Tonga’s Heilala Festival 2018

The Heilala Festival in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, for 2018 will run from June 25 to July 6.

This is an annual event celebrating the King’s birthday through various shows and events. One of the highlights being the Miss Heilala beauty pageant, where by contestants from various places come together to showcase the tradition and unique culture of Tonga through talent, beauty and knowledge.

The Festival is named after Tonga’s national flower, the Heilala, which is the highest in the hierarchy of the Tongan flowers. The Heilala plant is very difficult to propagate and has to be closely nurtured to survive.

The Heilala Festival was first organised in 1980 by the Tonga Visitors Bureau (Ministry of Tourism) to celebrate the birthday of His Late Majesty’s King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. It has since then become the highlight of the year for Tonga.


A Tongan lei made with heilala flowers- from

For 2018 a tentative program was recently released by the Ministry of Tourism and the festival will start with a “Best Chef” competition. This competition will be followed by a “Tonga’s Got Talent” and a “Best Bartender” competition on June 26.

The Miss Junior Tau’olunga and Foorshow competition is set for Thursday, June 28, and a Tongan Masani Block Party takes place in the CBD on Friday, June 29. Various sports tournaments will take place on Saturday, June 30.

The highlight of the festival, the Miss Heilala Pageant, starts on Friday, June 29, with an orientation program at the Tanoa Dateline Hotel and will be followed by a cultural singing competition in the evening at the Atele Indoor Stadium. The first judging for the pageant is planned for July 2, the Miss Heilala Tau’olunga competition on July 3, Heilala Float on July 4, and the Miss Heilala Pacific Evening on July 5. The pageant concludes with the Miss Heilala Ball and prize giving on Friday, July 6. All of these events will take place at the Atele Indoor Stadium.

You can follow the event through the festival’s facebook page.

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Homecoming: A Film About Pukapuka Update

It has been awhile since I’ve provided you with an update about the documentary film Homecoming: A Film About Pukapuka. A couple of weeks ago I did receive the latest information regarding the project that I’d like to share with you.

If you recall, Homecoming: A Film About PukaPuka tells the story of climate change through two women who cross the Pacific to return to Pukapuka, the coral atoll where they grew up. A crossing point between Eastern and Western Polynesia, Pukapuka (or Te Ulu o Te Watu, “head of the rock”) has an ancient culture and distinct language maintained for over two thousand years. Today, only 450 people live here. The population continues to decline as the atoll faces rising tides, environmental migration, and cultural adaptation.

This feature-length documentary explores these environmental and social issues through two women writers and friends: Johnny Frisbie, a Pukapukan-American writer’s daughter, and Amelia Borofsky, an American anthropologist’s daughter. The film follows their return journey to this spiritual place.

Click here to visit the Homecoming project’s Kickstarter page.


Here’s the current update from the filmmakers:

Since we last wrote you in February 2016, we received a generous grant from the United Nations Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program, Cook Islands that brought Amelia and Gemma back to Pukapuka to complete the filming of the documentary film in May 2017.

Gemma felt in order to complete the film she had to return to Pukapuka with her camera and get immersed in the daily life and beauty of Wale. Both Gemma and Amelia came out of this five- month- experience living in Rarotonga and Pukapuka with an additional 200 hours of footage, and more importantly, knowing that she had the personal experience and film material to complete the documentary.

What is next for our Homecoming film?

So after completing the revision and logging of all the 400 plus hours, Gemma and Kyung are now collecting archival footage to draft the “first assembly” of the film and still currently working on the transcriptions, translations from Pukapukan to English, and beginning the process of editing. The editing will take at least a year to get to the “rough-cut” stage which will follow postproduction work – music and sound design, color correction and the final online. Our plan is that with a “rough-cut” of the film we can show the power and beauty of the Homecoming film to our funders and approach new foundations to successfully raise the completion funds and take the film to a world wide audience.

The projected completion time is the end of 2019. For those of you who wonder how this film world works….We won’t know the release date of Homecoming until the film is fully completed and accepted into a major film international festival, where we can celebrate its world premiere! 

We thank you for your belief in this film project, your prayers, and support.

We will continue to update you on the status of the film in the next few months.

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Island Time Updates

I’d like to this time to quickly share with you a few updates. There was a lot going on over the past few months.

First, I’d like to congratulate my colleagues at the National Archives of Solomon Islands and the Tuvalu National Library and Archives for their archival collections being chosen as new inscriptions to the Memory of the World Committee of Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP) register. Both of these collection were approved at the MOWCAP 8th General Meeting held in Gwangju, Republic of Korea, from 29 May – 31 May.

The Memory of the World Program is an international program aimed at safeguarding, preserving and facilitating access to and the use of documentary heritage. UNESCO launched the Program in 1992. The Program includes the inscription of significant documentary heritage on national, regional and international registers.

MOWCAP embraces the Asia Pacific region of 43 countries – one of five UNESCO regions across the globe. It maintains an Asia/Pacific Regional Register of the MOW documentary heritage, a listing of documentary heritage of influence in the Asia/Pacific region. MOWCAP is the authority that approves inscriptions on the Asia/Pacific MOW Register. It assesses nominations from members through its Asia/Pacific Register Subcommittee against established selection criteria.


Preserving the BSIP Collection at the National Archives Solomon Islands

The collection from the National Archives of Solomon Islands that gained inscription into the register was the World War Two Records – British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP), Solomon Islands. This was a collection that Island Culture Archival Support had the honor to help preserve in 2012-2013.

The distinguished collection from the Tuvalu National Library and Archives that joined the BSIP Collection was Agreements with Native Governments (1893-1916).

Again, a hearty congratulations to both archives!

To see the list of all ten new inscriptions to the MOWCAP register simply click here.


Second, the book signing event for fact went very well at Basically Books in Hilo, Hawaii, on May 26. A big mahalo to all those who participated and made the rainy afternoon such a wonderful occasion. I’d like to give a special thanks to Christine Reed, owner of Basically Books, for her enthusiasm towards the culture of Hawaii and the greater Pacific Islands region. If you get a chance to holiday in Hilo, please visit this very unique bookstore. Also, another big mahalo to Dockside Sailing Press for setting up the opportunity for me to talk about my book.


“Hina and Her Lover Eel,” illustration courtesy Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to our new art exhibit located on the Island Culture Archival Support Website. These are paintings from artist Tara Bonvillain who has painted her interpretation of Pacific Islands legends. You may have noticed these paintings on our blog from time to time over the past year or so. Now, we have them all in one place. Thank you Tara for your extraordinary artwork!

To view all of her paintings please click here.



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Pacific Indigenous Data Use

A couple of interesting articles were published by Radio New Zealand regarding indigenous data use throughout the Pacific Islands.

First, a data sovereignty expert has warned Pacific people to be mindful of how companies could use indigenous data to profit. Keoni Mahelona of the Maori not-for-profit organisation, Te Hiku Media, said indigenous people had valuable knowledge, and their sovereignty and ownership needed certain protections.

Mr Mahelona, who is of Hawaiian descent, was speaking at the Kiwa Nuanua tech summit held in Auckland this past April. His current focus is on the revitalization of the Maori language using digital technology. “When we need tools to help us to do our mahi (work), often those tools are designed and sold by non-indigenous groups,” Mr Mahelona said.

He continued, “The ways they think about design and things are much different and so as indigenous people we have different values and it is important those values are reflected in the tools we use. For example how might we treat content associated with people who have passed away?”

Combining the Maori word for ‘guardian of the ocean’ and the Samoan word for ‘rainbow’ or ‘hope’, the Kiwa Nuanua summit aimed to motivate and inspire more Pacific people to pursue opportunities in the technology industry.

Cook Islander, Brittany Teei, instigated the gathering saying Pacific people had the potential to make huge inroads in technology. The software firm CEO hoped to inspire others to think outside the box and take ownership of their ideas.

She said preserving culture and heritage was a key too. “It is crucial that we bring it with us and in terms of preserving our languages and our traditions, I think time is of the essence for our older generation who are getting older and moving on and I think that the biggest opportunity at the moment, is to being able to capture all that knowledge before it is lost,” she said.

Ms Teei added, “From there the technology world is our oyster to being able to express ourselves in new and modern ways that still allow us to be Pacific.”


Fish market, Suva, Fiji

The second article dealing with the issue of data use in the region is a concern from the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). This organization was established to help countries sustainably manage their fishery resources that fall within their 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). They are an advisory body providing expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision-making on tuna management through agencies such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

The FFA has recently claimed that the Pacific is facing big challenges as it embraces digital technology.

Ano Tisam, a FFA systems analyst from the Solomon Islands and who was also a guest speaker at the Pacific Tech Summit in Auckland, agreed that the way they capture data needs to change. He said that in the fisheries sector, work to digitize information was ongoing and labor intensive and that many organisations and governments in the region still used pen and paper.

Mr Tisam believes that to move ahead information needs to be accessible in a digital format and properly stored and archived. He said, “We used technology to help Pacific governments to move away from what they are doing in terms of paper, and transitioning them over to digital technologies so that they can improve the way that they do things to make things more efficient and more effective.”

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International Archives Day 2018

It’s that time year again to celebrate International Archives Day (IAD)- June 9, 2018. Here’s the official announcement from the International Council on Archives (ICA) President, David Fricker:


As you noticed, the theme of this year’s event is “Archives: Governance, Memory and Heritage” that is based on the ICA Yaoundé Conference 2018 which will take place in Yaounde, Cameroon from 26 to 28 November 2018.

An interactive map showcasing ICA member institutions and their specific activities for this special day can be found on the ICA Website. Click here to view the interactive map.

Good luck to all the participating archives throughout the world!

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Polynesian Navigators Want to Create a Better Environment

Radio New Zealand ran an interesting article about a meeting of Polynesian navigators to discuss the environment. For the first time about twenty-five traditional Polynesian voyaging leaders gathered to examine how they can work towards creating a better environmental balance. The Ho’okele Honua Summit was held at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, a couple of months ago.

Nainoa Thompson of The Polynesian Voyaging Society’s warned the group that if they did not act or change, the world on its current pathway would take them to the island of extinction.

The summit began with a sacred awa (known as kava throughout the Pacific Islands) ceremony to welcome the voyaging community and continued with deep conversations around the environment and care of the land and sea.

A navigator from the Cook Islands, Tua Pittman, said the meeting was the beginning of a new era. “In all of our cultures, the canoe is a movement of people. It moves people from place to place.

“That canoe will always be there. We are jumping on a different canoe now. The canoe is a movement and this is what’s being formed right now. We are now building the hull of the new canoe, the spiritual canoe,” Tua Pittman said.

One of the navigators, Sesario Sewalur, stressed how important it was for the people of the Pacific to take the lead in protecting the ocean. “This is the only resource that we have in the Pacific. We need to show the world. We need to take care of things first,” he said.

“Even your house, you need to clean your house. Who is going to clean your house? It’s us that we need to take care of this, show the world how much we love our ocean.”

The society said with strategic partnerships and community support, the leaders hoped to break through social norms and inspire others to take greater responsibility for the environment.


The Hokule’a

If you plan to be in Honolulu, Hawaii this month I highly recommend that you check out the exhibit titled The Holo Moana: Generations of Voyaging that runs until June 24, 2018. This engaging exhibit celebrates the story of how a centuries-old ancestral practice has been re-awakened, re-activated, and re-envisioned by Hawaiian and Oceanic voyagers over the past five decades.


  • A wind-based immersive experience that brings to life the winds used by voyagers
  • A full-dome projection theater with audio narrated by PVS president Nainoa Thompson
  • A touchscreen interactive of crewmembers and all legs of Hōkūleʻa voyages
  • Footage of the original launching of the Hōkūleʻa
  • A 4 screen video wall, displaying the many instances of gift-giving and makana throughout the worldwide voyage of Mālama Honua.
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The Basket of Souls- Tokelau

Tokelau is an island territory of New Zealand, consisting of three atolls in the South Pacific Ocean and lies about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The three coral atolls are Fakaofo , Nukunonu, and Atafu and arranged in a southeast-to-northwest line. Each atoll consists of numerous islets. The people are Polynesian and are culturally and linguistically linked to Samoa.

Here is a story from the islands of Tokelau. It was found in the book Legends of the South Seas. Enjoy!

The Basket of Souls

Nonu was handsome young man here in Fakaofo who was always out surfing. He would take a piece of old canoe and ride in on the combers- riding, riding, always riding. He lived seaward with his mother Kai.

Lagoonward, not far from Kai’s house, there lived an old woman Kui who had three daughters. Their names were Tauluga, Taulalo, and Sina. These daughters liked the handsome Nonu.

One day Tauluga came across the land to Nonu’s house, but he was out on the surf. His mother came to the reef and called to him, “Someone has come to see you.”

“Who is it that has come?” he asked. When Nonu heard Tauluga’s name he called out, “Send her away. I don’t like her.”

On another day Taulalo came to see if Nonu was home, but he was out surf-riding with his friends. His mother called to him, but when he heard Taulalo’s name he answered, “Send her away. I don’t like her.”

Then on another day came Sina the youngest, and Kai called out to Nonu form the reef to let him know that Sina is here. He rode in on the next wave and came to the house to meet her.

Sina was only a young girl and came to live with Nonu and Kai. She grew up. One day Nonu touched her and asked her, “Am I like a father or a husband to you?” Then the two went off on an island path together. They married and a great feast was held with dancing. Many leis were made. There were necklaces of flowers for everyone. All the relations came to the feast. Even Sina’s sisters, Tauluga and Taulalo were there.

The two sisters sent Nonu a message that they would like some of the leis. Nonu disliked the sisters and declined given them anything. The sisters became enraged. After they had spoken together they stole Nonu’s soul and ran away with it.

Basket of Souls- Tokelau

“The Basket of Souls,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2018.

Nonu looked dead. Everyone thought he was dead. Not Sina. She said he was only asleep and had him carried to his house and wrapped up in mats. “No one is to touch him. No one disturb him while I’m away,” she said.

Then she ran after her sisters to their mother’s house, but they had left and went away to the family’s coconut trees. “Please call them back for me, Kui,” said Sina to the sister’s mother.

Kui did so. She pretended to be ill and called out to her daughters. When they heard this, Tauluga and Taulalo hurried back to their mother who they thought was ill. When they saw it was only Sina who had come they were enraged and turned away. Their mother said, “You two must wait and hear what Sina wants.”

“I want my husband’s soul which you two took away,” said Sina.

There was a basket of souls hanging in the rafters. Tauluga reached up and took one out and threw it to Sina. “That is not Nonu’s,” said Sina. “I can see his moving in the bottom of the basket. “ In the end they gave her Nonu’s soul. Sina wrapped it up and took it home.

Sina got back to her home and found that no one had interfered with Nonu’s body. It was still wrapped up. She untied the mats, took Nonu’s big toe and began putting his soul back. She pressed it through his toe up through his legs until it reached his head. Nonu lived again.

Nonu and Sina lived quietly together.

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