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