Sunday 25th September – Saturday 1nd October 2022 is Te Vaiaso o te ‘Gana Tuvalu, Tuvalu Language Week.
To celebrate, we are sharing Tuvalu taonga and stories from various Museum departments. We will also be lighting up the Museum with the national flag colours of Tuvalu and sharing a significant talk on climate change and its effect on the island and the Tuvalu people.


Header image: mea teu fale (wall hanging); 2015.50.5, 56763.5

Malama T-Pole

Pacific Advisory Group member

Malama T-Pole

This year’s Tuvalu Language Week speaks to me of my dad. He came to New Zealand for a better future, but always held strong to his identity, culture and language. I remember as a child asking what the word he wrote in the front of the Tuvalu bible for me meant: Taumafai.

He left the warm shores of Samoa where he’d been working to follow his heart. A New Zealand nurse he’d met there and the dream for his yet unborn children to have a better future.

Fakaakoigina tou iloga kae tukeli ke magoi mote ataeao. Embracing our culture and a more secure, vibrant future.

My dad took his culture and identity with him to the bitter cold dawn of Dunedin frosts. His Scottish and English in-laws had never met a Tuvaluan, let alone a Pasifika man in the early 1970s. He joined the inner city First Church of Otago as an elder and lay preacher in the Samoan speaking Service. He knew how important language was for the small group of Otago University scholarship students from Tuvalu, and helped start a language service for them. We were a tiny group sitting in the large towering and Victorian like church, but our hymns were sung, our language spoken.

I watched my dad as an avid supporter of the arts, a voice for his people in the 1980s on the Council for Maori and South Pacific Arts. He later supported language programmes at Reverend Laumua Kofe’s home with Vaeluaga Iosefa, the Fa’atoese family and other Tuvalu families attending. In the early 1990s, we joined a multi-cultural festival in the Town Hall, our small Tuvalu community dancing the fatele in this space, proudly saying we are here.

My dad taught me to stand proud in my culture and identity. To take it with me wherever I go, no matter how few of us were in the room.

Today, I hear his words speaking in Tuvalu to me. Taumafai. Words he repeated throughout my life no matter the size of the challenge ahead of me. Taumafai.

Fakaakoigina tou iloga kae tukeli ke magoi mote ataeao.

I wish you a wonderful language week as we celebrate our language, identity and culture in Aotearoa. No matter where you are in your journey, I want to encourage you too to keep trying and not give up. Taumafai.

Top image: Jayne King (right) and Malama (left) with her dad, Reverend Maheu Papau at the Museum's Tuvalu Community Day.
Bottom image: Malama's dad, Reverend Maheu Papau.

Kelesoma Saloa

Community Coordinator & Guest Kaiako Auckland Museum

Kelesoma Saloa

Ko oi matou nei?

Mea nei se fesili e fakapulele mai faeloa i te mafaufau ia matou kola ne malaga mai nisi fenua. Kafai e kilo matou ki tino i motou tafa i konei Aukilani, e nofo faeloa matou o mafaufau ki te tulaga o matou i loto i te tokoukega o vaega tino valevale. Kofea matou i loto nei, e ofi matou i fea i loto nei? Read more.

Who are we?

This is a question that we as a migration group constantly ask ourselves unconsciously. As we look at our neighbors here in Auckland, we find ourselves in admiration of a diversified canvas where we search for our niche. Where are we in here, where do we fit in here? Read more.

The art of kolose

Kolose is the Tuvaluan word for a unique form of crochet. A modern and innovative technique, kolose is used in creating Tuvaluan attire and ornamentations such as gatu kolose (crocheted tops) and petticoats used in dance and on special occasions, and wall hangings used in homes. The combination of patterns and colour schemes are highly distinctive of the kolose artform. This standout body of art works was acquired into the Museum’s collection in 2014.

The makers are members of Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa, an Auckland-based arts collective of women from Niutao, Tuvalu, established in 2012. The collective is committed to creating and sharing Tuvaluan art, and particularly to teach kolose to the young generation. This inspirational work led to their exhibition Kolose: The Art of Tuvalu Crochet at Mangere Arts Centre Ngā Tohu o Uenuku (2014), curated by Marama T-Pole and Kolokesa Mahina-Tuai. The exhibition also went on tour to Lake House Arts Centre (2014) and Pātaka Art Museum (2017).

Explore the art of kolose in the gallery below. Click on each image to learn the unique story behind each piece.

How ili (fans) are made

Auckland Museum holds an extensive collection of ili from Tuvalu. Here, Kelesoma Saloa describes how these intricate pieces are created.

I Tuvalu, a ili (tio) e faite mai te kaumoe o niu. Te kaumoe e fole koa saka ai ki vai, oti koa soe ai te kaikaiga i luga i te launiu keatea. Mai kona koa pelupelu ai fakafoliki koa tauaki ai ki te laa. Kafai koa malolo koa lanu kena a taa. Ko taa uli mo taa kula e fakalanu ki sua o kaupaipu o togo mo aka o nonu.

A te foitini o te ili e fakamakeke ki kautuaniu, kae fakagaligali ki fulu o manu eva io me ni lausulu fakalanulanu. I aso nei koa fakaaoga ne tino a raffia mo fakagaligali io me fakalanulanu valevale o ata i luga i luga i ili.

Ne tusigina ne Kelesoma Saloa

In Tuvalu, ili (fine plaited fans) are primarily made from young inner coconut leaves which are still white and a little green in colour. These leaves are boiled in water then the surface layer on one side of the leaf is removed, leaving white strands. Finally the strands are sun dried, making them ready for plaiting. To dye the strands black or red the fibre is soaked in liquid extracted from mangrove seeds and noni plant (Morinda citrifolia) roots.

Coconut midribs are used for the structure and to strengthen the fan. Feathers, wool or dyed pandanus leaves are added for decorative purposes. Nowadays people use colourful synthetic raffia to make different more colourful patterns on the fans.

Written by Kelesoma Saloa

Listen to Kelesoma Saloa read this story in the Tuvalu language

aucklandmuseum · Ili: Fans from Tuvalu

Save Tuvalu to save the world

A call to the rest of the world by former Tuvaluan Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga (Rt Hon.): Please hear our voices, listen to our plea, “We encounter the utmost impact of global warming. We might be the first to perish from the face of the earth, but the rest will follow ... So please save Tuvalu to save the world”.

The ocean is one of our life lines, but now sea level rise is our greatest challenge. Watch Community Coordinator & Guest Kaiako Auckland Museum, Kelesoma Saloa as he discusses the threat of climate change from a Tuvaluan perspective.


Tuvalu through the collection

Here are a few objects from the Museum's collection, selected by staff for their particular significance to Tuvaluan culture.

From Sunday 25 September until Saturday 1 October, the Museum will be illuminated every evening in the colours of the flag of Tuvalu.

Explore more

Explore more

Visit our archive of Tuvalu Language Week content from previous years.

Image: Te puukao inu. 1954.11.42, 33713.

Visit the archive