Mālō e Lelei!

Sunday 3rd – Saturday 9th September 2023 is Uike Kātoanga‘i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga, Tongan Language Week.

To celebrate we've brought together stories, collection objects, blogs and documentaries that highlight the richness of not just Tongan language, but all aspects of Tongan culture.


From Sunday 3 September until Saturday 9 September, the Museum will be illuminated every evening in red and white in recognition of Tongan Language Week.

Join us for onsite Celebrations

Join us for free performances Under the Tanoa in Te Ao Mārama South Atrium. We are also opening our doors for Tongan community groups to come in and view items from the collection and talanoa over tea and coffee.

Celebrate Tongan Language Week

Three free performances

Celebrate Tongan Language Week



Pukepuke ‘o Tonga

The children and youth of community arts organization Pukepuke ‘o Tonga will perform an reenactment of the legend of Tangaloa Eitumatupu'a and his demi-god son 'Aho'eitu. The focus brings us to the first Tu'i Tonga: 'Aho'eitu, his journey back to his father and how he came to rule Tonga.


The Tuaikaepau Tongan Group from Manurewa High School will perform a traditional Lakalaka and a contemporary Mate Ma'a Tonga. Both of these performances highlight the majesty of Tongan culture and language, and the importance of cherishing one's Tongan heritage.

Praize Vuna

Talented solo artist Praize Vuna will perform some of her own compositions written in Tongan at home with her father. Song composition at home in the family nest is yet another way for her to maintain and sustain her Tongan language.

Community drop-in

Community drop-in


Come admire a selection of Tongan textile and fibre treasures from our collection at our special Tongan community drop-in on Wednesday 6 September. Interact with these cherished taonga and learn more about Tongan material culture during these intimate sessions between 1PM- 5PM. Sessions are limited to 8 people and must be booked in advance.

Click the link below to find out more about Te Aho Mutunga Kore.


Tokanga'i 'o e ngaahi koloa mahu'inga 'a e fāmili mo fakafo'ituitui

If you would prefer to access this information in another language, click here to see the other options. 

Ko e ngaahi koloa mahu‘inga ‘a e fāmili ko e konga ia ‘e taha hotau hisitolia. ‘Oku ne ‘omai ha ongo ‘ofa ki hotau tupu‘anga ‘i he ‘etau ‘ilo‘i kohai kitautolu mo e kakai na‘a tau tupu mei ai. Ko e ngaahi koloa mahu‘inga ‘a e fāmili ‘oku fa‘a kau ki ai ‘a e ngaahi ‘ata, ‘alapama, ngaahi tohi, pea mo e ngaahi fakamatala mahu‘inga.

Ko hono tokanga‘i mo tauhi ‘a e ngaahi naunau ko ‘eni ‘oku fakatefito ai ‘a ‘ene tolonga. Ko e ngaahi founga ‘eni te ne tokoni‘i koe ki hono tauhi ke malu ‘a e ngaahi hohoko ho fāmili ma‘a kinautolu he kaha‘u.

Family archives are part of our history. We draw a sense of identity from knowing who we are and where we’ve come from. Archives may include photographs, albums, letters, and important documents. Handling and storage of our family collections directly impacts how long they last. These guidelines will help you preserve your family archives for future generations.


Our people

Learn how our Museum whānau celebrate their heritage in their work

Asinate Fakaosifolau

Asinate Fakaosifolau

Fakatapu ki he ‘afio ‘a e tolu taha'i ‘Otua. Fakatapu ki he ngaahi  tu'u ki mu'a ‘o e ngaue'anga ni. Fakatapu ki ha sola mo ha vulangi, kae ‘atā mo e finemotu'a ni keu lave nounou atu ki hoku tupu'anga pea moe mahu'inga kiate au ‘a hono fakatolonga mo kātoanga'i ‘o e uike lea faka-Tonga. 

Mālō e lelei, my name is 'Asinate Faka'osifolau-Williams. I work in the Visitor Services team as the Bookings & Sales Coordinator.

My father hails from the villages of Ha'ateiho, located in the center of the main island Tongatapu and Tungua which is a small Island of the Ha'apai outer island groups. My mother hails from ‘Utulau located on the Southern side of the main Island, Tongatapu and Vaipoa, another outer island group of Niuatoputapu which is located closer to Samoa.

The theme for this year’s language week is 'E tu'uloa ‘a e lea faka-Tongá ‘o ka lea'aki ‘i ‘api, siasi´ moe nofo-‘a-kainga´ which translates to “Tongan language will be sustainable if used at home, church and in the wider community. The relevance of this to my role as a Bookings and Sale Coordinator is customer focused. I pride myself in being able to use my language to support those of Tongan heritage who may have language restrictions. It is uplifting to see visitors from the Tongan community smile when hearing a simple greeting in my native tongue, Mālō e lelei. Experiencing those moments make it that more important for me to promote the importance of keeping the Tongan language alive.

I believe it is important to revitalize and sustain the Tongan language as it defines who I am and is primarily how others in society distinguish and identify me as a Tongan. Having knowledge of the Tongan language is an anchor holding me grounded to my roots regardless of where I am.

There is a Tongan proverb “Fifii ika maka” the wrapping of rock fish in leaves. To prepare this type of fish as a meal, it must be carefully wrapped up in woven coconut leaves in order to preserve it before it is either baked or cooked underground. This depicts something of great value needing great care for preservation. This Tongan proverb reminds us that the knowledge of lea faka-Tonga is so valuable and it is important to sustain our language because if it becomes extinct, we too will lose a part of our identity as Tongan people.

I leave you with a quote I often hear; “Ko e koloa ‘o e Tonga´ ko e fakamālō” (A Tongan’s only treasure is to express or say thank you). A small gesture or word of thanks is the greatest start to honouring our Tongan heritage, speaking the language and keeping it alive for the generations to come.

Tu‘a ‘ofa atu.

Explore stories of Tonga from around the Museum

Blogs exploring the language, history and culture of Tonga.

Tongan Defence Force

Tongan Defence Force

The Tongan Defence Force was a major part of Tonga's response to the Second World War, a conflict that would result in massive change in the Kingdom. The Tongans generously opened their lands to the Allies, and the Tongan Defence Force played an important role both overseas and at home.

Read blog

Members of the Tonga Defence Force of 2nd NZEF, during a bayonet drill in Tonga 1943-1944. Ref: PA1-f-107-07-2

Celebrating Tongan language and culture

Celebrating Tongan language and culture

More Tongan people are currently born in New Zealand than in Tonga. As such, Aotearoa has a special role in celebrating lea Faka-Tonga mo e 'ulungaanga Faka-Tonga (Tongan language and culture).

Learn more about how the Museum is taking part within this role.

Read blog

Koe Gaahi himi. Charles Tucker. Vavau, [Tonga]: Printed at the Wesleyan Mission Press, W. A. Brooks, 1838; BV510.T66 TUC

An Englishman in Vava‘u

An Englishman in Vava‘u

In this well known memoir by William Mariner, he recounts his time in Tonga during the years 1806-1810. Stranded in the Ha’apai group, Mariner would eventually be adopted as a son by the chief Finau ‘Ulukālala II, who would give him the name Toki ‘Ukamea ("Iron Axe"). In the second half of this blog, guest writer and digital storyteller Richard Wolfgramm reflects on the enduring significance of Mariner’s memoir and his desire to bring the account of Toki ‘Ukamea to a new and global diasporic audience.

Read blog

Engraving of William Mariner from 'An account of the natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean. With an original grammar and vocabulary of their language'; AWMM DU880 MAR

Preserving our Tongan Language 

Watch our interview with John Pulu, Tongan presenter of Tagata Pasifika, who discusses the dangers of language loss.

In this interview John Pulu tells us about his upbringing and his coming to Aotearoa, following his dad who worked as a carpenter. He talks about his show on Tagata Pasifika and how the Tongan language is very much in a good state compared to other Pacific minority languages. He is aware of the obstacles that minority languages have to overcome especially when pitted against the English dominant language. He tells us about diglossia (using different language registers depending on the context and audience) in the kingdom of Tonga. He recognizes that home is one of the places where the Tonga language must be learned and pass on trans-generationally. John Pulu believes that music is the taonga that helps sustain and preserve the Tongan Language and he performs one of the late HM Queen Sālote’s compositions.

From the collection

Explore a glimpse into the Tongan way of life, and an introduction to the island's people and customs.

Contemporary kava

Contemporary kava

A fibreglass kumete kava has recently been acquired for the Museum's collections.

The kumete kava represents contemporary developments in kava ceremonies and an innovative response to dwindling resources (there is limited access to timber resources for the continued carving of such items).

It is one of two that were made by an uncle and his nephew who have pivotal roles in the on-going construction of kava ceremony in contemporary Auckland. The nephew/maker, Dr Edmond Fehoko, has written his Masters and PhD on the changing roles of Tongan men in New Zealand society.

Image: Fibreglass Kumete Kava. AWMM 2018.29.1.

Artist profile

Auckland Museum is honoured to have worked with renowned Tongan artist, Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi in the redevelopment of the new South Atrium, Te Ao Mārama. Unveiled at the end of 2020, the renovations established a new public space, one that acknowledges both Mana Whenua and Pacific connections. 

Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi


Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi

Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi is a famous Tongan community leader and artist who hails from the village of Ngelei‘a, on Tongatapu. Tohi is a master craftsman of the ancient Pacific art of lalava or lashing.  

Lalava is the technology used to bind objects together in traditional Pacific architecture, tools and vaka (canoe) building. Tohi often uses the patterns of lashings to symbolize the unity of all things, past, present and future. He explains,

"My work transforms the technology of the past into a modern representation of identity and experience.  By using the patterns established by lalava, I express a Polynesian heritage with metaphors that speak to our entire community."

Tohi has exhibited over the world and has sculpture in international collections including Japan, China, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Tonga, Samoa and the USA.  An example of his metal sculpture is called “Hautaha (Coming Together)” and is located outside the community centre in Onehunga in Auckland. Other artwork can be seen across Aotearoa New Zealand including in Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, the University of Auckland’s Pasifika Fale, and Puke Ariki in New Plymouth.  Tohi’s sculptures from 1980 to 2000 were mainly created in stone, wood, and mixed media, but works made since 2000 are often created from metal, using aluminum or stainless steel. He notes, 

"For me, stainless steel represents the shiny new structures of the modern world. Wood is based more in tradition – in natural things from our environment."


As a centenarian research institution, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland Museum has a story or two to tell. Discover our work recording two unusual fish in Tonga.

Discovering new fish in Tonga

Discovering new fish in Tonga

The discovery was made in 2015 during a survey of fish in Tonga. The Museum researchers recorded Meiacanthus bundoon in Teleki Tonga (South Minerva) and Meiacanthus oualanensis in Teleki Tokelau and Teleki Tonga (North and South Minerva), both previously only recorded around Fiji, extending their known distribution.

Discovering these fish was unusual considering that they were thought to have a very narrow distribution and be endemic to (only found in) a small area around Fiji. Thus, perhaps these species are less isolated than originally thought. 

More discoveries to come?

Over the last ten years, the Museum has been undertaking marine biodiversity surveys in the South Pacific. The results of the surveys have been quite dramatic, with each revealing fish populations to be about 10-20% more diverse than expected. This indicates there are still many species yet to be recognised from islands across the South Pacific region. 

Diversity of fishes across Te Moana Nui a Hiva, the Pacific Ocean, diminishes as one heads east. A person travelling through New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, and the Cook Islands, in that order, would notice the fish fauna becoming less diverse in each country.

But just how great is this drop off in diversity? For now, we can say: not as great as once thought.


Image: Top and bottom, Bundoon fangblenny (Meiacanthus bundoon) only recorded from Kadavu and the Lau islands of Fiji, and Haʻapai in Tonga; middle, Canary fangblenny (Meiacanthus oualanensis) only recorded from Fiji.

Things to do 

Put your mind to work and learn through fun.

How many Tongan words can you find?


How many Tongan words can you find?

Find as many Tongan words as you can in this wordfinder, and maybe learn a few new ones along the way. When you're finished, you can find the answers here.

Download now

Explore more

Dive into the Tonga Language Week archive, and explore past content from previous years. 


Discover unique stories about what it means to be Tongan in the past, the present, and years to come. View our galleries of significant koloa and plants and animals that have found a home within the Museum’s collections. We even have a crossword.

This, and more, is available to view in our archive now.

Visit the archive

Kiekie. 1976.73, 47575.