Recent acquisition: Tongan fangufangu (nose flute)

In March 2009, Te Papa was gifted a small but significant collection of objects from Derek J. Wilson. This collection included two Tongan fangufangu or nose flutes that were made from bamboo.

Fangufangu (nose flute); Te Papa: Gift of Derek J. Wilson, 2009

Fangufangu (nose flute); Te Papa; Gift of Derek J. Wilson, 2009

Historically, fangufangu were used to awaken the Tongan royalty from their sleep. The newly acquired fangufangu, have intact nodes at each end, forming a sealed cylinder. Around one of the fangufangu are burnt and incised images of birds, ships, human figures and the words “Vavau” and “Tuanuku”. Tuanuku is a coastal village located in the Vavau group of islands. This fangufangu, possibly records the coming and going of European ships in the harbour area in the 19th century. These are a welcome addition to the collection, as examples documenting a slice of Tongan history.

Click on the link to view the playing of fangufangu during Queen Elizabeth II’s royal visit to the Kingdom of Tonga:

Watch Video

2 Responses

  1. Ron Brownson

    Thinking about the two fangufangu further, I wondered whether a date circa the last quarter of the 19th century would be applicable. I always think a dating period is necessary, even it only says: 19th century.

  2. Ron Brownson

    These fangufangu are great additions to Te Papa’s collection. I know that they are rare.


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