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)


#StayAtHome Film Festival: Louise’s Māori and Pasifika Picks

Our Kanopy and Beamafilm streaming platforms have a great selection of FREE content from Aotearoa and the Pacific. It’s always good to see our own cultures represented on the screen, so while we are still spending a lot of time at home grab the opportunity to watch some gems that have a Māori and Pasifika kaupapa!

This blog only highlights a small selection of films including emotional movies, documentaries, and a feel good gem about musicians and finding yourself. You will find more if you search ‘Māori’, ‘New Zealand’, or a specific Pasifika country within Kanopy or Beamafilm.

Go ahead and immerse yourself in the stories of Aotearoa and the Pacific!

The Orator

Year: 2011
Length: 106 minutes
Director: Tusi Tamasese

Watch the full film here on Beamafilm!

The Orator is a beautiful and emotional movie that was written and directed by Samoan film-maker Tusi Tamasese and shot entirely in Samoan on location in Samoa itself. Saili’s story is one of love and challenges as he learns he must stand tall, despite his small stature, to become a hero. Highly recommended.

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You can also watch Tamasese’s other feature film, One Thousand Ropes, on Kanopy.

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

Year: 2001
Length: 28 minutes
Directors: Joseph Ostraff, Melinda Ostraff

Watch the full film here on Kanopy!

Tapa cloth is a true artistic treasure of the Pacific. In Tonga it is called ngatu and this short documentary illustrates  ngatu’s symbolic importance and collaborative production. Beautiful and fascinating!

Discover More:

Our Te Moana-Nui-A-Kiwi/Pasefika popular topic page provides links to all sorts of Pasefika books and online resources.


Year: 1988
Length: 100 minutes
Director: Merata Mita

Watch the full film here on Kanopy!

Merata Mita was the first Māori woman to write and direct a dramatic movie when she brought out Mauri in 1988. Set on the East Coast, Mauri stars Anzac Wallace (Utu) and activist Eva Rickard. This is a landmark film from a landmark Māori film maker.

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You can also watch Ngati on Kanopy, another ground-breaking  film from a Māori film maker, this time Barry Barclay.


Year: 2017
Length: 86 minutes
Directors: Ainsley Gardiner, Awanui Simich-Pene, Briar Grace Smith, Casey Kaa, Chelsea Winstanley, Katie Wolfe, Paula Whetu Jones, Renae Maihi

Watch the full film here on Kanopy!

Eight female Māori directors give us eight connected stories, each taking place at the same moment in time during the tangi of a small boy called Waru. This is a very moving and challenging film with all eight stories  subtly linked while following different female characters. All must come to terms with Waru’s death and try to find a way forward within their community.

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A tangi is at the heart of Waru. If you want to learn about Māori protocols surrounding tangi, or other Māori topics, our Māori Information Resources page is an excellent place to start.

The Rain of the Children

Year: 2008
Length: 102 minutes
Director: Vincent Ward

Watch the full film here on Kanopy!

I love this film. Vincent Ward’s beautiful dramatic documentary explores the life of Tuhoe woman Puhi and her relationship to Rua Kenana and the community at Maungapohatu. Ward looks at the curse Puhi believed she lived under in an incredibly moving way, and the result is a jewel of a film.

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You can also watch Vincent Ward’s first film about Puhi, In Spring One Plants Alone, on Kanopy.

The Deadlands

Year: 2013
Length: 107 minutes
Director: Toa Fraser

Watch the full film here on Beamafilm!

Woo hoo! Revenge and action abound in Toa Fraser’s movie starring James Rolleston and Lawrence Makoare. You gotta love the use of mau rākau – a traditional Māori martial art – and a script in te reo Māori!

Discover More:

If you want to start learning te reo Māori our recent Resources to Learn Māori blog can help with all sorts of tips to get you started.

The Pa Boys

Year: 2014
Length: 90 minutes
Director: Himiona Grace

Watch the full film here on Kanopy!

My whānau love this heartfelt film about a musician and his reggae band on a road trip of music and self discovery. Francis Kora is wonderful as Danny who is unsettled, and then opened up to his culture, when Tau (Matariki Whatarau) joins the band. Music, landscape, laughs and love – beautiful and simple.

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The band in The Pa Boys sets out from Wellington where Danny lives. If you love the music scene in Wellington you can learn more about it on our dedicated Wellington Music page.

King George Tupou V

King George Tupou V of the South Pacific nation of Tonga has died at the age of 63. Tonga is the last Polynesian monarchy, although the king was instrumental in bringing about democratic reform. He had been king since 2006. The following are featured books from some of our collection on Tonga and its history, focussing on the Tongan monarchy and the democratic changes that occured during the reign of King George Tupou V.

Syndetics book coverTonga’s way to democracy / Ian C. Campbell.
“In 2010 after more than a century of oligarchial government Tonga made the bold step to full parliamentary democracy, catching up with the rest of ther island Pacific. This book tells the story of that reform, of the long protest movement that preceded i and how the royal family abruptly espoused democracy.” – (Adapted from back cover)

Syndetics book coverIsland kingdom : Tonga ancient and modern / I.C. Campbell.
“Uniquely among the nations of the Pacific Islands, Tonga was never subject to direct European rule at any point in its history. Since the original settlement of the islands, Tongans have been masters of their archipelago, developing a distinctive and elegant culture. Amid rapid modernisation the ancient kingdom has survived.” – (Adapted from back cover)

Syndetics book coverQueen Salote of Tonga : the story of an era, 1900-1965 / Elizabeth Wood-Ellem.
“A biography of the queen. Her life is seen in the context of political, social and economic developments in Tonga. There is a detailed study of kinship and principles of hierarchy. 125 photographs are included. A glossary of Tongan words and phrases and an alphabetical list of people are provided. The work is based on the author’s doctoral thesis.” – (Syndetics summary)

The new friendly islanders : the Tonga of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV / Kenneth Bain ; foreword by His Majesty King Taufa-Ahau Tupou IV!.
“A rounded and vivid picture emerges of an ancient South Seas island society of great character and special quality – yet under pressure for change, beset by factional debate and, some also fear, on the brink of popular unrest. So, while the people look critically at themselves and their institutions, Kenneth Bain asks what the future holds for Tongans as they approach the millennium.” – (Adapted from back cover)