was a shell. A shell is an endless, curved space. Inside, the gods put our sun, our moon, the planets that burn red in the night sky, and all the shining stars in all the heavens.

Think of it: the land is a shell that holds up the streams running over it. It is a shell for the animals that walk across it and the plants whose roots dig into it. The shell of a man is woman, since man is born of woman. The shell of a woman is woman, for only within her flesh can another woman take form. Inside a shell there is life. Waiting in darkness, turning and turning, preparing to be born.

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The Origin of the Song, “Isa Lei”

If you have ever traveled to Fiji, you were probably very fortunate to hear the “Isa Lei” which is the beautiful traditional song of farewell that Fijians sing to departing visitors. Melodic and inspiring, its sweet notes rise in layers of hymn-like stanzas. In fact, the tune is so popular that it is not uncommon to hear it many parts of the Pacific Islands region. Although you can find different versions on YouTube, click here to listen to one cut that was made popular in the 1960’s by the Australian Folk band, The Seekers. Fijians have melodious singing voices and it is only appropriate to share a version of the song sung by the locals as well- click here for the example.

But what is the origin of this famous Fijian farewell song?

Matilda Simmons recently published an article in The Fiji Times answering this same question:

For many years, the rivalry over where this song came from had been a bone of contention between Tongans and Fijians.

One version holds that the late turaga bale na Tui Nayau, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba, composed the song in 1916 for Adi Litia Tavanavanua (1900-1983), when she visited Tubou, Lakeba, in 1916.

While the Fiji Museum revealed Uluilakeba’s manuscript showing he composed the song in 1918 while he was in training as a civil servant in Suva. Tevita Uluilakeba was the father of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the former president and prime minister of Fiji.

On January 18, 1962, The Fiji Times interviewed the Tongan Crown Prince and Premier, Prince Tungi who supported the Tongan noble, Hon Tuivakano who said the song originates from Tonga. Prince Tungi said Tuivakano — then named Siaosi Kiu — was one of a group of singers who formed part of the retinue of his father, the late Prince Tungi, consort of Queen Salote. “The singers were in some ways like the ancient troubadours,” Prince Tungi was quoted as saying. “They sang about the happenings of the day, carried messages in song, and composed words and music suitable for events as they occurred.”

When Prince Tungi’s father became engaged to Queen Salote, Tuivakano wrote a song of love in honor of the occasion. Soon after, it was said, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba, the Tui Nayau at the time, heard the song sung by the Tongan visitors to Fiji.

“The story as I have heard it,” said Prince Tungi, “is that Ratu Tevita asked Inoke Sateki, then a forestry assistant, to write Fijian words to the same tune in honor of a young woman of rank who was living in Fiji. “In Tonga the song is invariably sung with the Tongan, and then the Fijian words,” Prince Tungi added. “Only in Fiji is it sung with the Fijian words alone.”

The Tongan love song was known then as “Ise isa viola lose hina” in memory of the then Princess Salote (later Queen Salote) of Tonga.

Matters were put to rest when the late Tui Nayau himself confirmed to The Fiji Times the actual story. Over a radio telephone link from Lakeba, Lau, Ratu Tevita said the music originated from Tonga but he wrote the iTaukei words.

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The Tradition of Tongan Tapa

Tonga is well-known as one of the Islands in the Pacific to practice the art of ngatu making. From their ancestors, ngatu making has been passed down throughout the generations and it has become deeply embedded within our beautiful culture. The production of ngatu is predominantly a feminine working environment with only minor assistance from the men. The beauty of ngatu making is the various processes involved, time and patience given towards this art.

Pacific Journalist Sara Vui-Talitu wrote an article for Radio New Zealand about a mother and daughter’s efforts to rekindle the lost tradition of tapa-making in a Tongan village was celebrated as part of this year’s women’s suffrage commemorations in New Zealand.. When Sulieti Burrows and her daughter Tui Emma Gillies visited the village of Falevai on Vava’u back in 2014, it provided an incredible opportunity.

The iconic art of making tapa or ngatu had not been practiced in the village on Vava’u for several decades prior.

Tonga Map

Where is Vava’u, Tonga?

Mother Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows said they had helped revitalize tapa-making with other local women, but it also evoked childhood memories, like one of her own mother hitting the bark to make the tapa. “Actually that’s very important because that’s my village. And that is where I grew up,” Burrows said.

Burrows said when she was a child it always sounded as if people were just playing the drums. “And we went over there to do the project and it just reminded me about everything growing up, and I could see my mum sitting over there, beating.”

Tui Emma Gillies worked alongside her mother to produce large scale ngatu (tapa) while encouraging locals to replant. “At the time there were no mulberry trees growing there,” she said. “Just a place where women weaved … no tapa cloth, no mulberry trees and this long piece of wood where they make ngatu on, was just in this abandoned home. So we just pulled it out and started to use it again.”

Auckland Council’s Manager of Arts and Culture Programming Hanna Scott said she saw the pair’s proposal to have a tapa exhibition of their work from Falevai at Mangere Arts Center back in 2016, but wanted to schedule it in later. “And the reason is that this year’s program is centered on the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage,” she said. “I really enjoyed their kaupapa of mother and daughter travelling back to their home village and giving knowledge of how to make ngatu back to their traditional community and thought it had a good place in the 2018 program.”


Tongan ngatu example from

Gillies said they also included old proverbs well known in the area in their work.”Huge work up there called Falevai Moe Famili. Shows symbols of what we see Falevai to be,” she said. “It’s got women, family, the animals.” She said it also had an old proverb about a woman who used to sit opposite Falevai on a rock. “She’s actually a ghost, who used to brush her hair on the rock and men would go over to her but crash on the rock and then she’d disappear,” Gillies said.

Ms Burrows said that she had high hopes that things were still ongoing back in the village, as the duo had been given more funding to continue their work on island. “When we went over there and we came back and then we went back again, they started planting the mulberry tree over there,” she said.”But I look forward to going back this time and see if they still continue or they stop.”

The director of Pasifika at Massey University, Associate Professor Malakai Kolomatangi, agreed that ngatu is dying out in some parts of Tonga, but thankfully not all. He said while their contemporary designs may not appeal to purists of the art, he supports the art. “I agree that the art itself has to be relevant to contemporary audiences and if it is not relevant of course the art dies out,” he said. “And to adapt the motifs and designs to more contemporary tastes I think is a good thing.”


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World Intellectual Property Update

The year wouldn’t be complete without a World Intellectual Property update.

Apparently, every April 26, the world celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) play in encouraging innovation and creativity. This year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign celebrated the brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) every day women come up with game-changing inventions and life-enhancing creations that transform lives and advance human understanding from astrophysics to nanotechnology and from medicine to artificial intelligence and robotics. And in the creative sphere, whether in the movies, animation, music, fashion, design, sculpture, dance, literature, art and more, women are re-imagining culture, testing the limits of artistry and creative expression, drawing us into new worlds of experience and understanding.

The important and inspiring contributions of countless women around the globe are powering change in our world. Their “can do” attitude is an inspiration to us all. And their remarkable achievements are an invaluable legacy for young girls today with aspirations to become the inventors and creators of tomorrow.

More than ever before, women are taking up leadership roles and making their voices heard in the science, technology, business and the arts. This is great news. With women and men working together, we strengthen humanity’s hand, and improve our ability to enrich our shared cultural wealth and develop effective solutions to alleviate poverty, boost global health, and safeguard the environment.

The time is ripe to reflect on ways to ensure that increasing numbers of women and girls across the globe engage in innovation and creativity, and why this is so important. This year’s World Intellectual Property Day celebration is an opportunity to highlight how the intellectual property (IP) system can support innovative and creative women (and indeed everyone) in their quest to bring their amazing ideas to market.


Preparing a Fijian lovo (underground oven)

In other WIPO news…

WIPO has published a new toolkit titled Documenting Traditional Knowledge- A Toolkit. There is growing interest in documenting the wealth of traditional knowledge (TK) that has been developed by indigenous peoples and local communities around the world. But documenting TK can raise important issues, especially as regards to intellectual property. This Toolkit presents a range of easy-to-use checklists and other resources to help ensure that anyone considering a documentation project can address those issues effectively.

To access the toolkit simply click here. It can be downloaded in several languages.

Wipo also published a guide titled Protect and Promote Your Culture: A Practical Guide to Intellectual Property for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. Intellectual property can be a powerful tool for indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs). Used strategically, it can help you promote your own products and services, and prevent the misappropriation of your traditional knowledge and culture. This short guide explains how, with plenty of examples of IPLCs who have made the most of their intellectual property rights.

To access the guide simply click here. The guide, too, can be downloaded in several languages.

Finally, WIPO has produced a interesting 5-minute animation, telling the story of the Yakuanoi people – a fictitious indigenous community – as they navigate through the key issues regarding IP and TK.

To view the film simply click here.

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MACFest Event Outline

Last week I announced that the 2018 Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival (MACFest) had an online presence. This week the Solomon Star reported that the main program for the upcoming 6th MACFest is now available online and interested people can get a glimpse of what the festival will be like.

The National Organizing Committee (NOC) has released the program and is encouraging the public to view the main festival program online. The program with information on participating countries can be viewed on the Official Festival website by clicking here.


According to the program, performing arts dominates the event which will engage the bulk of participation and audience interest. This is the main component of the festival featuring much of the festival highlights and engaging about 80% of participants. Activities under this category range from dance to music and theater, the organizers said.

Sixty percent of activities under this category will be traditional dances, showcasing the vast cultural diversity in Melanesia.Thirty percent is in various music forms such as circular, contemporary and ethno music. The remaining ten percent consist of drama performances including creative and modern dance styles. There will also be an interactive space provided through Jam House where musicians from participating countries can interact and share with one another.

The second category is Traditional and Contemporary Arts which contains the biggest number of activities relating to both traditional and contemporary art respectively. Eighty percent of what is going to be exhibited is in traditional art form, whilst the remaining twenty percent in contemporary forms.

Traditional and Contemporary Arts range from Sculpturing & Carving, Body Ornaments & Jewelry, Weaving, Pottery, Traditional Currencies, Tattooing, Fire-Walking, Canoeing & Navigational Art, Culinary Arts, Traditional Healing and Traditional Games.

The third category is Visual Arts which include paintings on canvas, graphics, children’s’ art, Architecture, Photography and Fashion. Much of the visual arts exhibitions will be showcased at the National Arts Gallery in Honiara and the Crafts Market Center. Photography will be located at the Solomon Islands National University, whilst the Fashion shows at the Multi-Purpose Hall.

The fourth category is Literary Arts will gather writers, publishers, Poets, story tellers (oratory), historians, theater and film producers from Melanesia converging together in a week long festivity to exhibit, showcase and share their experiences with one another and their audiences. Most of the Literary Activities will held at the National Museum Auditorium, whilst Film and Oratory to be held at the Solomon Islands National University, Kukum Campus Lecture Theater.

The fifth category involves Workshops, Symposiums and Forums. There will be a ‘Melanesian Symposium’ to be held during the festival. The topic is “New Horizons – Exploring the Economics of Culture and the Potentials of the Creative Industries in Melanesia”. Other workshops and symposiums to be held during the festival include Ethno-Music Workshop, Culture & Education, Cultural Industries, ICHCAP-Pacific Young ICH Practitioners Meeting.


Honiara, Solomon Islands

Chair of the Programs and Events Sub-Committee, Dennis Marita said the Melanesian Arts & Cultural Festival has always been a show of strength and pride as a people with humongous wealth of cultural diversity and resources. “The Festival will just be another extravaganza of cultural diversity at its best which will comprise of several categories and each of these with different genres,” Mr Marita said.

The event will run from July 1- 10 in Honiara, Solomon Islands and will coincide with the country’s 40th Independence Anniversary celebrations.

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