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Enriching Aotearoa with the Tongan Spirit

Celebrating Tongan language and culture

The theme of this year's language week (4-10 Sepitema 2016) is ‘Fakakoloa ‘a Aotearoa ‘aki ‘a e Lotoi Tonga’ (Enriching Aotearoa with the Tongan Spirit). With more Tongan people currently born in New Zealand than in Tonga, Aotearoa has a special role in celebrating lea faka-Tonga mo e ‘ulungnāanga faka-Tonga (Tongan language and culture).

Annotated preliminary page and page 1 of Koe tohi himi 'ae Jiaji Uesiliana Tauataina 'o Toga. Tonga: Kuo fai 'ae baki ni ke fakamanatu 'ae senituli 'oe Lotu 'i Toga, 1926 (Printed in London : William Clowes).

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. BV510.T66 FRE (copy 44231)

The Museum Library holds a range of documentary heritage on Tonga. This includes publications in Tongan and English such as 19th century language study and educational texts, religious materials, illustrated stories and colourful books on Tongan arts.

Lotu ‘i Tonga (Religion in Tonga)

Koe Gaahi himi. Charles Tucker. Vavau, [Tonga]: Printed at the Wesleyan Mission Press, W. A. Brooks, 1838.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. BV510.T66 TUC (copy 44241)

Religion plays a large role in Tongan society, with around 90 per cent of the population practicing some form of Christianity. One of Auckland Museum’s oldest Tongan books is the diminutive hymnbook Koe gaahi himi, published in 1838 at the Wesleyan Mission Press, Vavau. At 11 cm tall, this palm size hymnbook would have been easily transportable, and also features beautiful marbled endpapers.

Missionaries from the Wesleyan-Methodist Missionary Society, based in England, first arrived in Tonga in 1822. As well as religious material, the mission also published various Tongan and English vocabulary books, including this 1897 copy of An English and Tongan vocabulary, also a Tongan and English vocabulary, with a list of idiomatic phrases, and Tongan grammar, which was presented to the Auckland Institute by the author Rev. Shirley W. Baker in 1898.

Shirley Waldemar Baker was a British Wesleyan Methodist missionary who arrived in Tonga in 1860, and was made Prime Minister by King George Tupou I in 1880.

Another Wesleyan hymnbook, Koe tohi himi 'ae Jiaji Uesiliana Tauataina 'o Toga was published in 1926 and this copy has been heavily inscribed in Tongan on its first few pages by Methodist minister Rev. S.C. Roberts, Nukualofa, April 28th 1929.

Annotated preliminary pages of Koe tohi himi 'ae Jiaji Uesiliana Tauataina 'o Toga.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. BV510.T66 FRE (copy 44231)

Other items on display in the Library include Koe gaue ae Kau Sagato, a Catholic publication from 1901 on the lives of the saints, which features bold red text block edges. A more recent item is a series of small leaflets Oku faiako ‘a Sesu, which was produced by The British and Foreign Bible Society (New Zealand) in 1972 for use in Sunday schools in Tonga to help children learn to read.

'Api ako (School)

Tupou College is a Methodist boys' secondary boarding school in Toloa, Tongatubu, and is Tonga’s oldest school, this year celebrating its 150th anniversary. It was founded in 1866 by British Wesleyan Methodist missionary, James Egan Moulton. Koe makasini ‘a Koliji was Tupou College’s educational periodical written by Moulton, which was published in Nukualofa. Koe jiokalafi 'o Eulobe is a geography book about Europe and Koe fika nomiba, koe 'uluaki tohi, koe gahi elementi is an arithmatic book, both in the Tongan language and published in London for the College in 1880 and 1878 respectively.

European geography book, Pages 10-11 of Koe jiokalafi 'o Eulobe. London: John Walker & Co., 1880.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. D900 TUP (copy 32734)

Tonga College was founded by His Majesty, King Siaosi Tupou I in October 1882. Koe jiokalafi o mamani ko hono paki tuo taha is a three-part series of geography books, published in 1895 and featuring fold out world maps in the Tongan language.

Charts and Tongan arts

Sketch of Tongataboo Harbour, engraved by Thos. Bowen in 1785. London: Alex. Hogg at the King's Arms, No. 16 Paternoster Row, London, [1790?].

Copyright: National Library of Australia. Sketch of Tongataboo Harbour [cartographic material].

This chart entitled Sketch of Tongataboo Harbour, was engraved by Thomas Bowen in 1785, and published by Alex. Hogg in London. It is from a sketch made by Captain James Cook when he visited Tongataboo (Tongatapu) in June and July 1777. The chart features Tongatapu's western inner harbour and soundings, and its scale is 1:80,000. Cook first encountered the Tongan islands in his Second voyage in 1773, which he termed the Friendly Archipelago, and returned to Tonga in 1774 on his way back from New Zealand to England.

Tonga is known for its arts, including ngatu (bark cloths). Examples are featured amongst the items in this photograph, which has the description Presentation of traditional valuables at a wedding, Tongatapu. The photographer and date are unknown.

'Tonga' ['Presentation of traditional valuables at a wedding, Tongatapu'].

Date and photographer unknown.Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-RESOS-257

On display

These items are currently on display in the Library Reading Room until Friday, 23 September 2016.

Further reading


Cite this article

Bayliss, Tamsyn. Enriching Aotearoa with the Tongan Spirit. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 8 September 2016. Updated: 23 January 2017.
URL: www.aucklandmuseum.com/collections-research/collections/topics/enriching-aotearoa-with-the-tongan-spirit

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