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Tongan students showcase the objects they’re donating to Te Papa

Mon 10 Jul 2017

For the past six months we’ve been working with the Tongan community in Auckland, co-collecting objects that represent Tongan culture.

On Thursday night, a showcase was held to present these objects.

Fifty people, including teaching staff from Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate, families, and members from the Tongan communities, attended the Project 83 event.

Also in attendance were vendors and community leaders including MP for Manukau East, Jennifer Salesa.

The evening featured presentations by our co-collectors:

  • Pukepuke Fonua II: A co-collection of objects that represents the faikava Tonga in Auckland with Te Papa, by Edmond Fehoko, cultural consultant
  • Project 83: Small things matter, youth-focused co-collecting with youth agents from the Year 13 Tongan language class
  • Tufunga Teuteu, Faiva Teuteu: The Tongan Material Arts of Fashion Making and Performance Arts of Fashion Wearing, by Kenneth Tuai and Czarina Wilson, cultural consultants/fashion curators.

Each presentation gave an overview of the project, their chosen title, and focus.

The youth agents of Project 83 (which is aligned with NCEA Level 3 assessments) shared some of their objects and the stories behind them and why they believed they should be at Te Papa.

One of the youth agents, Maya Taufa, is offering her father’s factory uniform to reflect his hard work in providing for their family.

On the night she mentioned that she wanted to gift it so that “when factory workers see this shirt at Te Papa they’ll know they’re not alone”. 

Kenneth Tuai and Czarina Wilson, our ‘Cultural Consultants/Fashion Curators’, also shared some of the objects they are collecting, including designer kiekiekiekie waist garments worn by women and objects taken from a Tongan-owned barber in Mount Eden.

Their co-collecting project widened the current scope of our existing Pacific fashion collection by collecting the work of Mele Tamanilo, an emerging Tongan designer and objects that will be our very first representations of Tongan barber culture.

“The evening was an opportunity to celebrate the work of our youth agents and our cultural consultants and fashion curators,” said Nina Tonga, Curator Pacific Art and the driver of this initiative.

“It was also Te Papa’s opportunity to acknowledge all of the parents and families who have supported this project.”

Co-collecting and sharing our authority ensures that our Pacific communities have an active role in making sure our national collection better reflects them and their communities.

“This is a great experiment where we bring into the curatorial process young people from communities to explore and develop our collections,” said Dale Bailey, our director of Collections, Research and Learning.

“By sharing the authority we can get some extraordinary results.”

Collectively, the projects capture the contemporary experiences of our Tongan communities living in New Zealand.

Co-collecting is an inclusive model for collecting that puts our principal ‘mana taonga’ into practice. The Pacific Cultures team have been exploring this since 2016 and this is our third co-collecting initiative.