The ‘Oto’Ota Fahina Society at the University of Auckland

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Tuesday 3 May 2011
Ron Brownson

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On 30 April, I attended the ‘Oto’Ota Fahina Society’s official presentation of the remarkable Ngatu that they created at the Fale Pasifika during their recent one month residency. The Society are the first recipients of the inaugural Pacific Heritage Residence Programme that has been co-ordinated by Taylor Taufo’ou and Nina Kinahoi Tonga.

Lolohea Tupouniua presented the Society’s report, in Tongan, and accompanied it with her written translation into English. Her account of the Society’s residency was both fascinating and moving. Lolohea outlined the start of the project, the terms of contract, the service that the Society provided, the properties and equipment that they utilised in their creation of the Ngatu (barkcloth textile), the process of production, the students and visitors that they liaised with and the two workshops that they participated in. Lolohea then summarised the outcome of the Auckland residency.

Tongan Ngatu are among the most important ceremonial textiles created in the Pacific and the ‘Oto’Ota Society are renowned as living national treasures of this ancient tradition. I congratulate Walter Fraser, Director of the Centre for Pacific Studies and everyone else who has been involved for their brilliant initiative in organising this outstanding project. It is the first Pacific Heritage Project organised at a University in Aotearoa.

I realised how significant this was while I watched the Society’s members perform an ancient seated dance after the official ceremonies had concluded. Who will be honoured with the next residency? This is one of the most impressive community outreach programmes organised by the University of Auckland.

I notice that AUT University are soon presenting a workshop with the wonderful Rosanna Raymond. These initiatives are exactly what students need to encounter.

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