Tuvalu Language Week celebrates culture and heritage

posted: 7:00 am - 29th September 2018

(Picture caption: Performers at the launch of Tuvalu Language Week 2018. Photo credit: Fia Roache.)

Tuvalu faka’na ki te Atua. Fakatumau au tu mo faifaiga. Tautua mo Aotearoa, translated as: Tuvalu, trust in God. Nurture your cultural values and heritage. Serve Aotearoa, this year’s Tuvalu Language Week 2018 will truly resonate with the Tuvalu community in New Zealand.

The Tuvalu community is one of New Zealand’s smallest Pacific communities but what they lack in size they certainly make up for in energy, Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio says.

“This year, language week events are scheduled in Auckland, Wellington, Kapiti and Horowhenua, while radio stations will also be broadcasting Tuvalu language programmes,” Minister Sio says.  

“This is a tremendous achievement for such a small community,” he adds.

Tuvalu Language Week was officially launched by Minister Sio at Kelston Community Centre, on September 29.

It starts on September 30 and concludes October 6, and is the fourth in a series of seven Pacific Language Weeks the Ministry of Pacific Peoples (MPP) is supporting this year.

New Zealand’s Tuvalu community is just over 3500 people, and with a median age of just over 19 years, it is also one of New Zealand’s youngest.

“With such a small and young population Tuvalu’s unique language and culture is particularly vulnerable,” Minister Sio says.  

Protecting it presents special challenges but the community is resilient with just over 63 percent speaking the language.

“This is a good showing but it is down three percent from the 2006 census - that’s a small decline but it’s one I’d like to see reversed.”

Almost half of Tuvaluans are also New Zealand born and this trend is bound to increase in the years ahead, the Minister adds.  

“That is why events such as Tuvalu Language Week are so important.

“It’s an opportunity for young people to connect with their language and heritage.”

Tuvalu is one of the world’s smallest nations and the language is classified by UNESCO as vulnerable.

Its current population is around 11,000, and it comprises nine islands covering a land area of just 24 square kilometres.

It has six atolls and three reef islands scattered over a vast area the Pacific, and its Exclusive Economic Zone covers almost a million square kilometres of ocean.

Minister Sio says although it is a small nation, Tuvalu has taken the lead in promoting global awareness of Climate Change.

“This is the challenge of our time and Tuvalu’s success on the international stage proves that small nations can make a difference.”

Tuvalu Language Week 2018 also marks the 40th anniversary of independence, so it is a double celebration.

Also, during this year’s Tuvalu Language Week, the community will launch the Tuvaluan version of Rt Hon Sir Tomasi Puapua’s autobiography.

Sir Tomasi, a former Prime Minister and Governor-General of Tuvalu, is now based with his family in Levin.

“Tuvalu has an enviable record as modern parliamentary democracy and Sir Tomasi has done much to establish that record,” Minister Sio says.

“Publishing his autobiography in Tuvalu is a splendid way to mark both Tuvalu Language Week and this historic anniversary of independence,” he adds.  

Events continue throughout New Zealand this week – visit MPP to check what is happening near you.