By Josephine Latu for Pacific Media Watch
Tongans gathered at the University of Auckland’s Fale Pasifika today to celebrate the launching of a new book by Professor ‘Ilaisa Futa Helu entitled Heilala Tangitangi ‘o Salote Pilolevu. The book studies 23 Tongan compositions – some by the late Queen Salote – and was published in honour of the King’s sister, Princess Pilolevu Tuita. The event also doubled as the official opening of the fledgling company that printed the book, ‘Atenisi Press.
‘Atenisi representative Palupula Sailosi presented a copy of the book to Princess Pilolevu’s daughter, Hon. Lupepau’u (pictured), as guest of honour.
Commending Helu on the achievement, she said: “It is by no means a small feat to dwell and analyse what is hidden in the composition in this book, especially by those by her majesty Queen Salote.”
The title translates loosely as “Weeping blossoms for Salote Pilolevu: An analysis of songs, poetry and love songs”.
Although Helu was unable to attend the launch, his appreciation was conveyed in a letter to the audience. This was read out by senior education lecturer Dr Linita Manu’atu, of AUT University.
Helu’s son Niulala also spoke as a representative of ‘Atenisi Press.
Niulala said ‘Atenisi Press planned to provide an equal opportunity for any Tongan to publish his or her work.
The press will also be able to produce local material that readers would not be able to find elsewhere.
He said the idea originally emerged as a way for ‘Atenisi University to make some extra income.
The independent educational institution, founded by his father in 1963, continues to struggle financially.
Although ‘Atenisi has traditionally been snubbed by Tonga’s elite classes, the press project was ultimately backed by a welcome donation from Princess Pilolevu.
Currently, works are being printed in Hong Kong, but edited in Tonga and New Zealand by Siaosi ‘Ilaiu and Wendy Pond.
Dr Manu’atu welcomed the publication of Helu’s book in the Tongan language and hailed the ‘Atenisi Press plans to print in Tongan as well as English.
She said this enabled Tongans to access their own histories and literature in their native tongue.
“If the Tongan language cannot be used in print culture, then we have a long way to go,” she said.
Other works by Helu include Art of the Community – The people’s art and critical essays.
He is currently working on Ko e Mo’ui faka-Tonga, about the lives and customs Tongans in their homeland and abroad.
Josephine Latu is a Masters in Communication Studies student at AUT University who is attached to the Pacific Media Centre as contributing editor for Pacific Media Watch.