Tag Archives: Pasifika

‘TALES OF THE TIKONGS’ BY EPELI HAU’OFA

‘Tales of the Tikongs’ is a collection of satirical short stories penned by a well-known Fijian/Tongan writer and anthropologist, Epeli Hau’ofa.

TALES OF THE TIKONGS

Summary

The inhabitants of Tiko, a tiny country located somewhere in the South Pacific, used to lead peaceful and untroubled lives until the first wave of frightening change called D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T appeared on the horizon. Ever since that day, it has been slowly destroying the ancestral ways of the Tikongs.

Some of the natives try to adapt to this new order of their little world, others fight tenaciously to preserve their heritage. But it seems that not much can be done to save the past, because the new has already replaced the old – once and for all.

Review

No one does satire quite like Epeli Hau’ofa did. Honestly, no one. The great Tongan-Fijian author was a genius; the master of words, humour, and subtle irony. He was a storyteller, a poet, a visionary. But most of all, he was an astute and insightful observer who had an innate gift for noticing things most of us do not pay much attention to. ‘Tales of the Tikongs’ is a result of such observations conducted among Pacific Island societies.

Have you ever wondered what ‘development’ really means and how it affects the lives of both single individuals and whole communities? What changes does it bring? Where does it lead? What does it give and what does it take from people? You could probably find dozens of textbooks that would provide precise answers to these questions. But why would you do that if you can read a compilation of entertaining stories that will uncover the mystery behind the ‘D’ word just as well as any piece of academic literature? Exactly. It’s an easy pick, I know. That is why Epeli Hau’ofa’s book is so worthy of your time.

In this slim yet substantial volume, the author focuses on a somewhat academic topic but presents it in a very approachable way. You don’t need to be an expert to understand his ‘discourse’. Nor do you have to be familiar with the Pacific region, where the stories take place. Because the country of Tiko could be anywhere in the world. Well, almost anywhere, as Tikongs (the inhabitants of Tiko) do manifest particular traits that are characteristic of many but not all national cultures. They are religious, compassionate, community-oriented people, deeply attached to traditional values and beliefs. And although they’d like to remain indifferent to the revolutionary change that has been sweeping through their homeland, it’s hard to resist the temptations of the new world. Some things are easier said than done. And some things are just inevitable. Death and taxes? Oh yes! And change. Change cannot be avoided; no matter if you live on a remote island or in a bustling city that never sleeps.

Epeli Hau’ofa tells his tales with a razor-sharp wit and wry humour. You can only marvel at his astonishing analytical skills that are brilliantly woven into each and every word. This compilation of twelve stories is not just a piece of amusing literature. Albeit quite light-hearted, it is meaningful and eye-opening reading material that enlightens the audience, making them aware of the impact imperialism and globalization have on indigenous societies.

Now, can you read this book ‘just for fun’? Absolutely. It’s written in a very pleasant manner that you will absolutely love. It will make you laugh, that’s for sure. And it will probably make you think. Well, just treat this as an added bonus.

BEST BOOKS BASED ON PACIFIC MYTHS, LEGENDS, FOLK TALES

The Telesa Trilogy by Lani Wendt Young

This highly acclaimed series is a modern take on Pacific mythology, which makes it a perfect read for teenagers.

The thrilling story of Leila Folger is a passionate romance based on the legends of Teine Sa, the spirit women of Samoa. The popular ancient beliefs are masterfully incorporated into the narrative – they constitute a considerable part of the story, yet they are not overwhelming.

The trilogy may be perfect for juvenile audiences, but you’ll love it even if you’re past your teenage years!

‘Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam’ by Tanya Taimanglo

The story of Sirena, Guam’s legendary mermaid, is so well-known in the Pacific region that there is probably not a single person who wouldn’t be acquainted with it. This is one of the reasons why every Pasifika aficionado should read, and possess, Tanya Taimanglo’s book.

This particular retelling of the famous folk tale is a real beauty. Embellished with the most gorgeous illustrations – created by the author’s brother, Sonny Chargualaf – it will be an absolute treasure in your home library. Plus, it will definitely draw children’s attention!

‘Princess Hina & the Eel’ by King Kenutu

This is another wonderful book, especially for older children and teenagers.

The story of genuine, eternal love between a princess and a commoner is one of the better-known folk tales in Polynesia. It is captivating, thought-provoking, and timeless in its message. King Kenutu’s version is not only beautifully told but also full of passion that can be felt in each and every word.

The Niuhi Shark Saga by Lehua Parker

Lehua Parker’s saga is a brilliant example of engaging middle grade/young adult literature that’s deeply rooted in the local Polynesian mythology.

Although the series is not based on one particular myth, legend, or folk tale, it draws inspiration from old Hawaiian stories of a shapeshifting shark-man, Nanaue. It is not a retelling of the legend, but you may certainly find some similarities. Who knows, maybe Zader’s adventures will encourage you to delve into ancient tales from the Aloha State…

‘Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters’ by Margaret Wolfson

This book tells the ancient Fijian myth – especially popular on the island of Kadavu – about the Turtle princess and her daughter.

It’s a classic retelling, gracefully narrated and adorned with lovely – absolutely lovely – watercolours. The illustrations make the story come alive before the reader’s eyes, so even young children will read or listen to this tale with great interest.

ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Princess Hina and the Eel’ by King Kenutu

Who doesn’t know this old folktale? The enduringly popular story can be regarded as a Polynesian equivalent of ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Or rather… ‘Romeo & Juliet’ should be treated as an English equivalent of ‘Princess Hina and the Eel’.

In the South Pacific kingdom, two people fall deeply in love with each other. One of them is the beloved daughter of the king; the other – a simple commoner. Although their hearts are meant to be together, cruel fate starts to play its part.

This is such a beautiful, moving, and thought-provoking tale! Fantastic for children, teenagers, and adults alike – because we are never too young or too old to learn what’s the greatest value in life.

ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Island of Shattered Dreams’ by Chantal T. Spitz

‘Island of Shattered Dreams’, penned by an indigenous Tahitian writer, created a little scandal in French Polynesia. Now, isn’t it the best recommendation?

This is the life (and love) story of Tematua and Emere who, together with their children, enjoy a relatively untroubled existence on a beautiful island in the Blue Continent. Relatively, because even in paradise not everything is picture perfect.

Chantal T. Spitz wrote a very eye-opening book that deals with controversial and sensitive issues regarding colonialism and France’s nuclear testing in the Pacific among other things. Although it’s definitely not a light-hearted piece, it reads very well (provided that you get used to the author’s highly poetic language and tone).

ON THE TENTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Tales of the South Pacific’ by James A. Michener

When you think of the South Seas genre, you must think of James A. Michener. His ‘Tales of the South Pacific’ – a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic – is a masterpiece every Pasifika lover should read.

In this compilation of loosely connected vignettes the author takes readers to the war-torn Pacific region, where he shares the life stories of various people. Despite all the dramatic occurrences, they search for love and try to find joy in the smallest things.

It’s always risky when a writer combines such different themes as war, death, love, and romance. It’s even riskier when he adds to that a little bit of paradise. Such book may turn out to be either a disaster or a true gem. Michener’s title is a gem; something you will most probably want to come back to again and again.

ON THE NINTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Where We Once Belonged’ by Sia Figiel

Sia Figiel is one of the most interesting Pacific authors, whose books you just want to read from cover to cover.

‘Where We Once Belonged’ concentrates on Alofa Filiga, a 13-year-old girl living in Samoa. As any other teenager, she has her joys and sorrows, problems she tries to deal with, and great expectations towards her future. Navigating through the restrictions of her culture, she makes the most of each day.

It’s a powerful coming-of-age novel. It reads extremely well, even though it is full of Samoan words and phrases some people will have trouble understanding. The storyline may surprise you a few times, so be prepared to have some of your emotions stirred up pretty well.

ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Secret Shopper’ by Tanya Taimanglo

A romance novel always makes a nice gift, especially during Christmastime. And ‘Secret Shopper’ is definitely the best pick in this category!

The book revolves around Phoenix, a young woman who is suddenly left alone after finding out about her husband’s infidelity. Forced to find a job, she steps into the world of secret shopping. While on assignment, she meets Thomas.

This is not one of those cheesy, easy to predict love stories. Oh no! Tanya Taimanglo managed to create a heart-warming tale with quite a few surprising twists and turns. It’s a book that inspires and makes you believe that you and ONLY you are responsible for your own life. Highly, highly recommended!

ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

Materena Mahi Trilogy by Célestine Hitiura Vaite

Célestine Hitiura Vaite’s series is a perfect way to transport yourself to Tahiti – one of the most extraordinary places on the planet Earth.

Materena Mahi lives together with her man (not yet husband), Pito, and their three children. It may seem that she leads an ordinary life, but the truth is, in the town of Faa’a not a day, an hour, a minute goes by without some flurry of excitement.

A trilogy written for women. This is how you could sum this series up. It’s about love, hope, and courage to chase your dreams. It’s about commitment and discovering what’s truly important in life. It’s a beautiful and immensely engaging piece of literature that will make you both laugh and cry!

ON THE SIXTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Sandalwood Blood’ by Sam Lala

Sam Lala’s book, although a work of fiction, familiarizes readers with the sandalwood trade in the Pacific region.

The story takes place in the 19th century. Captain Lovat Mellon travels to Fiji with hopes of collecting sandalwood for the Chinese market. Accompanied by other passengers of the ship, he sails the high seas, making occasional stops at various ports. One of them are the islands of Tonga.

This is such a good book! Captivating right from the very first page, it is perfect for both men and women. It’s a beautifully written love story, a gripping adventure tale, and an extremely informative history lesson that really gets you hooked.

ON THE FIFTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Leaves of the Banyan Tree’ by Albert Wendt

Albert Wendt is a legend among Pacific writers. His books are either very good or excellent. ‘Leaves of the Banyan Tree’ belongs to the latter category.

This beautifully written family saga tells the story of Tauilopepe Mauga and his aiga. Living in mid-century Western Samoa, they struggle to combine traditional values of their ancestors and the papalagi way of being.

This novel is definitely one of Albert Wendt’s best works. It’s engaging. It’s rich in both style and substance. It’s emotionally and mentally challenging. But most importantly, it presents a theme that is as true now as it was then.