Tonga Language Week

This year’s theme for Tonga Language Week is Ke Tu’uloa ‘a e lea faka-Tonga′ ‘i Aotearoa, meaning Sustaining the Tongan Language in Aotearoa. Ke Tu’uloa ‘a e lea faka-Tonga′ ‘i Aotearoa has a positive and progressive connotation, to support the overarching Pacific Language Weeks theme of Sustainability. The word Tu’uloa in the theme this year means to continuously grow, nurture, and sustain a valued idea, practice, event, or memory in an enduring way.

Explore these informative and educational resources that celebrate Tonga’s rich and diverse cultural history. There’s riveting personal biographies, political histories and interactive lessons for learning to speak Tongan. Show your support to Aotearoa’s Tongan community by participating in local events and celebrations- explore the NZ Tonga Language Week Facebook and the Ministry for Pacific People’s website for event details.

Enjoy the Tongan stories, music, language resources and documentaries in our collection.

Voyages : from Tongan villages to American suburbs / Small, Cathy
Voyages offers a view of the changes in migration, globalization, and ethnographic fieldwork over three decades. The author (whose role after thirty years of fieldwork is both ethnographer and family member) reintroduces the reader to four sisters in the same family-two who migrated to the United States and two who remained in Tonga-and reveals what has unfolded in their lives. Imparting new reflections on how immigration and globalization have affected family, economy, tradition, political life, identity, and the practice of anthropology.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Tongan herbal medicine / Whistler, W. Arthur
“The use of medicinal plants dates to prehistoric times when ancient man found that ingestion or application of certain herbs and barks was effective in treating ailments. Herbal medicine is a part of virtually all cultures, and Tonga is no exception. Early visitors in the first decades of the ‘European Era’ in Tongan history noted the relatively minor use of herbal plants, especially in comparison with the adjacent Fiji Islands. Whether or not this evaluation is true may never be learned, but today in Tonga, herbal remedies are used by a large percentage of the population.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Tongan : a South Pacific adventure / Dyck, Dieter
“From refugee to immigrant, from a Kiwi to a Tongan citizen. This fascinating book describes the events of Dieter Dyck’s journey during and after the end of the Second World War: his sea journey on a Dutch immigrant ship; his marriage to a Tongan princess, Senikau; the formation of his painting business Dyck Decorators Ltd.; his conversion and baptism; his involvement in the 39th Auckland Boys’ Brigade Company and the establishment of The Tongan Beach Resort in Vava’u.” (Catalogue)

Tonga’s way to democracy / Campbell, I. C.
“In 2010 after more than a century of oligarchical government Tonga made the bold step to full parliamentary democracy, catching up with the rest of the island Pacific. This book tells the story of that reform, of the long protest movement that preceded it and how the royal family abruptly espoused democracy.” (Catalogue)




Intensive course in Tongan / Shumway, Eric B
“99 lessons on 14 discs, including songs and readings.” (Catalogue)

Tongan chic / Soane  “Soane’s music was a hit in the NZ and UK dance scenes in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Born in the village of Vava’u in Tonga, Soane was a pioneering DJ and dance producer.”



When the Man Went South

“Instructed to set out on a journey by his village chief, Flying Fox heads south to learn about his strengths as a man. During his journey he meets two warring villages and attempts to mediate their differences. Flying Fox applies the lessons he learned on his journey when he returns to his home village to find trouble.” (From IMDb)


Kau Faito’o: Traditional Healers of Tonga

“This is a documentary which both shows the ancient traditional art form of healing, and tries to capture the essence of being a traditional healer in an ever changing environment. Traditional healers are shown collecting, preparing and administering herbal remedies that they have passed down from generation to generation. Healers discuss where, why and how they gained their knowledge and why they choose to carry on age-old customs and practices, despite the fact that Tonga is becoming a nation increasingly dependent on western medicine. Tonga’s traditional healers are adapting to niches such as prenatal care and physical therapy. Interspersed throughout the film are beautiful scenes of water, agriculture, rainforest and people which comprise current island life in the Kingdom of Tonga.” (Adapted from IMDb)

Kuo Hina E Hiapo: The Mulberry is White and Ready for Harvest

“Tapa cloth or ngatu as it is called in Tonga, is cloth made from the bark of the mulberry tree. The inner bark is beaten into fine sheets and painted using traditional designs. After centuries of use, ngatu has literally become the fabric of Tongan society. In Tonga and throughout much of Polynesia, bark cloth has deep symbolic and ceremonial use. At birth, babies are swaddled in it. At marriage, newlyweds line their wedding bed, and at death, the departed are buried wrapped in it. This documentary investigates the highly collaborative process of making ngatu and the organizations of women who carry on with the tradition. While the process continues to be passed on from generation to generation, there are signs of change as a cash economy begins to infiltrate Tongan life. Young people show less interest in such labor intensive endeavor in the face of the older generation’s belief that this tradition will never die.” (From IMDb)


NZ Pacific Picture Book Collection

The NZ Pacific Picture Book Collection and website have been put together as an educational resource featuring activities and links to the NZ school curriculum. The creators selected the titles from nominations collected from nine librarians who have a specific interest in Pasifika communities. They believe in the power of picture books to shine a light on world views to both validate and introduce culture to others.

Here is a selection of some of the books from the collection held by Wellington Libraries.

Syndetics book coverTulevai and the sea / by Joy Cowley ; illustrated by Manu Smith.
“A story for young readers with full-page colour illustrations by Manu Smith. Tulevai is such a good fisher from his canoe, the sea decides to make him its slave, and captures him. However, Tulevai’s mother decides her love is stronger than all the power of the sea, and rescues him by rolling the sea aside.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLegends of the Cook Islands / Shona Hopkins ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
Collection of eight illustrated legends from the Cook Islands. Set in a mythological time known as Avaiki, these stories tell of brave men and women, mystical mountains, powerful gods and majestic sea creatures. Suggested level: primary, intermediate.

Syndetics book coverThe Shark God / story by Rafe Martin ; pictures by David Shannon.
“Because they freed a shark caught in a net, the fearsome Shark God rescues a brother and sister from the cruel king’s imprisonment and helps them find a new, peaceful kingdom across the sea.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGrandad / Janet Pereira ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
A young girl relates how her family respond to her grandfather’s illness and death and bring to the funeral responses from a variety of cultures. Includes a glossary of words related to death and funerals. Suggested level: primary.

Syndetics book coverTane steals the show / [text] Lino Nelisi ; [illustrations] Gus Hunter.
Uncle Kokela is getting married on Saturday and everyone is practising singing and dancing. Because Tane is too small, no one will let him join in. But Tane has a surprise for them. Suggested level: junior.

Syndetics book coverTwo cans of corned beef and a manulele in a mango tree : a Pacific Christmas / Sarona Aiono-losefa ; illustrated by Steven Dunn.
A Pacific version of the popular Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, with such gifts as four rolls of tapa, three frangipanis, two cans of corned beef and a manulele in a mango tree. Suggested level: junior, primary.

Syndetics book coverThe stuck there forever boat / Gillian Torckler ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
Tama’s idyllic island life is changing. The surrounding sea is slowly flooding their land, the coral is dying and the fish have disappeared. Tama’s family must move to a higher island, but his nanny won’t listen. What can Tama do to convince his nanny to leave? A story inspired by the Tuvaluan people, whose low-lying island nation is under threat of non-existence due to the rising seas associated with global warming.

Syndetics book coverSione’s talo / by Lino Nelisi ; illustrated by Elspeth Williamson.
Sione finds a huge talo growing on his plantation and calls his family to help him pull it up, but they are only successful with the help of an ant. Suggested level: juniors

Syndetics book coverPapa’s jandals / Kate Moetaua ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
“Papa loves his great big jandals but so does Junior. When Junior loses Papa’s jandals the hunt is on to find them but no one would ever have guessed where they turn up”–Back cover. Suggested level: junior.

Syndetics book coverTalia / by Catherine Hannken ; illustrated by Trish Bowles.
Talia’s dad is taking her to Samoa to meet her family and she is excited, but her excitement quickly turns to confusion when she steps off the plane. She can’t understand what anyone is saying and she feels scared and alone. With help from her family, Talia begins to forget her fear and shyness and enjoy being in Samoa. Suggested level: junior.

Syndetics book coverA book of Pacific lullabies / edited by Tessa Duder ; illustrated by Anton Petrov.
Collection of poems for children inspired by the natural images and rhythms of the Pacific on the themes of night and sleep. Contains brief biographical information about each of the contributing authors. Suggested level: junior, primary.

Fishing with spider webs / Lino Nelisi ; illustrations by! Elspeth Alix Batt.
“A story for children with full-page colour illustrations. Aiani was born in Auckland. When she is 10, she flies to Nuie to visit her family. Uncle Tuki takes her out fishing, using spider webs! They get a good feed of fish. Next day they’re going to catch a coconut crab without being bitten.” (Syndetics summary)

The pipi swing / Sarona Aiono-Iosefa ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
A story of a Samoan girl whose grandparents teach her how to have fun again after her father, their son dies, in spite of their own grief. Suggested level: junior, primary.

He Hononga : the launching of “Once were Pacific” by Alice Te Punga-Somerville

Last Thursday I headed across to Waiwhetu Marae, to attend a new phenomenon – a “launch without a book”.

Alice’s book – “Once were Pacific : Māori connections to Oceania” has already sold out both here in New Zealand and also in Australia. What an achievement, Alice!

However, all is not lost – come to Wellington City Libraries – hooray – we have two copies, but only one for lending.

A large crowd of Te Punga whānau renewed their turangawaewae, friends, whānau, fellow-workers from Victoria University, and students of Alice came to support and farewell her, and right there in the mix was a group of overseas students (passers-by who came to experience a ‘marae visit”).

Ka nui ngā mihi atu ki te hau kāinga mō te pō whakangahau. – he kahurangi nō mātou a Alice, hei uri o tēnei marae.

So we gathered to tautoko Alice and her overview of indigenous literature –“ texts of poetry, fiction, theatre, film and music” , alongside “instances of performance, journalism and scholarship” (back cover), which build on the connections of Māori as indigenous people, not only to the land, but, also (here’s a new thought) to the sea – the Pacific Ocean, and hence the connections to the Pacific people, both overseas, and in New Zealand.

(Aha – note that subtle play on words – “Once were Pacific” v. “Once were warriors”).

It was fitting that Tupaia has a place in this book.  It was he who guided Captain Cook to the Pacific Ocean for the Transit of Venus, in 1769, and became a unique interface – a Pacific connection –between Māori and European.

Included in this book are Pacific-based writers such as Vernice Wineera, and Evelyn Patuawa-Nathan, and Aotearoa-based works, writers, collaborations and connections with – Whale Rider, Hinewirangi, Ihimaera, Chantal Spitz, Apirana Taylor, Patricia Grace, Karlo Mila, Alistair Campbell, Rongo (newspaper), concepts of Nesians, Polynation.

On the night of the launch, strands of hononga, resting safely in the skilful hands of Rawinia Higgins and Hugh Karena were extended by the skilful kōrero of Rachel Buchanan and Alice, herself.

Aspects of Alice’s strong personality were revealed in kōrero from Lydia Weavers, the Mafileo boys brought us to attention with a passionate haka, Megan, sister of Alice, read a taster from the book, and Michel Tuffrey described his artwork on the cover.

I was swept along on Alice’s journey, and sorry when she eventually finished her presentation, but wish her well as she departs (shortly) in the footsteps of (“Na to hoa aroha”) Peter Buck, across the Pacific to the University of Hawai’i, Manoa.

Go well, Alice.

Whaia e koe ki te iti kahurangi : ki te tuohu koe, me maunga teitei

Seek the treasure you value most dearly : if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

Ann Reweti


(Photographs by Nick Sevian)

Ten Books: Pacific Fiction

From magic- to gritty realism, poetry to epic prose, the minutiae of family life to the historical impact of political machinations, here are ten books written by Pacific writers, or with a Pacific setting and flavour.

  1. The adventures of Vela, Albert Wendt (2009, Samoan) – a novel in verse form “where everyday matters intermingle with the chronicles of the immortal song-maker and other divine figures.” (Paula Green in the New Zealand Listener)
  2. The marriage proposal, Célestine Hitiura Vaite (2007, Samoan) – also published as Breadfruit – Materena would quite like to be married but Pito isn’t so keen, then one night he drunkenly proposes and Materena finds herself in the throes of wedding preparations while keeping Pito on track.
  3. Island of shattered dreams, Chantal Spitz, translated by Jean Anderson (2007, Tahitian) – the first novel published by an indigenous Tahitian writer. The story of a Tahitian family in the foreground, with the troubled political history of Tahiti and French nuclear testing as backdrop.
  4. Where we once belonged, by Sia Figiel (1996, Samoan) – a coming of age novel featuring Alofa, growing up in an environment where Western and Samoan traditions and values clash.
  5. Carpentaria, Alexis Wright (2006, Carpentaria – Australian) – described sometimes with reference to James Joyce’s Ulysses, Carpentaria is an epic, magic-realist tale set in the town of Desperance in the very north of Queensland.
  6. The smell of the moon, Lemanatele M. Kneubuhl (2006, American Samoa) – a man seeking a complete change in his life packs up his family and moves to a South Pacific Island, whose inhabitants are a quirky and varied bunch.
  7. Dark paradise, Lono Waiwaiole (2009, Hawaii) – a different sort of Hawaii from one you might expect, this one involving the methamphetamine trade and warring wannabe druglords.
  8. Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones (2006, Bougainville) – the multi award winning coming of age story of Matilda, who is inspired by her teacher’s reading of Great Expectations during a time of violence and turmoil in Bougainville in the early 1990s.
  9. Easter Island: a novel, Jennifer Vanderbes (2003) – the story of two women who travel to Easter Island sixty years apart, one with her scientist husband in 1913 and the other as a scientist herself in 1973, both women becoming engaged with the island and its mysterious past.
  10. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut (1985) – a group of people take a tour to the Galapagos Islands while the world is in chaos and ruins around them.