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Tonga National Canoe Festival, Tonga

"The Tonga National Youth Congress - in partnership with master carver Sitiveni Fehoko – presented the Tonga National Canoe Festival held on the 1st to the 13th of October. This was the first festival of its kind in the Kingdom of Tonga. The aim of the Tonga National Canoe Festival is to revive the almost lost art of Tongan canoe carving and to celebrate Tonga’s canoe history.

One youth team from each island group learned how to carve a traditional Tongan canoe. These teams represented Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai, Vava’u and a combined Niuas team. In addition, the festival featured a Tongatapu high school team representing Liahona High School which was sponsored by Sitiveni Fehoko. Each team was led by a master carver from their home island group. There were on average 6 youth and 1 Master Carver per team. Alongside the youth carving teams, Sitiveni Fehoko carved a Maori canoe to exhibit the shared culture throughout the Pacific region and to the unique styles throughout. This added an international flavor to the festival.

The festival focused solely on canoe carving and was an exhibition rather than a competition. In the coming years, we hope to expand the focus of the festival to encompass canoe navigation and paddling competitions.

The festival took place in Nuku'alofa Tonga. During the two week festival the youth teams carved their canoes at a central location in town which was accessible to the public. The festival held an Opening Ceremony on October 1st. The festival parade, Closing/Awards Ceremony and the launching of the canoes was held on October 13th. Youth carvers also attended youth leadership and awareness trainings on several days throughout the festival. One training, which was open to the public, covered the history of the Tongan Canoe which featured the UNESCO CD-ROM "The Canoe Is the People".

All carvers considered the festival a valuable experience and would encourage the youth of their island groups to participate in the next festival. Additionally, there are a number of follow-up training activities with the master carvers and a project to build a Tongan kalia.

Final Report [PDF 963Kb]

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Head carver, Sitiveni Fehoko (right), amateur carver, Dan, (left) and a few semi-professional carvers, carved this log into a canoe in two weeks as a trial for the festival.
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Vanessa Tui'one


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This page last updated: 6 February 2008