Tokelauan Play Focuses on Climate Change

A Tokelauan theater show claimed to be the first of its kind is highlighting the threat the climate crisis poses to the territory.  Te Molimau by Tokelauan-Samoan writer and actor, Taofia Pelesasawhich, opened last month at the Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney, Australia, is set in a future where Tokelau is submerged.

The Sydney Morning Herald writer, Nick Galvin, wrote that the play is set in the year 2060, by which time it is estimated low-lying Tokelau will have disappeared entirely. The play looks at the last hour of the nation through the eyes of the one remaining resident, a young woman called Vitolina. As storms have worsened and seawater has encroached ever further onto the three atolls that make up Tokelau, residents have left in even greater numbers.

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Where is Tokelau?

Director Emele Ugavule said she hoped to inspire climate action with the tri-lingual show and promote Tokelau’s culture. She said the idea came to her when she first heard rising sea levels could leave Tokelau under water. “We see what is being projected to happen in the future, in this last hour of Tokelau’s life, and then what is happening currently in the world with the climate crisis and the discussions that are happening all over the world on the news, the way that people are being affected. We see footage of the rising sea levels.”

Ugavule said the play is an important milestone for her country. “Our understanding of how to care for the land and the ocean is embedded in our language. And our cultural practices like singing and dancing are embedded in our everyday life in the islands – how do we maintain that in a context where we have to make money to survive rather than grow fish or food to survive?”

Ms Ugavule said there had been a huge turnout from Tokelauans in Sydney, with many going multiple times and often crying.

“They’ll tell us how proud they are and overwhelmed they are with joy that our stories are being heard because they’ve never ever seen that before… which really speaks to the necessity of the visibility of our stories in the theater.”

Ugavule hopes the play will encourage empathy among the audience and maybe inspire some to take action.

“It’s a very emotional experience for everyone involved,” she says. “The entire play is our lived experience and our families’ lived experience.”

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Tuia 250 Encounters

A traditional vaka left Tahiti last month for New Zealand with its crew retracing the pathways of their Pacific ancestors.

The Tahitian double-hulled canoe, Fa’afaite, was part of a flotilla formed to recognize the first encounters between Māori and Pakeha in New Zealand 250 years ago.

But the initiative, dubbed Tuia 250, is also exploring the ancestral routes Polynesian navigators sailed in the Pacific. The Tuia – Encounters 250  is also a program of events, education and over 50 projects enriching communities nationwide. It celebrates Aotearoa New Zealand’s Pacific voyaging heritage and acknowledges the first onshore encounters between Māori and Pākehā in 1769–70.

The theme for Tuia 250 is: Tuia te muka tangata ki uta– “Weaving people together for a shared future.”

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The chair of Tuia 250’s governing committee, Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, said the voyage would highlight the importance of Pacific discoverers. “The first arrivals of explorers and discoverers from out of the Pacific, like Maui and Kupe and people like that who first came to Aotearoa, and then the subsequent arrivals of those people,” Mr Barclay-Kerr said.

“So this voyage with the waka departing Tahiti is actually a chance to bring those kinds of journeys to general conversation and a general awareness.”

Follow the Tuia 250 Voyage

The central event is the Tuia 250 Voyage – a journey of national significance showcasing the Pacific, Māori and European voyaging that brought us together. A flotilla of waka hourua, va’a tipaerua and tall ships sails the coast from October to December 2019, landing at community events where you can visit the vessels. Use the interactive tracker to follow the flotilla on the Website.

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Visit the vessels

Learn about Pacific, Māori and European sailing and navigation traditions with interactive activities, displays and guest speakers at these locations. The vessels in the flotilla will be open for you to go onboard. This schedule will be updated with any changes due to weather and sea conditions. Check the Website periodically for any changes.

Whangaparaoa / Cape Runaway 28 – 30 September
Anaura Bay 3 – 4 October
Tūranga / Gisborne 5 – 10/11 October
Ūawa / Tolaga Bay 12 – 13/16 October
Whitianga / Mercury Bay 18 – 21 October
Maraetai 22 – 24 October
Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland 25 – 28/29 October
Whangārei / Port Nikau 2 – 4 November
Pēwhairangi / Bay of Islands / Opua 8 – 11 November
Waitohi / Picton 21 – 26 November
Wairau Te Waiharakeke / Blenheim 26 – 28 November
Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington 30 November – 3 December
Whakaraupō / Lyttelton 6 – 10 December
Te Māhia 15 – 19 December
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Book of Custom Stories Gifted to Schools in Solomon Islands

A couple of months ago the Solomon Star News ran an interesting article that I have been meaning to share. Each primary school in Honiara, Solomon Islands, received 30 copies of a book with stories written by different Solomon Islands’ writers. The title of the book is Custom Stories from the Solomon Islands.

The book was put together from the family of Connie Grouse and Mary Cole in Munda, and printed in New Zealand with the help of a New Zealand Rotary Club. They have been given to schools in the Western Province and villages in many other provinces.

Now, children in Honiara will be able to read and enjoy them in their classes. With the help of READ SI and HCC staff, teachers will learn how to use them in class along with other books being distributed throughout Honiara. This is a step forward to putting more materials in schools for children to have access to so that their reading skills can be sustained and even developed more.

The more reading one does, the more information one can receive and the more developed the mind becomes. Never stop reading and learning——it’s a lifelong adventure.

The project was spearheaded by Mary Cole but, sadly, she passed away before the books could be distributed.

Writer Milton Ragaruma for The Islandsun Daily News wrote that Mary Cole was born in Munda, Solomon Islands, in the Western province but ended up spending most of her life in New Zealand. While in New Zealand she was always active in charity work and joined the Rotary to become even more involved in service to others.

It was in 2008 that Mary Cole and a Kiwi friend started collecting traditional short stories told and written by children from the Western province. These stories became the basis for the book on Custom Stories.

Mary passed away in 2015 after years of being ill and before she could return to her beloved Solomon Islands to launch the book. The carton of books have been in her sister’s, Connie Bisili Grouse’s house in Honiara for a couple of years. She waited for the right time and the right way to launch the book and have it distributed across the nation.

Then, Connie saw an old friend, Joyce Boykin, and the two decided to have READ SI take the books out to the villages that literacy trainers visited. These books would become part of the library kit that villages were given with the READ SI program.

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Map of Solomon Islands

Custom stories are still passed down from generation to generation in the villages. They are steeped and entwined in traditional lore, founded on spiritualism and a close and intimate relationship with ancestors and the environment. Village life is still spiritually and materially closely connected to the land, forests and the sea, and many stories, like daily life, are about the sea and the land the villagers know so intimately.

Though Solomon Islanders practice Christianity, many stories are also about the dead and the ability of the dead to affect the life of the living. Some of the stories that are told are about tall ships with white skinned men, explorers, whalers and traders who came to barter. Sometimes they are about sailors who used to entice men into their ships and take them to be slaves to work in sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Queensland, Australia.

Traditionally, stories were told in the evenings. After everyone has washed and eaten and the heat of the day has cooled, small groups would gather on a convenient verandah or on a log by the sea to talk and discuss the day’s events.

Custom stories bring people together and create a rich sense of unity and harmony. The stories in Custom Stories from the Solomon Islands are a gift from Mary Cole to the people of the Solomons.

 

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Tonga to Open First Public Library

Indira Stewart, writer for Radio New Zealand, covered an interesting and inspiring event that recently took place in Tonga that I would like to share: Tonga will open its first public library next month in the village of Kolovai, with thousands of books donated by Auckland Council libraries.

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Thousands of books have been donated by more than 50 Auckland Council libraries among the hundreds of other items given by generous New Zealanders including bikes, laptops and more.

It’s the brainchild of South Auckland couple Kahoa and Brendan Corbett, who for the past year have been packing up donated goods almost every month to be shipped to Kolovai. “That’s the non-fiction, fiction, there’s biographies there,” Mrs Corbett said, pointing to a stack of boxes at the Onehunga-based CFR Line shipping company inside which hundreds of books have been categorized and are about to be shipped to Tonga.

It’s a dream come true for the couple, who visited Kolovai eighteen months ago after it had suffered some of the worst impacts of Cyclone Gita. “I looked at the schools. It was just nothing left … I said ‘Well, we have to do something about this’ because there were no books.”

The couple helped in the clean up and restoration of the cyclone-ravaged village and over time, Mrs Corbett noticed an abandoned community fale, which sparked an idea. “The fence was totally ripped, the pigs were everywhere. So I just went straight to the town officer and I asked him ‘Hey, what are you doing with that house? Would I be able to start up a library in there?’.”

Now that idea is about to become a reality.

While it may be a surprise for some that Tonga has never had a proper public library before, the little South Pacific kingdom is full of avid readers and has a 99 percent literacy rate.

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Tongatapu, Tonga. Kolovai Village is on the western part of the island

There have been other community venues open to the public with resources and various donated books but the Kolovai library is said to be the first to operate with a catalogued library system, allowing books to be issued and loaned out to members of the public – a system set up with the help of Auckland libraries in New Zealand.

The Corbetts explained that apart from what the kids learned in school, much of the island was limited to reading only the bible, with very little access to any other literature. “The first thing I did was I called and I wanted to speak to the manager of the Auckland libraries because I said that I needed some books. I said I really want to start up a library. All of a sudden the emails, the phone calls arrived and it was just amazing. ‘Kahoa we’ve got books here, Kahoa we’ve got books there’. It came from everywhere.”

Fifty-two council libraries around Auckland have donated thousands of books since that call – but that’s not all that came through. SkyTV donated 30 laptops, New Zealand bike company ONZO donated dozens of bikes, Bunnings Warehouse gave paint for the renovations and even Mr Corbett’s students pitched in to help.

“The books were pouring in but we had no shelves. So I was the Tech teacher at Southern Cross just up the road here and we needed a project for these kids so I said “Well, we’ll fund it. We’ll buy all the materials and we’ll get the kids to build all these shelves’,” he said. “We built shelf after shelf after shelf and packed them all down and then loaded them into a container that was going up.”

To top off all the free donations, CFR Line Shipping company offered to send everything to Tonga at no cost. When the containers arrived at the port in Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, all the locals pitched in to help. “We had the kids trained up with a laptop and a scanner trying to load everything in. They were loving it,” Mr Corbett said.

The couple have been back to the kingdom multiple times to help set up the library and they said every time they arrived, village locals always turned up to help. “They all came, they all helped. They were like hammering away and the kids from the village helped. Brendan instructed them, he got the paintbrushes,” Mrs Corbett said.

She added, “They were like a bunch of contractors, they were so fantastic. Screwing all these shelves together and then they wanted to paint them. The shelves all got built and painted and they’re all perfect. It was hilarious. Once we opened up all the boxes and started shelving the kids were gasping and pointing ‘Dinosaurs! dinosaurs! dinosaurs!”

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Placing books on the shelves, photo by http://www.rnz.co.nz

The couple said some village adults were suspicious about the library at first because they didn’t understand what it was and didn’t see any point in it. But over time, even they began taking an interest in the books too. “There’s a women’s group – a mother’s group and they turn up with their little kids and you know, it’s a bit scary – the kids just wander around and the mothers get all absorbed in these books. So they’re pulling out books here and there.”

As the library prepares for its official opening on October 11th, Mrs Corbett has been putting up framed pictures on the walls inside the library – they’re photos of successful Tongans around the world including many who have graduated with doctorates.

Mrs Corbett said she hoped the library inspired the village locals, and especially the kids, to dream big. “I feel really happy to see the reaction from the community, understanding why it’s important to have books. It’s opened them up to another world,” she said. “It’s been a tough road and it’s been hard work but now we’re nearly there and I’m happy that we’ve done something for the community.”

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Protecting PNG’s Historic Sites

One of the most exciting and mysterious lands in the world is Papua New Guinea (PNG).  The country is home to a diverse indigenous people speaking in 820 languages who have very unique cultural traditions. PNG, for the most part, has very rugged terrain and a major part of the country is covered with primeval nature – mostly rainforest. The country boasts to having some of the most impressive sinkholes, gorges, canyons, cliff walls and springs in the entire world.

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The government’s National Cultural Commission, the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies, and the National Film Institute record, document, and promote activities associated with traditional cultures, while organizations promoting tourism market aspects of those cultures to potential audiences overseas.

In 2008 the Kuk Early Agricultural Site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. That land in the Western Highlands has been worked almost continuously for at least 7,000 years, and the site contains even earlier evidence of the beginning of organized agriculture and its subsequent development.

However, recently, there has been a call for the Papua New Guinea government to explain what is happening to the country’s culturally important sites. The president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, Wilson Thompson, has been appalled at the lack of action by relevant agencies to save critical sites such as the original PNG legislature building, and its grounds, in Port Moresby.

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National Parliament of PNG, photo from http://www.tripadvisor.com.au

Thompson who has served on many of the boards and trusts of cultural institutions, such as the National Museum & Art Gallery and the National Cultural Commission, said, “It was in the prime commercial area in the capital and what has happened, and everyone knows that is the site of the old House of Assembly or the first parliament of Papua New Guinea. But all of a sudden that site has been offloaded, or given it away, or somebody came in and took it and it has now become a private facility altogether.”

Wilson Thompson said other key sites, including Paga Hill National Park and Lae’s Amelia Earhart Memorial Park, appear to have also gone to private developers without explanation to the public.

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20th Annual Lili‘uokalani Birthday Festival

IF you happen to be in Hawaii this weekend, you might want to check out this free event…

The 20th annual He Hali‘a Aloha No Lili‘uokalani (A Cherished Memory of the Queen) is slated for 9:30 a.m. until pau this Saturday, Sept. 7, at the gardens on Banyan Drive in Hilo, Hawaii.

After restoration of Lili‘uokalani Gardens and the addition of ADA pathways in 1999, the gardens reopened in September 2000 with a celebration of the Queen Lili‘uokalani’s birthday. In recent years, Jacqueline “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti helped codify the date of Hilo’s celebration as the first Saturday in September after the queen’s birthday.

The free, family-oriented festival will feature live entertainment including the Kalapana Awa Band with Ikaika Marzo, Randy Lorenzo and Friends, Taishoji Taiko, Darlene Ahuna, Waiakea Elementary School Ukulele Band and Braddah Waltah Aipolani.

Mass hula with an orchid drop will take place at 1 p.m. Children’s events throughout the day will include activities with the Lili‘uokalani Trust, a bouncing castle and water slide in the meadow, a scavenger hunt with a “medal” presented to each completed entry, and a costume photo opportunity with Japan Airlines. Dress up as a pilot or stewardess.

Additional special activities during the festival will include tours of the Shipman Power Plant by staff from Hawaii Electric Light Co. from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., a telling of the history of the banyan trees with author Jane Hoff and a special presentation about the Hawaiian monarchy.

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Queen Lili‘uokalani, photo from http://www.ozy.com

A little about Queen Lili‘uokalani…

Lili‘uokalani was the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. She was born Sept. 2, 1838, and her name at birth was Lili‘u Loloku Walania Kamaka‘eha. After her baptism, her name was Lydia Kamaka‘eha. Upon being named heir to the throne, “okalani” was added to her given name as an indication of her royal rank, resulting in the name we know now: Lili‘uokalani.

In January 1891, King Kalakaua died and Liliuokalani became the first woman to take the throne. She would also be the kingdom’s last ruler. After she attempted to establish a new constitution that would restore power to the monarchy and the Hawaiian people, a group known as the “Committee of Safety” staged a coup with the support of U.S. Minister John Stevens. Wishing to spare her people a bloody conflict, Liliuokalani stepped down but appealed to President Grover Cleveland to restore her to power. Despite his sympathy to her plight, the president’s efforts ultimately proved ineffective, and in 1894 annexationists established the Republic of Hawaii, with Sanford Dole named its first president.

Liliuokalani lived out her days at her Washington Place estate, where she frequently received visitors from near and abroad coming to pay her their respects. She died from complications related to a stroke on November 11, 1917, at age 79, and was honored with a state funeral. Her remains were interred in the Royal Mausoleum at Mauna ‘Ala.

Liliuokalni was educated at the missionary-run Royal School, where she learned to speak fluent English and received some musical training. She would retain her interest in music and poetry, producing more than 160 songs over the course of her life, including the beloved “Aloha ‘Oe.”

Aloha ‘Oe

The song is a cultural symbol for Hawaii. There are several variations and beliefs about the background of the song but the true story behind the origin of the song is about one time when the queen was leaving Maunawili Ranch nestled against the Ko’olau Mountains on the windward side of Oahu. Riding horseback home towards Honolulu, the legend says Queen Lili’uokalani witnessed so much of what we now know to be part of Aloha ‘Oe, most notably the farewell between Colonel James Harbottle Boyd and a young Maunawili girl.

Five years later in August of 1883, Aloha ‘Oe made its mainland debut in San Francisco. Within a year, Aloha ‘Oe was published all over the world and could be heard from German harbors to the tallest peaks of the Swiss Alps. The song was sung as ships entered and left from Honolulu Harbor and became known as a bittersweet farewell song for the monarchy.

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World Indigenous Conference 2019

Indigenous histories, cultures and struggles was the focus of academics and artists meeting in New Zealand a couple of months ago. More than a thousand people from the Pacific and across the globe met in Hamilton, New Zealand, for the Native American Indigenous Study Association (NAISA) conference at the University of Waikato.

The conference was the largest and most important Indigenous Studies association in the world, with the conference being hosted by British Columbia and UCLA in the past.

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The President-elect, associate professor Shannon Speed, told those gathered that the turnout was significant. “That is an historic size for NAISA, but also for any group of indigenous scholars, or community member of any nature,” Dr Speed, who is a citizen of the Chicksaw Nation and director of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center, said.

Tongan-born academic Tevita Ka’ili said the event would bring Pacific Islanders together with First Nations people from around the world. The professor of culture and anthropology at Hawai’i’s Brigham Young University said he would present a paper on trans-indigeneity. “Trans-indigeneity is the idea that as indigenous people are moving outside of their homeland, they are in contact with other indigenous people,” Professor Ka’ili said. “And so it’s sort of the collaborative work that they’re doing, the sort of co-operation that’s happening with multiple indigenous.”

University of Waikato’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai said it was an honor to have Kiingi Tūheitia at the pōhiri. “The kaupapa at NAISA has been about reserving and preserving our traditions, retaining our land, retaining our sovereignty as Native peoples,” Dr Tiakiwai said.

“And here we are in 2019, continuing the discussions around the preservation of our languages, the fight for our rights as indigenous peoples, and the importance of maintaining our culture and heritage, not just for today, but for all the generations to come, Dr. Tiakiwai added.

Topics of other papers that were presented included indigenous leadership and self determination, while round-tables and panels discussed subjects such as indigenous perspectives on climate justice and urban indigeneity.

Films and the services of Tā moko artists and healers were also available during the four-day conference.

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