Enriching Aotearoa with the Tongan Spirit
Celebrating Tongan language and culture
With more Tongan people currently born in New Zealand than in Tonga, Aotearoa has a special role in celebrating lea Faka-Tonga mo e 'ulungaanga Faka-Tonga (Tongan language and culture).
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.
Koe Lotu 'i Tonga (Religion in Tonga)
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, Vava'u, it has beautiful marbled endpapers. At 11 cm tall, this palm-size hymnbook would have been easy to transport.
Missionaries from the Wesleyan-Methodist Missionary Society, based in England, first arrived in Tonga in 1822. As well as religious material, the mission published various Tongan and English vocabulary books, including this 1897 copy of An English and Tongan vocabulary, which was presented to the Auckland Institute in 1898 by the author, the Rev. Shirley Waldemar Baker. 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, Nuku'alofa, April 28th 1929.
Other items 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.
Koe 'api ako (school)
Tupou College is a Methodist boys' secondary boarding school in Toloa, Tongatapu, and is Tonga's oldest school. 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 Nuku'alofa. Koe jiokalafi 'o Eulobe is a geography book about Europe and Koe fika nomiba, koe 'uluaki tohi, koe gahi elementi is an arithmetic book; both are in Tongan and were published in London for the College in 1880 and 1878 respectively.
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 geography series. Published in 1895, it features fold-out world maps in Tongan.
Charts and Tongan arts
This chart, 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 Tongatapu in June and July 1777. The chart (scale: 1:80,000) features Tongatapu's western inner harbour and soundings. 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 cloth). Examples are featured amongst the items in this photograph, which has the description Presentation of traditional valuables at a wedding, Tongatapu.
Cite this article
Enriching Aotearoa with the Tongan Spirit. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 8 September 2016. Updated: 5 November 2019.