Tongan’s Contribute To UNESCO Book On Traditional Knowledge

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Tongan’s Contribute To UNESCO Book On Traditional Knowledge Publication promotes Pacific ‘intangible cultural heritage’

By Mary Lyn Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 8, 2015) – Pacific Islanders who are working to safeguard their heritage have shared their knowledge and wisdom in a new book and CD published by UNESCO that includes articles written by five Tongans.

The 380-page volume called Traditional Knowledge and Wisdom - Themes from the Pacific Islands, has taken two years to compile under a joint ICHCAP project with six Pacific countries – Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea Tonga and Vanuatu.

[PIR editor’s note: An e-book of the UNESCO publication is available.]

The idea came out of a meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in early 2013 to promote the visibility and viability of Pacific intangible cultural heritage.

Knowledge and wisdom are parts of "intangible cultural heritage".

In his preface, Samuel Lee, the Director General of ICHCAP, states that the modern world is re-examining traditional knowledge.

"Traditional customs and know-how can be applied to overcome various social, environmental, and ecological challenges today," he stated. "The traditional knowledge demonstrated here can motive those in industrialized society to reflect on our own ways of living."

Among other things, "It shows how people in this region form and respect social relationships and how they work on problems that develop in those relationships," he said.

The publication spans a wide range of the traditional practice and customs of Pacific communities, with themes including Worldviews, Relationships and Social Cohesion, Harvest and landscapes, Voyaging and Seascapes, Art and Technology.

The work illustrates that a deeper principle underlying "knowledge and wisdom" is ethic - the ability to know when, how, why and for what purposes we do something.

Tongan contributors

Articles contributed by five Tongan writers are:

For its Tonga launch last week, the Tonga National Commission for UNESCO held an hour-long prayer service at St Andrew’s Hall, in Nuku‘alofa, attended by the writers, representatives from government ministries and diplomats. Following the service the book was presented to the Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni, with entertainment provided by Ifi ‘a e Kau Polisi Tonga, and traditional dances by Takuilau College students who performed a Tau‘olunga faktokolahi and Mako.

The regional project was sponsored by the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea under ICHCAP, the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, under UNESCO.

Sun-hwa Rha, the administrator, stated in the volume, "Traditional knowledge is like a precious gem passed down from our ancestors. It is the adamant duty of the current generation to refine, polish and help it to shine for transmission into the future."

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