Tongan Language Week has been marked across NZ
Tongans celebrate their language week across New Zealand.
Tongan Language Week has been marked with celebrations and cultural activities across New Zealand.
As Koro Vaka'uta reports, events are proving popular in both big city and rural town.
New Zealand's Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs holds seven language weeks to promote culture through song, dance, displays, debates, speech competitions and other celebrations. The latest edition has highlights the Kingdom of Tonga. The Chairman of the Wellington Tongan Leaders' Council, the Rev Viliami Finau, says the community holds the week in high regard.
VILIAMI FINAU: To show that we know and want to be part of Tongan-ness but also try and speak the language to show that we value the things that we treasure most in life and that is our language. Without this langauge to the Tongan people, we will lose our culture. The one thing that makes us different.
Mr Finau says he has noticed a new generation of Tongans getting behind the initiative.
VILIAMI FINAU: When I see all these white Tongans with the ta'ovala running around. It warms my heart to see that even a mixed marriage and our afakasi young children are still proud. To hear them speak, even though they pronounce it wrongly, but to attempt to make it. It warms my heart for the future.
Mr Finau says non-Tongans have been participating in events as well and he is thankful for the support of various schools and libraries. One such institution is the Oamaru public library which hosted dances and cultural displays. Waitaki District's Youth librarian Fiona Kerr says the town embraced the event.
FIONA KERR: It's been wonderful our Oamaru community to experience the Tongan community's culture. It's been really enjoyable and has brought some really great experiences of community engagement. This is the first time we have arranged Tongan language week events and it was after I discovered that Tongan is the second most commonly spoken language in the Waitaki District.
President of the Oamaru Tongan Association, 'Api Fifita, says that fact shows the regard Tongans have for the town.
API FIFITA: It's great. You can see the people all moving here because of the beauty of Oamaru. I think, for us as Tongans, it's just more that it's very, very safe and very laidback but then at the same time it still gives us access to kiwi life.
Ms Fifita says the successful celebration is all about cultural integration.
API FIFITA: As a community we engage on the whole Oamaru community. So we try more like not just to be by ourselves. We're trying to more like participate in more of the whole community, or whole of Oamaru. For us it's more like sharing the Tongan culture and for them it's like at least they respect it.
This year's language week theme was 'Ko e kai ia 'a e Tonga: Enriching Aotearoa with Tongan Wisdom
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