“The Origin of Dancing”- Cook Islands

Did you ever wonder how dancing started? Well, here’s a story from the Cook Islands that will tell how the people learned to dance. The legend comes to us from the book, Tales Told in Hawaii. Enjoy!

The Origin of Dancing

When Koro was a small boy his father, Tinirau, used to go away in the night and not return for days. He never said where he went nor did he ever offer to take his son with him. Little Koro did not like this. One night Koro stayed awake and followed his father. He saw him climb a coconut tree without touching it with his chest or his left hand, throw down coconuts, husk them, scrape out the meat, and wrap it in a broad taro leaf.

Tinirau carried the coconut meat to the beach and Koro heard him chant as he scattered the coconut over the waters. Koro listened with all his mind so that he might learn the sacred words.

At the feet of Tinirau gathered the fish of the shallows, then the fish from the reef, then the monsters of the deep. “We have come to the feast, Tinirau, King of Fishes,” they cried. As the chants ended the Sacred Isle left its home at the reef and floated to the feet of the king. As Tinirau stepped upon the island half of his body, from head to foot, changed to that of a dolphin. All of the fish changed into half-human form and they put on pandanus wreaths and danced around their king, who danced with them as the Sacred Isle floated away. Koro was surprised and delighted to know that his father was king of fishes.

The Origin of Dancing (Cook Islands)

“The Origin of Dancing,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2019.

Tinirau returned in a few days wearing a fragrant pandanus lei. The next time he went away Koro followed him again, listened and watched.

Eager to see if he too had power over the fishes, Koro set out on the following night. He climbed the coconut tree as his father had done, carried the meat to the beach and chanted the sacred words as he scattered it. The small fish gathered at his feet, then the larger fish, then the monsters of the deep. Among them was Tinirau, who cried, “So you learned my secret! Come and dance in the moonlight.”

After that Koro often went with his father to the midnight dances of the fish. The people of Mangaia will tell you it was from Koro that their ancestors learned the art of dancing.

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100 Canoes by Christmas in Fiji

Last month a Radio New Zealand Pacific journalist, Sally Round, wrote an article about the aim to build 100 canoes by Christmas by one of the Pacific’s most ambitious traditional boat building projects in Fiji.  Uto ni Yalo Trust is not only reviving ancient construction and navigation techniques, it is also aiming to help remote villages ditch diesel, catch bigger fish and entice tourists to their shores. Volunteers from around the country are busy at the trust’s workshop near Suva building the craft, according to Trust Vice President Dwain Qalovaki.

Led by a traditional boat builder and furniture maker, the team has already built 22 canoes using low tech tools and materials easily accessible across the Pacific. “One of the features of the project is the fact we have living quarters above the workshop so we can host volunteers from all 14 provinces of Fiji so they can learn how to build and learn how to sail them,” Mr. Qalovaki said.


The plan is to give the canoes to people in remote villages who presently travel between islands and go out fishing on boats powered by expensive diesel. Mr. Qalovaki said, “These vessels allow them to go out a lot further and fish beyond the (marine protected) areas and allow the marine managed areas to replenish their reefs and the spill over effect is that of course you get much bigger fish.”

Also, offering rides on the traditional canoes would be a great ecotourism product and allow the benefits of tourism to trickle down to the grassroots, according to Mr Qalovaki. “Taking out tourists to areas that are considered jewels because of their rare and remote location … this is looking into the mid and the long-term resilience of our rural communities,” he said.

Mr. Qalovaki continued, “To be able to say ‘we can take you out on these traditional sailing canoes but also take you out to these marine managed areas and you’ll be able to snorkle on the reefs’ and show them Fijian hospitality all the while using this traditional mode of transport.”

Used plastic bottles are being incorporated into the construction to help buoy the boats. “Just like all the materials and all the power tools that are needed, plastic bottles are in ample supply across the region, if not on beaches, in rubbish bins,” Mr Qalovaki said.

The project addresses a wider challenge too, he said. “One of the biggest challenges now is to find a meaningful fit for these vessels in our country that’s not just tokenistic and “feel-good” … but something that can address the decarbonization of our national economies across the Pacific islands.”

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Pacific Music Awards Recognized Queen Sālote of Tonga

Last month Tonga’s late Queen Sālote Tupou lll was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Pacific Music Awards in Auckland, New Zealand. The award will be posthumously presented at the 15th awards ceremony. Queen Sālote has been described as a gifted composer who composed over 100 songs, lullabies, laments and dances.

The Pacific Music Awards Trust said it acknowledged Queen Sālote’s huge contribution to the preservation and creative use of the Tongan language and recognized her as a celebrated writer of poetry and song. The Trust said her compositions continue to inspire a new generation today.

MIT Pasifika Academic Partner, Edmond Fehoko is a proud Tongan and has enjoyed Queen Salote’s music throughout his life. “What I enjoy most about Queen Salote is how in-depth her lyrics are. She used a level of language that is not common today and we have begun attempts to bring that back. I am also amazed at the journey she went through from earlier tragedies in her life to the regal celebrations of her successful reign,” he said.

There was a special collaboration tribute to the late Queen during awards night. Queen Sālote’s grandchild, Princess ‘Ofeina ‘e he Langi Fakafānua accepted the award on her behalf. “She possessed unrivalled knowledge of genealogies, traditions of Tongan customs and a strong sense of duty and love for her people of Tonga, which also meant strong connections and responsibilities to the South Pacific region, Princess ‘Ofeina said.

Today, many Tongan performing groups, string bands and Kava circles still continue to celebrate Queen Salote’s compositions and last year’s ASB Polyfest was dedicated to showcasing works only from Her Majesty’s collection. Princess ‘Ofeina said, “Her compositions of Tongan music continue to inspire a new generation, now aware of our rich past and to our shared futures.”


Image from psv.kronprinz.de

A little about Queen Sālote…

Princess Sālote was born on 13 March 1900 in Tonga as the only child of King George Tupou II of Tonga and his second wife, Queen Lavinia. Queen Lavinia died of tuberculosis on 25 April 1902. Her father was urged to remarry in order to father a male heir, and he finally did so on 11 November 1909. He married 16-year-old Anaseini Takipō and together they had two daughters, one who died of convulsions at the age of six months and one who died of tubercular peritonitis at the age of 20.

At the age of 9, she was sent to live in Auckland in New Zealand for her education. She stayed for five years and only returned to Tonga for the Christmas holidays. It wasn’t until 1914 she was considered the heir as by now the hopes of the Queen producing a male heir were low. She married Viliami Tungī Mailefihi on 19 September 1917, and they had three children together, including the future King Tāufa‘āhau Tupou IV. She also suffered three miscarriages. His high status (he was the heir presumptive before Sālote’s birth) made the match very popular.

She succeeded her father as Queen on 5 April 1918, just barely 18 years old. Her coronation took place on 11 October of the same year. Her husband served as her prime minister from 1923 until his death in 1941. Sālote attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 in her first and only visit to Europe.

Sālote died on 16 December 1965 after a long illness. She was succeeded by her son as King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV. She was buried at Mala‘e Kula, the royal burial grounds in Tonga.

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Standardizing the National Language in Tokelau

Tokelau’s government is looking at standardizing its national language.

The changes, which were put forward at its parliamentary meeting this month, are in response to a different alphabet used in New Zealand.

Tokelau’s ulu, or leader, Kelihiano Kalolo, said there had been difficulties trying to coordinate meetings because of the language differences. “Language is very, very important for us, that’s how we express ourselves as Tokelauans. We are thinking of the future of our children who will grow up, they must grow up with … a common approach rather than having different versions.”

Kelihiano Kalolo said a working group will be tasked with establishing a new language policy.


Where is Tokelau?

A little about Tokelau…

Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand consisting of three coral atolls in the South Pacific: Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo. These atolls lie approximately mid-way between Hawaii and New Zealand and about 500 km north of Samoa. The islands are low-lying and range from 8 to 15 feet (2.4 to 4.5 metres) above sea level.

Tokelau has no harbors or ports nor does it have an airport. The best way for tourists and travelers to get to Tokelau is from Apia, Samoa, by ship, which runs every two weeks..

Formerly known as the Union Islands, the name ‘Tokelau Islands’ was adopted in 1946 and then shortened to ‘Tokelau’ in 1976. ‘Tokelau’ is Polynesian for ‘North Wind’. The people are Polynesian and are culturally and linguistically linked to Samoa. Tokelauan, a Polynesian language, is the official language, but English is widely used.

According to archaeological evidence, the islands were settled about 1000 years ago. Several hundred years of oral history remain, showing a belief in Polynesian mythology and the worship of the god Tui Tokelau.

Tokelauan society was ruled by clans. Each atoll was independent until the 18th century, when Fakaofo conquered Atafu and Nukunonu and united the three atolls. Inhabitants lived a subsistence lifestyle, relying on fish and coconuts for sustenance.

The first European visitor, in 1765, was the British commodore John Byron, who gave Atafu the name Duke of York Island. Nukunonu was sighted and named Duke of Clarence Island by Capt. Edward Edwards of HMS Pandora in 1791, while he was searching for the HMS Bounty mutineers. French-sponsored Samoan missionaries converted Nukunonu’s people to Roman Catholicism from the mid-1840s, and Samoan missionaries sponsored by the London Missionary Society reached Atafu in 1858; both groups later Christianized Fakaofo.

In 1889, the islands were claimed by Britain. They became part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Kiribati and Tuvalu) in 1916, which was then renamed the Union Group. In 1925, the islands came under the administration of New Zealand. They became a New Zealand territory in 1948. In 1976 the group was officially named Tokelau. Although Tokelau is still a territory of New Zealand, Tokelauans have developed institutions and patterns of self-government. Today, more Tokelauans live outside Tokelau than on the islands. About 6,800 live in New Zealand.


Flag of Tokelau

The Tokelauan Flag…

Tokelau’s Flag depicts a Tokelauan canoe sailing towards the manu (Southern Cross).  The canoe symbolizes Tokelau’s journey towards finding the best governance structure for its people; the Southern Cross symbolizes a navigational aid for the journey.  The Southern Cross has helped Tokelauan fishermen navigate the waters around Tokelau for centuries while they have fished to sustain families and villages with its riches.

The white stars of the Southern Cross are a symbol of Christianity, an important part of everyday life in Tokelau.  White also signifies the cooperation and unity among the atolls of Tokelau and a shared aspiration to secure a better life for Tokelauans.  Yellow signifies a happy, peaceful community.  Blue signifies the ocean on which Tokelauans depend for their livelihood and is also the color of the sky which holds the stars that direct Tokelau’s people.

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Malekula to Host 4th National Arts Festival

The Vanuatu Daily Post recently reported that Chairman of the National Arts Festival, Chief Owen Rion Lapuenmal of Litzlitz Village, has called on the people of Malekula, Vanuatu, to wake up to the reality that they are going to host the National Arts Festival for a week in August.

The Festival will be hosted at Wilkin’s Stadium at Lakatoro.

Looking ahead the Chairman urges the young people of Malekula to capitalize on the event to learn their customs again which have stopped being used after the chiefs that practiced them died.

Chief Papuenmal reminds the people of Malekula that throughout the centuries, Malekula has always been the highly cultural back bone of the islands and it is important that the generation of today uphold the image.

“We the people of Malekula are pleased with the theme to preserve and promote our customs to live again, I wish to invite the people of Malekula to attend the event with their families to help their children to learn the tamtam beats, sing the songs and dance the dances”, he says.

“And to all tour operation companies, my message to the tourists who want to visit Vanuatu to attend the Festival, that they are ‘most welcome’!”


Where is Malekula, Vanuatu? Map from ethnobiomed.biomedcentral.com

Daily Post writer, Terence Malapa, wrote that preparations for the 4th National Arts Festival (NAF) are progressing well. The NAF is a celebration of Vanuatu’s unique and diverse cultural heritage. It has been held three times since its initiation in 1979 when the first festival was held in Port Vila.

So far, it has been hosted in Santo in 1991 and in Port Vila again in 2009 when chiefs of Malekula took the ‘stick faea’ to host the 4th Arts Festival. Preliminary talks commenced in 2018, when the Director of the VanuatuCultural Centre (VCC), Richard Shing visited Malekula on Malampa Day and informed them of the plan to have the festival in 2019.

A recent visit to Malekula on the 18th of March 2019 by VCC Director Richard Shing, members of the NAF Steering committee, the assistant events coordinator and some members of the sub committees advanced the preparations. They met with the Malampa Provincial Government and the Malmetenvanu Council of Chiefs, and established counterpart committees who would work with those in Port Vila to help with the Festival logistics. The meeting with the Malmetenvanu Council of Chiefs was purposely to seek their blessing and support for the national festival.

Vanuatu is considered one of the most diverse cultural nations in the world with more than 130 languages but with a population that is lower than 300,000.

The festival looks at trying to promote this cultural diversity by bringing different cultures from across Vanuatu to participate for one week, sharing traditional knowledge and skills and highlighting different aspects of culture including weaving, custom dances, ceremonies, traditional food preparation/preservation/production, 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.

“The 4th National Arts Festival is an event where cultural institutions and relevant stakeholders combine efforts to promote Vanuatu’s rich and diverse cultural heritage,” Director Shing said.

“It is an event where traditional cultural practitioners throughout Vanuatu can showcase important traditional knowledge that have sustained and maintained livelihood for many millennia, and in line with the theme of “Holem Taet, Praktisim mo Promotem Kastom Save”.

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International Archives Week 2019



In the past we celebrated International Archives on a single day, which was June 9. This year we are celebrating International Archives for an entire week, June 3-9, 2019! Below is a message from the International Council on Archives (ICA) President, David Fricker. Don’t forget to check-out the international map, blog and social media platforms. There’s a lot going on!

Our opportunity to collect our ideas, concerns and our achievements as Archives and Archivists and share it with the world.  If we all get engaged and speak up together, we can shine a light on our work and our value to the world, promoting the importance of Archives but also developing a broader appreciation by everybody of the documentary heritage of humanity and why it matters during these times of rapid social change.

This year’s theme – “Designing the Archives in the 21st Century” gives us the chance to showcase our many innovative and visionary activities; reminding the public that Archivists are not fixated on the past, but instead we are constantly inventing ways to carry the accumulated memory of humanity into the future.

So get involved!  The world needs to hear our news and be inspired by the treasures in our collections and our vision to make them accessible in new and engaging ways.  I encourage all of us in the ICA family to follow the events on the International Map – and importantly publish your own events –  to share your insights and wisdom on how we’re “Designing the Archives in the 21st Century” and write an article on the ICAblog

We can also spread the word (and pictures) on your social media platform of choice with #IAW2019.

How to plan a successful IAW 2019 step by step :

  • Download and personalize the IAW 2019 Communication Kit which includes Poster, Bookmark and Postcard
  • Publish your events on the 2019 IAW interactive map
  • Post on Facebook your #IAW2019   message or photos (don’t forget to geolocate) and your post will be published on the IAW 2019 Facebook #IAW2019 Map

Happy International Archives Week!


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Big, big News- Two Films About Pukapuka

A couple of days ago I received an update about the upcoming documentary film, Homecoming, which tells the story of the atoll of Pukapuka through the intergenerational story of two bi-cultural women Johnny Frisbie and Amelia Borofsky who journey home after decades away.

Director, Gemma Cubero del Barrio, posted the update that I’m dying to share…

Writing you with a BIG SURPRISE!! Thanks to your support in 2015 and the funding we received in 2017 from the United Nation’s Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program, Cook Islands, youʻll enjoy not one but two films about Pukapuka! This 14-minute forthcoming short documentary Our Atoll Speaks (KO TALATALA MAI TŌ MĀTOU WENUA) is a meditation on climate change and the indigenous knowledge.  Everyone in Pukapuka/Nassau contributed to this communal film project.

Take a look at the trailer! Also, visit our Talcual Films page to learn more. The voice you hear is beautiful Johnny’s Frisbie and the film narration came from interviews with people in Pukapuka/Nassau from 2015 to 2017.

Our Atoll Speaks will premiere in Aotearoa/New Zealand on June 1st, 2019 at Wairoa Maori Film Festival within the Moana Nui Kiwa shorts film category! Check the Wairoa Maori Film Festival schedule and join us if you can! Gemma will attend.

Also the day before the premiere the Kau Wo Wolo ( Council of Important People) will do a public screening in Pukapuka so everyone can watch and see their name listed in the ending credits before it goes out into the world.

Our Atoll Speaks  will be freely available on the website after it premieres at festivals and shows on Cook Islands television. We will announce when you can see the full short documentary online. Email us at talcualfilms@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Don’t forget to check-out two books published by Dockside Sailing Press about the Frisbie family:

Mr. Moonlight of the South Seas

Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka

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