Revisiting the Tongan co-collecting stories of Project 83: Small Things Matter – Grant Vea‘ila

Revisiting the Tongan co-collecting stories of Project 83: Small Things Matter – Grant Vea‘ila

For Uike Kātoanga‘i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga | Tongan Language Week we are sharing the stories of the ‘youth agents’ of Project 83: Small Things Matter. This co-collecting project was developed in 2017 by the Year 13 Tongan language class of Sir Edmund Hilary Collegiate.

Project 83: Small Things Matter enlisted our self-titled ‘youth agents’ to collect objects that represent their lives as Tongan students of Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate and of course as proud ‘Otarians’. In total the class created a collection of over twenty of their most treasured objects including an original song composition, class photographs and a Tongan brass band uniform. As part of the project the youth agents  wrote descriptions about each of their objects in Tongan and English. 

The next in our blog series is Grant Vea‘ila who coined the name of this co-collecting project taking inspiration from a small shell from Tokelau in the Pacific Cultures collection. For the project Grant created and decorated a pair of drum sticks that represent his connections to his grandfather and the village of Felemea. He also collected an artwork made by his grandmother. 

We acknowledge the generous assistance of Mrs Maata Fusitua who provided editorial support with the Tongan text.

 

A teenage boy in school uniform holding two sticks and standing in front of a dark red wooden building
Grant Veaʻila, 2017. Photo by Amanda Rogers. Te Papa

Tongan Drum Sticks

At the age of 5 I was adopted by my grandparents. My grandfather would always make me speak my mother tongue (Tongan) in the house. Whenever I spoke English he would give me a flick on the ear. I never understood why he made me do this but as I grew up I realised it was to ensure I knew what it meant to be Tongan. It’s one thing to say you are Tongan but words are empty. My grandfather taught me everything he could to ensure that I grew up knowing everything about my culture and the traditional way.

My sticks are inspired by my grandfather and his heritage. He comes from a village called Felemea from the Haapai group who are known nationally for drumming. I feel proud when I’m acknowledged as a young man from my village and family. I decided to make a pair of sticks that are special to represent my love for my family and school. I painted the sticks blue, yellow and maroon after the Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate colours. I also helped to paint the designs and the name of our project “Project 83 – Small Things Matter”.

Felemea is known for two things, eating butter and drumming. I take it as my duty to represent and preserve this tradition and represent my village. I love my family as well as my village and I want future generations to realise that it is their duty to hold up our cultural traditions. I will never forsake my culture and I hope that younger people will realise that where they’re from and the culture they belong to defines who they are.

***

‘Akau Ta Nafa ko e fakafehokotaki au mo ‘eku tangata‘eiki 

Na‘e pusiaki‘i au he‘eku kui Tangata ‘i he‘eku ta‘u nima, ko e Tamai ‘o ‘eku Fineéiki. Talu pe ‘eku tupu hake mo ‘ene akonekina au keu ngaue ‘aki ‘a e Lea-Fakatonga ‘i ‘api ‘i he taimi kotoa pe. Na‘e lahi pe ‘eku talangata‘a ‘o lea faka-palangi pea na‘e fa’a hanga he‘eku Kui ‘o fisi hoku telinga. ‘I he taimi ko ia na‘e ‘ikai keu ‘ilo ‘a e mahu‘inga ‘o e ngaue ‘aki ‘a e Lea-Fakatonga, ka ‘i he‘eku tupu hake na‘e toki mahino kiate au ‘a e feinga na‘e fai he‘eku kui keu ‘ilo ‘a e mahuínga ó e Tonga mo‘oni, kae tuku ‘a e fie palangi loi. ‘Oku ou fakamalo lahi ki he‘eku kui he ‘oku ou laukau‘aki hoku Tonga heéku lea, úlungaanga, ngaue mo éku ako foki pea moóni á e lea Tonga, pukepuke á fufula. Ko éku feinga ke pukepuke hoku Tonga neongo éne faingataá he fonua muli ni.

Na‘a ku fakakaukau keu ngaahi ha ‘akau ta nafa ke fakaha ‘aki ‘a e kolo tupu‘anga ‘o ‘eku Kui tangata. ‘Oku ha‘u ‘eku kui mei he motu ko Felemea í Haápai. Ko e kolo ni ‘oku ‘iloa ‘i Tonga kotoa ko e kolo ‘o e kau kai pata mo e kau Ta nafa. ‘Oku ou polepole he kolo na‘e tupu hake mei ai ‘eku Kui ua. He na‘e ‘ikai keu vaofi mo ‘eku tangata‘eiki ka na‘e hoko pe ‘eku kui tangata koe tamai kiate au. 

Na‘a ku fili keu vali ‘a e ‘akau ‘aki ‘a e ‘u lanu ‘o e Apiako Hilali ‘a ia ko e lanu pulu, engeenga moe lanu maluni pea na‘aku vali mo e hingoa ‘o ‘emau kulupu ki ‘Uelingatoni ko e “Project 83 – Small Things Matter”. Ko hono úhinga ko e fika 8 ko e ‘H’ ia he ‘alafapeti fakapalangi pea ko e fika 3 ko e ‘C’ ia he ‘alafapeti ‘aia ko e Hillary Collegiate. Ko e small things matter, neongo ‘ene si‘isi‘i ‘eku ‘akau ta nafa ka ‘oku fu‘u mahu‘inga ‘aupito he ‘oku ne fehokotaki au mo ‘eku kui tangata. Ko hono faiva á e ta nafa he taimi faiva maúluúlu á e kolo. 

‘Oku ou fakamālō lahi ki he‘eku kui he‘ene ‘ofa he ka ne ‘ikai ‘ene tokanga, tokaange ha feitu‘u kuo u he atu ai, ‘o hange ko e lea Tonga, “Limu tu‘u ‘i au”, ko hono ‘uhinga ko ha taha ‘oku ‘ikai ke nofo ma‘u pea ta‘emahino ‘a e feitu‘u ‘oku kau ki ai. Ka koe ‘ofa ‘eku kui ‘oku ou hoko ai ‘o malohi pea mahino kiate au ko e Tonga au pea mo‘oni ‘a e paloveape, “Hange ha tahi‘i toa”, pea ‘oku ou ongo‘i malohi mo to‘a he‘eku ako koe‘uhi ko ‘eku kui pea mo ‘eku ‘iloi‘i au ko e Tonga mo hoku tupu‘anga ‘a Felemea na‘a ngalo.

This text has been edited for clarity.  

Leave a comment