New Photobook Celebrates Tonga’s Royal Family

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Book launch coincides with start of Coronation ceremonies

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 25, 2015) – A new photographic book about Tonga’s Royal Family was launched at a special event at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre on Tuesday June 23, ahead of the celebrations for the Coronation of HM King Tupou VI that begin on Saturday.

Published by Vava‘u Press the book titled ‘Tonga’s Royal Family - Photographs from Royal Collections’ (Coronation Edition, hardback, 56 pages) introduces the Royal Family through illustrations selected from collections of Royal photographs. In the book Queen Nanasipau‘u presents photographs from the Royal Palaces and her own family. Vava‘u Press and Matangi Tonga present news photographs selected from their archives dating back to 1980, and Adrienne L. Kaeppler presents photographs and research from her participation in Royal events since the 1960s.

In launching the book HM Queen Nanasipau’u said that the Royal Family of Tonga has a history of nearly 2000 years. "It is not just the genealogy of a family, it is the history of our people and our nation," she said.

"Today many people assume that we can preserve all our oral traditions in written form, sadly this is not always the case. …This book helps to preserve some of our history and heritage in pictures to share with future generation of Tongans. Perhaps it will stoke an interest in all things Tongan and the rich cultural traditions that need to be preserved," said the Queen.

The publisher Pesi Fonua said that this volume published for the Coronation of Tupou VI in is the first to feature the Royal Family of Tonga in photos, although books have been published about individuals. The book introduces the Tupou Dynasty from Tupou I to Tupou VI and also looks at the genealogy of Tupou VI as the 24th Tu’i Kanokupolu and his ancestors.

Dr Kaeppler, Curator of Oceanic Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, is attending her third coronation in Tonga and spoke on the importance of these events.

"There are two events that are crucial to the Monarchy during Coronation Week. One of these is the Coronation of Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u in Saione on July 4, when the Tupou Dynasty crowns are placed on their heads. This is the event that the world is waiting to see," she said.

"The second equally important event is the Taumafa Kava on Saturday June 27. During this event Tupou VI confirms his right to be the 24th Tu’i Kanokupolu. This is a much older and venerable title that can be traced back to the sky god Tangaloa. And we have spelled this all out for you on page 8."

Pesi said that he believed that "Providing a written record of our culture is our obligation." The book was also made possible by the contributions of outstanding images from a number of local photographers including Peter Poulsen, Linny Folau, Mary Lyn Fonua, GP Orbassano, and also including Pesi’s own news photographs going back to the 1970s, the work of Paula Moimoi Latu who has photographed many royal events, and others.

Mary Lyn Fonua, Managing Editor of Vava’u Press said that the work is a collaboration between a journalist, an anthropologist and a Queen, bringing together three major collections of photographs, combining news photography, with an anthropological viewpoint as well as important portraits from the Palace collections. She said that Vava’u Press had always wanted to produce a book on the Royal Family and was privileged to have received the permission of the King to reproduce photos from the Palace, including some that had not been seen before by the public.

All three presenters signed copies of the book for the guests at the launch.

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