Ko te pa (the pearl shell lure pendant)
In celebration of Tokelau Language Week (24 Oct – 30 Oct 2016) we have installed three pa in our Te Kākano display case. Luti Mekisa Fakaalofa selected the works and wrote both the English and Tuvalu language labels.
Ko te pa ko he koa taua i te aganuku faka Tokelau. Ko he fakailoga tena o te ola o he kaiga Tokelau. E fau ai na pa hi atu a tautai, ke fafaga ai te nuku ma kokou ai foki te malae. E ono ia itukaiga pa, pe ko na tifa. Ko te laumilo, hikuuli, pahina, fulufakalupe, lanufakanuanua, ma te lanufakapugapuga.
E iloga te tautiti Tokelau, e kahoa i he pa. Ko te fakailoga ia o te mamalu, kae maihe ko he fakamanuiaga ki he kaiga fou. Ko te fakatuala, e fakakahoa ai te tautiti fakaipoipo e na taukaiga. Ko te tukuatuga tena o na fakamanuiaga ki te ulugaliki fou. Ko te fakahoa, e fōki ke tauhi ai te kaiga. Ke kaina te pa. Ke iloga ai ia nifo o ika. Ke ola ai te kaifenua, ke faitapiha foki te tinifu.
Na tuhia e Luti Mekisa Fakaalofa
The pa (pearl shell lure pendant) is a very special item in the Tokelau culture. The people of Tokelau survive mainly on fish and the pa is symbolic of, and sometimes is literally, the shank of a fishing lure that men use to feed and care for their family and community. The pearl shells have a range of different colours and lustre which are indicated by the different names for pa, such as laumilo (dark all over), pahina (whitish colour), hikuuli (dark tail), fulufakalupe (colour of pigeon feathers), lanufakanuanua (rainbow coloured) and lanufakapugapuga (colour of non-branching coral).
Pa are worn at many events but mainly at weddings. When a girl gets married her father will give her a pa as sign of respect and honour, and so passes on a means of taking care of his daughter to his son-in-law who can use the pa to fish. A girl could be given more than 100 pa at her wedding as they are more significant than money. There is no other island in the Pacific that practices this tradition, therefore, if a person is seen wearing a pa others will know that the person is Tokelauan or has Tokelauan connections.
Written by Luti Mekisa Fakaalofa
Listen to Luti read this story in the Tokelau Language
Cite this article
Fakaalofa, Luti Mekisa.
Ko te pa (the pearl shell lure pendant) . Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 25 October 2016. Updated: 8 January 2017.