Vāiaho o te Gagana – Tokelau Language Week 2017
Sunday, 22 October 2017
We continue our journey of discovery through Pacific language weeks, this time we’re celebrating Vāiaho o te Gagana – Tokelauan Language Week 2017. This year the theme is Tokelau ke mau ki te Gagana a nā tupuna auā he tofi mai te Atua – Tokelau hold fast to the language of your ancestors because it is an inheritance from God. In thinking about how we, at the museum, can contribute towards celebrating, honouring and preserving Gagana Tokelau (Tokelauan language) we’ve drawn on a well-known Tokelauan proverb which reads,
Nohe mānumanu ki te ika kae mānumanu ki te kupega-
Don’t be too concerned about the fish, but be much more concerned about saving the net.
This proverb suggests that there are things in life that are important to preserve for the future, including Gagana Tokelau. We’ve thought about how tuluma of Tokelau is a repository, not only for fish, but of valued possessions. Tuluma is the name given to carved wooden boxes with a tightly fitting lid which is held in place with a cord. They are used to carry fishing gear in canoes and also kept in the home as a family chest. Tuluma is a national symbol of Tokelau and is featured on the Badge of the General Fono of Tokelau.
Rotorua Museum has three tuluma which were gifted in 1995 by a donor known only as Les Reid. Reid acquired them in Samoa while he was living and working there from 1954-56. This is not surprising as Samoa is the arrival and departure point for travellers between Tokelau and elsewhere; there is no airport in Tokelau therefore one must fly to Samoa and then travel via boat.An unknown maker has intricately carved these tuluma from kanava/cordia subcordata, which is a dark and hard wood that is also used for canoe building. Its lid is lashed down by the coconut fibre rope which loops through the holes in the side and is strung through the back for water-proofing. Some tuluma are inlaid with shell motifs or even words, however these tuluma are left in their natural state to showcase the fine polished finishing. Tuluma are made in a range of sizes; these small- scale tuluma [1995.15.2 & 1995.15.3] fit within the palm of your hand and most likely held matau (fish hooks) or smaller possessions within the home. To learn that we have tuluma in our collection was very special because it had enabled us to celebrate and share a significant aspect of Tokelauan cultural heritage within Rotorua.
This is the final celebration of Pacific language weeks for 2017. As both the Lead Exhibitions Curator of Rotorua Museum and a woman of Pacific descent, this has been an incredibly rewarding access project to lead and facilitate. This project has allowed us to launch Rotorua Museum’s new blog, celebrate Pacific language weeks for the first time and provided a new pathway to engage directly with our communities. This is just the beginning of more exciting projects underway at Rotorua Museum.
Fakafetai lahi lele,
FootnotesGlossary of terms:
M?l? ni – Hello
Fakatetai lahi lele – Thank you very much
Matau – Fish hooks
Gagana Tokelau – Tokelau language
For further information:
Iutana Pue, “Tuluma & Matau: Tokelau fishing box, chest and fishhooks,” Auckland Museum, October, 2015. http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/collections-research/collections/explore-highlights/tuluma-matau-tokelau-fishing-box,-chest-and-fishho
 “Tokelauan Language Week 2017.” Ministry for Pacific Peoples, accessed October 16, 2017, http://www.mpp.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/MPP7773-Tokelau-Language-Info-Sheet-FINAL.pdf
 Iutana Pue, “Tuluma & Matau: Tokelau fishing box, chest and fishhooks,” Auckland Museum, October, 2015. http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/collections-research/collections/explore-highlights/tuluma-matau-tokelau-fishing-box,-chest-and-fishho
 Sean Mallon, “Tuluma – Fishing boxes of Tokelau.” Te Papa Museum, October 31, 2012, http://blog.tepapa.govt.nz/2012/10/31/tuluma-fishing-boxes-of-tokelau/
 The design, which features a tuluma with a white holy cross symbol and the text “Tokelau mo te Atua [Tokelau for God],” was approved by the Garter Principal King of Arms and The Queen through the New Zealand Herald of Arms in 2013. “Badge of the General Fono of Tokelau.” The Governor General, October 7, 2013, https://gg.govt.nz/publications/badge-general-fono-tokelau
 Mallon, “Tuluma – Fishing boxes of Tokelau.”