Battlefield Tourism in Kiribati

The anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, in then Japanese-controlled Kiribati, has been marked in the Pacific nation today.

20 November marks the 77th anniversary of the start of the US Marines invasion.

The Islands of Kiribati lay claim to a number of the bloodiest battles that were fought out in World War II. Seventy years on and much of the evidence of these battles still remain available for travellers to view as a living museum of this part of history; in particular Tarawa, Butaritari and Abemama of the Gilbert group, and Banaba island.

Tarawa, Photo from

To mark the occasion the Tourism Authority of Kiribati released a series of videos and personal interviews from the i-Kiribati survivors of the 1943 battles of Tarawa and Makin.

The locally produced videos share very personal stories of trauma and survival by i-Kiribati children who witnessed the atrocities of the war first hand.

The Authority’s Marketing Head, Sarah Teetu, said the stories of the battles hold a significant place in Kiribati’s history.

The remnants of the Second World War are still visible throughout Kiribati and the Authority wants to encourage battlefield travellers to visit.

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Sustainable Fashion in Fiji

I came across an interesting article from the Fiji Times and written by Shweta Vandana that I would like to share. It was about how the Haus of Koila launched its inaugural Sustainable Fashion in Suva last week celebrating resilience and sustainability through fashion and culture.

HOK director and established Fijian fashion designer Adi Koila Ganilau said the event was a culmination of resilience, adapting fashion to the new normal and embracing changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Coronavirus has made the fashion industry around the world come to a halt and like many in the industry; we’ve taken this hiatus as an opportunity to reassess our fashions direction of trend,” Ms Ganilau said.

“The pandemic has exposed the cracks in the system and pushed our brand more online and unfortunately for others, it took a shock like this for bigger companies to open their eyes.

“We hope that through this platform we inspire many others to continue doing what they do in the creative sector and adapt to sustainable measures in the long run.”

The event also initiated the brand’s corporate social responsibility arm for positive social impact empowering women and youths through sustainable entrepreneurship and development.

Featuring a retrospective collection by Haus of Koila, the event also paid homage to Adi Koila’s lineage of inspirational women.

“The new collection is a time capsule collection reflecting the different generations from my late grandmother, the late former first lady, Ro Adi Lady Lala Mara to her great granddaughters, who are learning to embrace the new world that has and will become post COVID-19,” Adi Koila added.


Fijian Fashion Designer, Adi Koila Ganilau, picture from

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Internally Displaced People’s Traditional Knowledge at Risk


Journalist Mavuku Tokona of the Vanuatu Daily Post recently wrote an interesting article about how the customs and traditions of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) of Vanuatu could be at risk if said traditional knowledge is not practised constantly while on an adopted island.

“If we don’t practise it could be lost, you (the young generation) must know your language and custom before we pass, custom from marriage, we hold on to our custom, even for circumcision, shaving, we keep our custom,” said Chief David Albea of Mele Maat.

Chief Albea was part of the original 36 evacuees from Ambrym to Efate in 1951. Being displaced for almost 70 years, the Chief said different people from different islands joining the community in Mele Maat has threatened their custom, island language and traditional methods, but they have endured and held on. According to Chief Albea, he was part of the original 36 people who fled the volcanic eruption from Ambrym and now close to 10 remain from what he can remember.

Since Cyclone Harold, International Organization for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) have published a document in June, detailing displaced individuals post-TC Harold, which is 6,218, 46% of that figure are under the age of 18. The 36 individuals from Ambrym may have made it easy to hold on to one’s customs and traditions, but over 6,000 may be a different conversation altogether.

IOM Chief of Mission for the Country Office in Vanuatu, Dr. Jessie Connell stated that displacement from natural disasters could have irreparable damage to island identity. “Displacement from disasters, including sudden and slow-onset events, can threaten the survival of traditional knowledge and culture, including intangible losses, such as knowledge about the natural environment and sustainable practices.”

The IOM Chief of Mission said aside from cultural identities and the importance of knowing one’s heritage and traditional knowledge has much more to offer. “Traditional knowledge and kastom have, over centuries, enabled communities in Vanuatu to address environmental, economic and social challenges.

“Through traditional family and tribal linkages, extended kinship networks and long-standing cultural practices, communities have been able to overcome destabilising and traumatic events including past and modern-day disasters, conflicts and, in colonial times, blackbirding. Traditional knowledge and cultural practices offer important cultural safety nets for Ni-Vanuatu people, especially in response to disasters and displacement.”

Dr. Connell added that keeping in touch with cultural ties and traditions is a form of closure and recovery which makes the perpetual traditional practices even more valuable during displacement after a natural disaster. “Lessons learned from the recent Tropical Cyclone Harold, a Category 5 cyclone which made landfall in Vanuatu on 6 April 2020, as well as the mass evacuations from Ambae and Ambrym and other relocation experiences in Vanuatu, reveal the need for people to remain connected to existing cultural practices and relationships during and following displacement to support resilience and recovery.”

Vanuatu’s National Displacement Policy, Strategic Area 11 states: “Displacement can threaten the survival of traditional knowledge and destroy records relating to personal identification, ownership of assets and land.

“Traditional knowledge is the practices, systems, skills and “know how” developed by a community and passed on from one generation to another, forming part of the spiritual and cultural identity of a group.”

While the government recognizes the importance of protecting “cultural identity and spiritual resources of communities” the communities and leaders themselves also have an integral part to play, to ensure the customs and traditions survive and are not lost by the next generation.


Slit Drums, Port Vila, Vanuatu

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Learning Traditional Ways of the Past in Cook Islands

A couple of months ago The Cook Islands News ran an article written by Katrina Tanirau that I have been meaning to share. It was about how there was no better place for future generations of Cook Islanders to learn about traditional cultural practices than at the Highland Paradise Cultural Center- the 600 year-old village site that was home to the Tinomana tribe.

Nearly 3000 children have had the joy of competing in the Highland Paradise Cultural Competition since its inception nine years ago. Tutu Pirangi said they were proud to host the ninth annual school cultural competition at Highland Paradise – Maungaroa. “When we initiated this competition, our aim was to create a passion for our culture, a way of engaging our children in cultural practices in the most authentic and traditional way,” Pirangi said. “This competition is an integral part of our overall vision to preserve and showcase our culture to ensure it is never forgotten.”


The different categories of the competition were: Tau Umu, Rutu Pau, Rangaranga, Taki Tua, Ko Akari, Ute and Akatangi Ukarere. For some of the students, Pirangi said, “It’s probably the only opportunity that they will have to prepare an umu on their own. It’s a fun interactive way for them to learn.”

Grandfather and mataiapo Danny Mataroa said when children participate in the competition, they get to know each other and learn about traditional ways, while treasuring the experience. “Hopefully later when they go overseas they will return because of their love for Cook Islands culture,” Mataroa said. “Sometimes we get so churchy, that we become so strict on our kids and limit them from mixing with other kids that they just want to leave the island when they’re older.”

Principal of Papaaroa School June Hosea said it is events like this that encourage the students to learn and make use of traditional skills. “If it wasn’t for this event, I don’t think we would be motivated to do this,” Hosea said.“The kids love it, learning how to weave and husk a coconut – some have never husked one.”

Hosea also added, “Because of Covid it’s helped us realize we need to get back to our knowledge and it is events like this that encourage our children to do just that. I’m very happy the kids are participating in this.”

Tutu Pirangi expressed gratitude to their sponsors for their continued support – Primefoods, Rangi and Mataamua Taru, Cook Islands Tourism, Ministry of Cultural Development, Solomon and Tuakana Pirangi, Eddie and E Matike Dance team, Danny Mataroa and their judges.

Most of all they are grateful for the long partnership with the schools, because without them there would be no competition. “We thank them for their foresight and commitment and for including the competition in their programmes each year,” Pirangi said. “We understand this can be a challenge for the schools and we therefore seek that Cook Islands culture be incorporated into our Cook Islands schools’ curriculum – so that Cook Islands culture isn’t just extracurricular but a core part of learning.”

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Tradition and Culture Considered in Tongan Court Trials

I came across some interesting news from Tonga where Tonga’s Parliament has unanimously voted to change the constitution to allow Tongan tradition and custom to be applied in the courts.

Under the legislative change, introduced by the acting Justice Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, they want Supreme Court Judges to take account of Tonga’s traditional culture when they are making decisions.

RNZ Pacific correspondent Kalafi Moala said, under the Clause 89 amendment, the judges would be required to consider custom, traditions and culture. “In other words if there are customary things that are in place, that whatever judgement they do in court they need to take those into consideration, to influence or affect their judgement.”

Some in Tonga have welcomed the incorporation of tradition into the Constitution. A former solicitor-general, Aminiasi Kefu, said culture was relevant to the interpretation of law but he said that was already happening in Tonga.

He said Tonga culture is already recognized by the courts with the Tonga Apology being allowed during mitigation, but sometimes defendants have abused this. “The courts have taken a cautionary approach to considering when they perform Tongan Apologies by the family of the defendant against the victim, because the courts and judges, since the 1990s have realized that some defendants have just gone in and conducted the Tongan Apology just as a way of getting out of culpability,” he said.

Acting Justice Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, said the constitutional changes were just following similar moves in the Pacific. Vaipulu acknowledged that the ‘Tongan Apology’ was already part of the legal process, but he said it was not written into law. “It is something that other Pacific Islands have done, but here in Tonga we haven’t done it, so there is no law or legislation being changed at all, it is just for the judges to take it into consideration.”

Samiu Vaipulu said the amendment didn’t need to go to public consultation because was is not changing any law, just adding to it.

The Clause 89 amendment still had to be signed off by King Tupou VI before it becomes law.


Tonga’s National Cultural Centre- photo by

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Teine Sāmoa Project Shines Light on Samoan Women

Radio New Zealand journalist, Koro Vaka’uta, wrote an interesting article a couple of weeks ago about a Samoan author who wrote a book during a week of New Zealand’s Covid-19 national lockdown. She hopes her new project will show the value of Pacific women of all ages.

The paperback version of Teine Sāmoa, or Samoan girl, was launched this month following on from a popular e-book of the same name.

Dahlia Malaeulu is a teacher, turned author, who wrote the e-book while in lockdown this year. Since then, she has spent time gathering the stories of how seven students and seven educators, all Teine Samoa, navigate the challenging world of two cultures in New Zealand.


Malaeulu added these stories to the original material with other additional features including discussion points designed to be used in the classroom. “As Tagata Sāmoa, as Tagata Pasifika, only we can see the world the way we do so it really should be up to [us to] share our stories so our stories reflect us and help others to understand us better and connect with us,” she said.

Malaeulu said that connection was something that could help bridge gaps within the education system. “You hear about the ‘brown tail’ that we were labelled once and how Māori and Pasifika tamaiti really dominate underachievement so when you are Pasifika yourself and you actually have the insight into this world, you actually understand how rich and how knowledgeable our tamaiti are and also what our cultures are and that no learning can actually happen without culture.”

Vaia’ua’u Pilitati has been a teacher for more than 35 years and said she had seen a gradual change. “People in the community, in the schools, parents are more aware of celebrating not only Samoan, but all our Pasifika sisters and brothers, so yes [there’s] definitely a growing awareness and also not just thinking about it and hearing about it but also putting into action that celebration – whatever it looks like.”

Niusila Faamanatu-Eteuati, a lecturer at Wellington’s Victoria University, contributed to the project and agreed that sharing stories was valuable. “Most of the time we tend to think that we are inferior, I mean in the world that we are living in, and we think our story and our gagana and our experiences are not that important so having this project is a way to share those stories and inspire young people … to use their own knowledge and their own experiences of their culture as sources of empowerment with the work they do.”

The youngest contributor, 13-year-old Telesia Tanoai, was doing some inspiring of her own. Born in Taiwan but schooled in New Zealand, Telesia said she had struggled with her identity and being accepted. During lockdown she created a short film based on her journey, during which a young girl holds a conversation with a spirit version of herself. “She’s basically explaining, I don’t feel Samoan, I feel like a foreigner to my family, I feel like I’m not accepted and Telesa [the spirit] says ‘it doesn’t matter how much Samoan blood runs through your body or if you speak the language or if you live on Samoan land. You are Samoan and no-one can tell you otherwise.'”

Dahlia Malaeulu said although the 14 stories contained common threads, they also displayed how there was diversity. “Within our culture, our Samoan culture, as well as many of other Pasifika cultures, there is diversity within it. So that many years ago you had this idea going around or this stereotype of what a Samoan is; that they typically go to church, that they typically all speak the language.”

She said that was definitely not the case today. “There is so much diversity. There are families who have Afakasi children. There are families who have been brought here, scholarship children who have to be raised in a foreign country. There are teine Samoa who struggle with the dual worlds, our tagata Samoa who struggle with the dual worlds of pālangi and then their home life.”

But whatever the case she hoped the project would do at least one thing.

“It would enable us all to better support our tamaiti to succeed as themselves. So succeeding as Samoan, succeeding as Pasifika, because our language, our culture, who we are, is worth it.”

Malaeulu said schools across the region were already inquiring about the book.

The book can be purchased on

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Focusing on Language amid Covid-19 Challenges- Tokelauans

This past week has been Tokelau Language Week in New Zealand. Radio New Zealand recently posted an interesting article about how preserving cultural identity and well-being is the focus of this year’s Tokelau Language Week in Aotearoa New Zealand…

Te Vaiaho O Te Gagana Tokelau was launched online last Sunday by the Tokelauan community in Taupō. The theme is Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea i te galutau. Ke mau mai, ke mau mai’ which means ‘Never give up hope, even amidst chaos and much uncertainty. Stay united, stay strong’.


Where is Tokelau? map from

Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, called on Tokelauans to stay strong in the face of challenges and remain true to their heritage and languages. Aupito said the theme was a “timely reminder” amid the difficulties communities faced due to the Covid-19 outbreak. “It reminds us we must never surrender to the challenges we face in our lives, but instead we must persevere and overcome them,” he said.

Aupito said, “The relationship between heritage and language is critical for our Pacific communities to realize their fullest potential of becoming modern-day navigators and explorers, creators and innovators.”

Aupito said the greatest treasure of “Pacific Aotearoa” was its cultural heritage.

He said this gave Pasifika confidence and a unique insight to develop innovative ways to address the challenges they faced. “Pacific communities have drawn on their confidence and insight, utilising digital technologies such as social media and streamed events to deliver the Pacific Language Weeks program in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak. They have not only succeeded in that delivery, they have expanded the reach beyond Aotearoa, through the Pacific and to the rest of the world.”

Aupito said this work had been vital to the growth and future of Pacific languages and cultures, and to the health and well-being of Pacific communities. “We know that embracing our Pacific cultures and languages will not hold us back, rather they will propel us forward, giving us the ability to determine and lead our futures with the wisdom and understanding of our cultural past.”

Comprising three coral atolls – Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu which sit on extinct volcano peaks – Tokelau has a land area of 12 square kilometres. The 2018 Census showed there were 8,676 Tokelauans living in New Zealand with nearly half in the Wellington region.


Fakaofo Atoll, picture from

Tokelau, a member of the New Zealand Realm of nations, is also celebrating 72 years since the assent of its Administration Act which will be marked on 29 October. Celebrated since 2012, the Tokelau Language Week is the ninth and final language week this year.

There is an official Tokelau Language Week 2020 Facebook page where the public is invited to participate in the range of activities. To celebrate Tokelau Language Week, Auckland Museum will share staff stories, objects from the collections, and crosswords to help improve Tokelauan vocabulary as well as colouring-in pages.

Curator Pacific, Fuli Pereira, said her career at the museum was defined by an absolute shift in the way consultation is carried out and a dedication to descendant communities of makers and owners of collections in the care of Auckland Museum.

During Tokelau Language Week, Pereira said she would reflect on lessons she had learned, how change was made and what she hoped to see happen next.

The language week ends on 31 October.

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“Losing Immortality”- Vanuatu

Today seems like a good day to post a new Pacific Islands legend. I haven’t posted one in awhile. This legend comes from Vanuatu and can be found in the book, To Kill a Bird with Two Stones by Jeremy MacClancy. Enjoy!

Losing Immortality

According to a widespread custom story, the first men and women did not die. When old and their skin wrinkled and tired, they went to a nearby river where the running water gently pulled their old skin off, so that they emerged young again.

But once, the daughter of an old woman did not recognize her mother when she returned from the river as a young woman. Her mother tried to persuade her that it was only her skin that had changed and that she was still the same person. But the daughter would have none of this; she wanted her mother back and began to cry.

Full of regret, her mother returned to the river, found her old skin and put it back on. Her daughter saw her when she cam back and was delighted that her mother had reappeared.

But her mother was old again and old people die, which she did eventually. So it is from that day that the people of these island lost their immortality and began to die.

Losing Immortality(Vanuatu

“Losing Immortality,” illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2020.

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10th Annual Guam International Film Festival

The tenth annual Guam International Film Festival (GIFF) is set to begin Saturday, November 7th, 2020 and will run every weekend through December 5th, 2020. This will be the first virtual version of the Festival which will stream live online for free, worldwide. It will also be televised simultaneously on KGTF Channel 12, PBS Guam.

The month-long cinematic event will showcase an official lineup of 34 films from Guam and 23 international films from the Cook Islands, Indonesia, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Bulgaria, Chile, Russia, Italy and more. GIFF has had a record-breaking year in 2020 with submissions from over 800 international entries from 84 countries.


The emphasis of this year’s film festival is centered around indigenous Pacific Islander films with a special retrospective showcase featuring award-winning and nominated local films that have screened as part of GIFF within the past decade.

“I’m happy to commemorate the Festival’s tenth anniversary by honoring our own stories,” said GIFF Program Director Kel Muña. He added, “With so many unsettling moments taking place this year, we wanted this GIFF to be a special ‘thank you’ note; an expression of humble thanks and gratitude to our local GIFF audiences, participating filmmakers, and community & business leaders that have supported the Festival and its mission by way of community, education and entertainment throughout the past ten years.”

Returning to lead the GIFF Grand Jury for its tenth consecutive year is head juror Dr. Tom Brislin of University of Hawai’i at Manoa along with Gabrielle Kelly of the American Film Institute. Kimberlee Bassford, a student Academy Award winner and Sundance-supported filmmaker, will be making her GIFF debut as a Festival juror.

For more information regarding the festival, including film showtimes, please visit the website at

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Traditional Food Production- the Key to Sustainable Future

I came across an article on the Radio New Zealand site about an interesting, special event that took place last week.

Voices of Food Systems‘ was  an online conversation relay which started on Friday, October 16, as part of UN World Food Day. The conversation was about how Pacific countries would be the first in the world to engage in a global call to transform the planet’s food production.

Voices of Food Systems is a new United Nations event which aims to start governments, communities and citizens thinking about transforming food production and distribution into sustainable and nutritious systems. It is an effort to address world food systems globally with the aim of tackling Sustainable Development Goal 2, to end world hunger.

Food production is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fiji’s president Jioji Konrote opened the marathon conversation before handing over to Pacific Islands Food Revolution founder and event host Robert Oliver. “And then we have a panel right afterwards with serious Pacific leaders,” said Oliver. We’ve got Honourable Ralph Regenvanu of Vanuatu. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa of Samoa. Adi Tafuna’i of Samoa. Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu who is the Minister of Health in Tonga.” They’re not just political leaders according to Oliver, but cultural ones.

The 24-hour event aimed to kick-start moves towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly food production. Integral to future sustainability and health is reviving traditional Pacific food production, added Oliver. “The knowledge from the past is the blueprint for the future, albeit formatted for the modern world. I mean, no-one wants to throw away their iPhone or go backwards, but people don’t need to forget who they are in the process to kind of go forward.”

With 84 percent of deaths in Fiji largely attributed to the wrong diet, noted Oliver, the solution lies in traditional food systems. “Food systems are like any other system, they evolve sometimes with an intention that does not (maybe) include things like conservation, health. Small island economies, for example, can get lost out in a food system that’s designed just for growth.”

Part of the UN strategic vision was to transform world food systems within the next decade in order to keep emissions reductions on track for the sector while tackling world hunger. Food had an important relationship with other planetary systems, according to Oliver, including biodiversity and a changing climate.

“I always view a plate of food as being at the centre of a wheel. There’s all these spokes going out to what in the UN language are development agendas and Sustainable Development Goals. But of course what we love about food involves sharing and community and all the good stuff.”

Watch the replay on YouTube:



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