ICA/PARBICA Conference 2019 Report

Below is a portion of my report from attending the 2019 ICA/ PARBICA Conference in Adelaide, Australia. The full report will become available soon on our Website. A big thanks to FIDA, PARBICA and ICA who made this event quite an unique and special experience!


The Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia

The International Council on Archives (ICA) in association with Pacific Regional Branch International Council on Archives (PARBICA) held their conference in Adelaide, Australia from October 21-25, 2019. The conference theme Designing the Archive was about putting people at the center of what archivists do. It provided an opportunity to explore how data and information managers, records managers and archivists are using, or can use, human-centered design approaches to ensure that what they deliver benefits to citizens, customers, stakeholders and communities. The program explored the use of empathy, creativity, innovation, experimentation, prototyping, and co-design in the development of recordkeeping systems, information governance frameworks, archival programs and services, archive buildings and spaces, or digital archives. The conference was also hosted by the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) and Records Association of New Zealand Te Huinga Mahara (ARANZ).

On the first day of the conference I attended the PARBICA 18 General Meeting, which was held in the Institute Room of the State Library of South Australia. This was a great starting point of the week to meet many of my Pacific colleagues and friends. The meeting was informative, and we heard reports from the PARBICA President, Secretary General, and the Treasurer. We also heard what has been accomplished since the last time we met in Pacific Harbour, Fiji in September 2017. Then, most of the delegates gave a short report on the current status and concerns of their respective Archives. This is always one of my favorite parts of the general meeting, as I get an idea as to what areas the Archives throughout the Pacific regions need help. After the meeting, we all met at the University of Adelaide to tour the Henry Maude Papers. This collection comprises the extensive papers of Henry Evans (Harry) Maude, a former British colonial administrator, head of Social Development section of the South Pacific Commission, and Professor of Pacific History at the Australian National University, and of his wife, fellow researcher and string figure expert, Honor Courtney Maude.


Speakers Meeting Room with a great view, Adelaide Oval

Later in the week starting with Thursday was when I got more involved with the conference. My colleague from Tuvalu, Noa Tapumanaia, and I gave a show and tell about our experiences during our project at the Tuvalu National Library and Archives  (TNLA) from 2017 to 2018. This was held during the session titled, “FIDA- Supporter of the Development of Archives.” ICA’s Fund for the International Development of Archives (FIDA) provides assistance to archive professionals and institutions working in especially challenging conditions, usually in developing countries. The title of our project was “Appraising, Processing and Preserving the Public Records Collection at the Tuvalu National Library and Archives.” We talked about TNLA and how the project began, planned and executed- all through pictures and photographs. Noa even showed a one-minute video about how climate change is affecting the country of Tuvalu. At the end we fielded questions from the audience who were interested about the project or about FIDA in general.


Disaster Preparedness Workshop, Inventory Room, State Library of South Australia

On Friday I helped conduct an all-day workshop on Emergency Management and Disaster Planning, which was partially funded by the UNESCO Japanese Fund in Trust that was available to the UNESCO Memory of the World Program (MoW). The purpose of this funding was to progress the UNESCO Global Policy Framework for sustainable preservation of documentary heritage through disaster risk reduction and management. PARBICA working with the Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific Islands (MOWCAP) sought funding for the workshop based on the PARBICA toolkit guidelines because they were consistent with the MoW objectives and the MOWCAP Pacific Action Plan. Over thirty members of PARBICA, which also included a few ICA members, attended the workshop. The workshop took place in the Inventory Room of the State Library of South Australia. Emilie Leumas, chair of the ICA Expert Group on Emergency Management and Disaster Planning, also facilitated the workshop. Although it was a long day, I believe the attendees truly enjoyed the interactive program and are now much more prepared to deal with a disaster in their respective Archives.

Overall, the conference was a huge success. It attracted more than 600 archivists and records managers worldwide. Next year, the ICA Conference organizers have an even more ambitious desire to attract five to seven thousand people to their conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Nevertheless, the coming together of four major archivist groups in Adelaide truly made this year’s event a special one. Many interesting archival topics and issues were discussed, and it was amazing to see how cultural heritage was being defined, preserved, shared and disseminated. The numerous workshops held on the final day also created a valuable chance to learn new ways of thinking about how archives functions. Indeed, there are a lot of things happening in the archival world. As for PARBICA, it was great to catch-up with old colleagues, and make new ones during the week. The next PARBICA meeting is slated to take place in Papua New Guinea in 2021, and I look forward to sharing new ideas with my colleagues across Oceania.

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New Art Installation Tells Tokelauan Story

Since I don’t hear a lot about the island nation of Tokelau, I’d like to share another interesting story that was written by journalist Dominic Godfrey for Radio New Zealand. It is about how in the late 1800s, Tokelau’s population plummeted to 85 people, because of slavery. This little known history is the subject of a new art installation, which will travel to next year’s Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture in Hawai’i.

The work was launched last week in Porirua to emphasize the resilience of the Pacific country as part of New Zealand’s Tokelau Language Week. Cry of the Stolen People tells the story of blackbirding, the abductions of Tokelauans, and their sale into slavery in the world’s last slave market in Peru. It is the brainchild of three artists in residence at Porirua’s Whitireia Polytech, Moses Viliamu, Jack Kirifi and Zac Mateo.

The three went to high school together, then studied at Whitireia in the early 2000s. They became artists in residence, Moses Viliamu said, during last year’s Te Vāiaho o te Gagana Tokelau, Tokelau Language Week. “We were only supposed to be here for a month but then they decided to keep us on for another year,” Mr Viliamu continued. “From October we were here but then in February we applied to Creative NZ to be part of the Pacific Festival in Hawai’i in 2020 in June. And we got accepted.”

They submitted a project, Jack Kirifi said, that was sufficiently new and different to have resonated with the selection panel, particularly as first time applicants. “So with Creative NZ we’re so grateful and thankful for their support,” Mr Kirifi added. “When we found out about the acceptance of our application, early this year, we said wow this is it, this is an opportunity and a platform for telling stories on behalf of our tupuna, our ancestors.”

The installation is a modern form of audio-visual story-telling using images projected on to three screens which allude to the sails of the slave ships but represent the three Tokelau atolls of Nukunonu, Atafu and Fakaofo as well. They are set on masts akin to those on the tall-ships used by the blackbirders.


Cry of the Stolen People – three sails with projection images- Photo from rnz.co.nz

The installation’s imagery graphically tells the brutal story of abduction and upheaval but in the beautiful iconography of Tokelau using traditional wood-block style prints. The story of the abductions, and the blackbirder ships and slave markets of Peru, Moses Viliamu said, still brings grief to the hearts of their people. “Not many people really talk about it. I think they just kind of, like, know of it but they don’t really talk about it that much,” Mr Viliamu said. “Which is what we found out when we did our installation, that lots of people were very emotional and very touched and they said this really needs to be talked about a lot more with our own people and community.”

By 1872, the population of Tokelau had plummeted to 85 people, mainly old men and women or children. The installation is enhanced with Te Vaka’s emotive song Tagi Sina, which mourns Tokelau’s loss and implores the blackbirder ship to turn back with their people. They really had to think laterally, Mr Mateo said, to come up with the format and media for the installation. “So we dreamed, we brainstormed, we prayed and as we kept pushing our ideas we came up with something that we thought was pretty unique and pretty exciting,” he added.

The on-screen computer graphics are rendered from images that are hand drawn or painted. They illustrate the stories researched about the era including iconography and tattoo styles that have been lost as a result of blackbirding.

Jack Kirifi said the installation had been showing to Porirua’s Tokelau community, as part of Tokelau Language Week, as a story of survival. “This week ends with the celebration of our culture. On one side, this is our story then. On the other side, this is us now so the resilience, that strength, we want that to come through for our future generations.”

With refinements made from the community’s feedback, Cry of the Stolen People will represent Tokelau at next year’s Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture in Hawai’i.

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Tokelau Language Week 2019

This week Tokelauans across New Zealand are celebrating their culture and language: Te vāiaho o te gagana Tokelau. Today, more Tokelauans live outside Tokelau than on the islands. About 6,800 live in New Zealand. The theme of this year’s Tokelau Language Week is Tiutiuga a Tautai ma Figo auā te lumanaki o Fānau, which means mastery of traditional knowledge, skills, expertise and leadership to help shape the future.


Where is Tokelau?

Tokelau elder Fofo Pou Poasa yesterday shared his knowledge about traditional meahina taonga collections at Auckland Museum. He said it was important that Tokelauans, especially children, learn about their identity. His words have been translated:

“We have the opportunity to demonstrate and to fulfil the hopes of us, the Tokelau people. As we were growing up, there were some tools we used on the island such as the vilivil (pump drill) and kofe (fishing rod). The rod reflects our families and is the mother. The handle is the father. The pa (fish hooks) are the son and the daughter. These are treasures of our culture.”

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio launched the Tokelau Language Week in Auckland on Saturday.

Tokelau Language Week ends on 2 November, when a Fatele Day, a combined community day, will be held in Auckland.

Malo ni – hello

Ulu tonu mai – welcome

Kaiga – family

Faiakoga – teacher

Tofa ni – goodbye

A little more about Tokelau:

Tokelau, which means ‘North Wind,’ is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand consisting of three coral atolls in the South Pacific: Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo. It is one of the most remotest places on earth. There is little tourism on the atolls of Tokelau. Thus, there are few tourist attractions, which means that a visit to Tokelau affords a quiet getaway, far off the beaten path.

Traveling to Tokelau requires a dedication that dissuades all but the most committed visitors. It has no harbors or ports nor does it have an airport. It takes upwards of 24 hours to reach Tokelau by boat from its nearest neighbor, Samoa. The government-run MV Tokelau provides passenger and cargo services to and from Apia every two weeks. The trip takes about 24-36 hours each way, and the ship makes the round trip in five days. Passengers must bring their own mattresses to sleep on. Food is provided, and there is one bathroom for the passengers.

Tokelau culture is Polynesian culture. Sharing of resources according to need and respect for elders are integral characteristics of this culture. Age typically determines the level of employment; the older Tokelauans holding managerial positions.

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The Tiare Taporo Part II

Last week we learned about the original South Seas schooner, the Tiare Taporo (Flower of the lime). This week, journalist, Anneka Brown, continued the story for the Cook Islands News and wrote about the boat’s most colorful captain, Andy Thomson (also spelled Thompson).

I will paraphrase the article, but feel free to read the entire piece by clicking here.

…But this story is not about Pacific Schooners’ beleaguered tramp steamer Tiare Taporo. It is about the original Tiare Taporo and her famous captain Andy Thomson. Andy Thompson had made his way as a young boy serving in square-rigged ships in the Atlantic trade before sailing around America as a quartermaster on ships on the great lakes. He was just 15 years old when he first landed on Rarotonga’s (Cook Islands) shore.

In 1908 Thomson began working on boats owned by AB Donald Ltd, of Auckland. Thomson would regularly sail past Raro on his way back from Tahiti, and he just liked the way it looked from the sea. When his parents passed away he never went back to New York – he was out in the sea and, in 1912, he decided to come and make Raro his home. Once he was in Raro, he felt the warmth of the people, he fell in love with Rarotonga.

Just a year later in 1913, Alexander B Donald commissioned the construction of a kauri-wood schooner in Auckland. It was 27.3 meters long on the deck, with a beam of 7.1 meters and a draft of 2.9 meters. The build cost was £3000. In those days, says Donald’s great-grandson James Donald, it was common to have financial partners in many separate ventures because the full cost could not be afforded.


Captain Andy Thompson with Tom Neale, photo from http://www.cookislandsnews.com

The Tiare Taporo was based in the Cook Islands from 1919 to 1949, and then intermittently until 1986. During her days in the Cook Islands, Captain Andy Thomson had some memorable adventures with Tiare Taporo, says Donald.

In 1949 Andy Thomson took command of Tiare Taporo, and sailed her to Auckland for an overhaul. Under Captain Andy’s command, Tiare Taporo returned to the Cook Islands where AB Donald Ltd replaced her with a wooden motor ship the Charlotte Donald. Meanwhile, Tiare Taporo took a labor gang to the phosphate island of Makatea and from there sailed to Papeete, where she was handed over once again Alexander Donald’s business over there, Etablissements Donald Tahiti Ltd.

Thomson, meanwhile stayed in the Charlotte Donald in the Cook Islands and after a voyage to the Marquesas for copra, he again sighted his old boat Tiare in Papeete. “The Tiare looked well, all dolled and painted up,” he wrote. “They always keep the vessels at Papeete in tip-top order. I don’t believe you’ll see such nicely kept ships in any place in the world as you do in Papeete, Tahiti.”

In 1960, Tiare Taporo was returned to Cook Islands and to the command of Captain Andy.

In 1964, the company was sold to a Tongan trader – but by then Tiare Taporo was in a bad way, having lost her main mast some time earlier and the hull succumbing to the ravages of time. James Donald remembers when he was a young man, just 21. It was our years after the sale of Tiare Taporo, and he sailed with Captain Andy on the company’s replacement trading vessel Akatere. It was a 14-day voyage from Auckland to Rarotonga and Andy Thompson, by this point retired, was also a passenger.

Captain Andy taught Donald the art of celestial navigation during that two-week passage. “Andy was believed to have a bottle of rum in his cabin which adjoined mine on the after deck,” Donald recalls. “He swore that he was not drinking but someone put a pencil mark on the label which proved that he indeed had been drinking, but by a very small amount – and why not? He had had an unblemished record in the South Pacific for those days, never losing a ship nor anyone overboard.”

The retired Andy Thompson was travelling as a passenger back to his home in Rarotonga. “For me, it was a voyage that was memorable and which I have never forgotten – 51 years ago. I still have Andy’s notes concerning my amateurish attempts at celestial navigation,” said Donald.

After that, Jim Donald says he used to visit the retired Captain Andy and his wife at their little house in Rarotonga, just about every Sunday afternoon. “The ritual was that Andy would produce an unopened bottle of whisky and open it and throw away the cork! At my then age – and even now – I was and would be somewhat horrified. But I soon got used to Andy and his ways. His stories were phenomenal and to my eternal regret I never recorded them. I only remember one or two. I still have his navigation notes from when he taught me how to navigate with a sextant.”

Captain Andy died in 1975 aged 90. Captain Andy’s Beach Bar & Grill at The Rarotongan Beach Resort is named in his honor. His final resting place lies across the road beside his original home, which the resort has now restored as a heritage building.

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The Tiare Taporo

Recently, the Cook Islands News ran an intriguing letter written by Jim Donald whose family once owned the company AB Donald Ltd of Auckland. In his letter Donald had graciously explained that a modern schooner named the Tiare Taporo was being erroneously compared to the famous trader schooner that sailed the South Seas in the early part of the 20th Century. I’ll paraphrase the article just a bit…

Letter to the Editor:

I have been very interested from time to time of the still North Sea trawler which was converted and refitted in Newfoundland and renamed Tiare Taporo- taking largely under false pretences the famous name of my family’s New Zealand kauri-built schooner owned by AB Donald Ltd of Auckland. 

Our schooner traded reliably through the Cook Islands, The Societies, Tuamotus and Marquesas, including a voyage to the US in the late 1940s and many voyages to New Zealand for 51 years from 1913 to 1964. 

The original Tiare Taporo’s most famous skipper was Captain Andy Thomson with whom I, at the tender age of 21, was enormously privileged to have sailed. My trip with him was on the motor ship Akatere on a voyage from Auckland to Rarotonga in 1968- a voyage that took 14 days!

Andy had retired by then but during the voyage he taught me how to use a sextant in successfully achieving celestial navigation. Andy was a great friend and valued employee of my family’s company. 

The reason this article is interesting to me is because Capitan Andy Thomson and the Tiare Taporo played a major role in the life of my book’s subject, the American author Robert Dean Frisbie. The book is titled, Mr. Moonlight of the South Seas, and is about Frisbie’s adventures living in the Pacific Islands, specifically Puka Puka in the Cook Islands. Frisbie and Captain Andy Thomson were good friends and often sailed together on the Tiare Taporo.

You can order a copy of the book on the publisher’s Dockside Sailing Press Website. The book can also been found on Amazon.com and Amazon.com.au.



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The Origin of the Ocean- Hawaii

The fiery goddess of Hawaii, Pele, is back in this month’s legend. If you have ever wondered how the ocean was created, wonder no more. This story from the book, Tales Told in Hawaii, will truly enlighten you. Enjoy….

The Origin of the Ocean

Pele is the goddess of volcanoes. She can take the form of a beautiful young woman or a homely old one. The only safe thing to do when in Hawaii is to be kind to all homely old women and beware of all beautiful girls. Many a chief has fallen in love with an Hawaiian maid only to discover that she is Pele. For when the fire goddess is angry she stamps her foot and the earth quakes. She calls thunder, lightning, and rivers of lava and pursues the man who has angered her. The eight islands of Hawaii have all been scorched by her bursts of temper.

This fiery goddess was born in a land that lies at the edge of the sea. She married and was very happy until her husband fled with a woman from the heavens. Now at the time the earth was covered with dry land. There was no sea. There was no fresh water.

The Origin of the Ocean (Hawaii)

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

Pele tried to overtake her runaway husband and when she could not, her father gave her a fleet of canoes with red sails, and her mother gave her the sea. She leaned over the prow of her canoe and poured the sea from her forehead. As the canoes floated forward on the flood of waters, her brothers chanted,

“O the sea, the great sea! Fort bursts the sea: Behold, it bursts on Kanaloa!”

As they sailed onward the ocean rose and covered the vast land. At last they saw a rainbow arching over three drowning mountains. Pele raised her head and stood with her back as straight as a precipice and her face as fair as the moon. “That’s Hawaii! Hawaii shall be my home!” she cried.

The waters retreated and out of the dark blue sea slowly emerged the eight islands of Hawaii.

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Teaching Palauan Children to Care for Nature

Primary school students in Palau are learning how to care for their environment through a new book by local author Toni Soalablai. The book is titled Cheldechedechal a kekerei el ngasech el osiik er a daob (The Baby Hawksbill Turtle’s Adventure to the Sea).

Palau’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Olai Uludong, said the book was not for retail sale but was being used to educate the island’s first to third graders in elementary schools.

The story teaches children about the importance of the oceans, the lands and the living creatures around them are, she said. “One of the issues that the world is facing is the issue of plastics. It is important that our next generation learn the importance of the turtle and the challenge it has trying to survive in an ocean full of plastic. The key to change is inspiring the younger generation and educating them to respect and care for the marine environment and biodiversity for the future of humanity,” Ms Uludong said.

Uludong stated that it was her distinct honor to introduce the book at the UN in the margins of the Oceans negotiations on the Global Oceans Treaty also referred to as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions – BBNJ treaty to govern the high seas.


Palau’s ambassador to the United Nations Olai Uludong holding copies of the children’s book by Toni Soalablai

The BBNJ negotiations began this past March in New York. The message put forth by the Pacific Islands Forum at the opening of the second session was quite clear: Any new treaty to improve governance of the high seas must ensure healthy resilient oceans and seas, promote greater coherence, and complement the relevant existing instruments, frameworks and sectoral bodies.

Speaking on behalf of the Forum chair, Nauru’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Margo Deiye, highlighted that Forum members were ready to do their part to conclude the negotiations by 2020. “As a region of navigators, we recognize that even with the best navigation, we must continue do the hard work, moving the oars in concert with one another, if we are to reach our destination,” said Ms Deiye.

Delegations from members of the Pacific Islands Forum who are currently negotiating at the United Nations Headquarters in New York indicated that the new BBNJ instrument must incorporate and recognize the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as the special case of Small Island Developing States and the interests of adjacent coastal States.

“This instrument needs to improve the kind of global management and conservation of areas beyond national jurisdictions, which is needed to protect our marine environment beyond the status quo, enable us to halt the loss of our valuable and precious marine biodiversity and make good on the commitments we have made to ensure a healthy and resilient Ocean,” said Ms Deiye.

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