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Tongan artisans revive traditional handicraft skills

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

By Finau Fonua

HE Mr Mark Talbot presents certificates. Nuku’alofa, 24 July 2013

The New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga, HE Mark Talbot presents certificates. Nuku’alofa, 24 July 2013

A revival of traditional skills and a commitment to excellence is helping Tongan artisans sustain their families with increased incomes from the tourism market.

Sixty participants in a two-week “Handicrafts and Culture Tourism Training” programme received certificates on July 24 at the Girl Guides Centre in Nuku‘alofa.

The traditional Mosikala weaving workshop by Lesieli Tupou and Pelu Koloa workshop by Tuna Fielakepa reflected a growing interest in the traditional art forms. Other workshops included screen printing, tapa products and presentation, as well as seminars on cultural tourism.

The workshops were part of a second round of training under the Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme funded by NZAID in partnership with Langafonua ‘a Fafine Tonga Handicrafts Centre. It is hoped that the programme will help to improve incomes from the tourism industry in Tonga by enhancing the skills of local artisans and cultural experience providers.

Sione Loseli a screen printing trainer stressed that quality was important.

 “We want to train those who are serious and know that the skills we impart can actually make them enough money to sustain their families. They must have the right attitude. They must have a commitment to excellence and drive, as this will give them a differentiation advantage. I am teaching them basic skills they can work with using locally sourced materials and if the quality is there, it can earn them money,”

A participant of the programme, Susitina Tesi, handicraft vendor at Talamahu Market said, “It is important that we all understand our roles and how our products and services can either promote or diminish efforts to give tourists a truly authentic and enjoyable experience.”

The New Zealand High Commissioner, HE Mark Talbot said New Zealand was interested in helping to provide opportunites for growing Pacific Island economies.

“Many Pacific Island countries, but Tonga in particular rely on the tourism industry, so we want you to take the skills that you have learnt and apply them in order to make money for your families.

“Thank you from the Government and the people of New Zealand for the richness and love that you bring through your culture and the production of that culture in handicrafts and dance and other forms,” he said. 


This is the type of assistance we should encourage and truly be grateful for. They directly impacted those in need, especially our people living in Tonga. To me, it is obvious Tonga's neigboring countries have Tonga's best interest at heart. 'Ofa atu