Thursday, January 22, 2009

Still Wondering...

On Mu'a, the ancient capital city of Tonga in the 14th century: "Some...sites are in a pitiful state of dilapidation. The site is utilised as an extension of the backyard to store rubbish, build a pit latrine etc. ... [It is necessary to] devise a program of public education, in order to stop the use of the langi (ancient royal burial tombs) and other sites as welcomed extensions of the backyards of the people. ...An explanatory trail has been planned for the area and has been funded by the Australian Government."

On the Ha'amonga a 'Maui: "An explanatory trail has been planned for the area and has been funded by the Australian Government."

Sia heu Lupe: "The slopes of the site have been planted with bananas, the top of the site bears some pawpaw trees. ... Gardening on the site will increase the erosion."

19th century fortification: "Continuous building activity and levelling of depressions will continue to obliterate the ditch system. ... Archaeological Importance - Very Important. ... If possible filling in of the fortification should be prohibited..."

The list (dating from 20 years ago) goes on. After starting several paragraphs and deleting them (so as not to be accused of inflammatory commentary) all I can legitimately write about is my own frustration with the fact that I have been enculturated to perceive the material remnants of history as being important. That is my own cultural bias, and it is fueled by the fact that it is the industry in which I work. And, in this particular instance, I feel somewhat righteous in my frustration, because I was brought here specifically to interpret these historical remnants, in order to promote cultural tourism to Tonga.

But at the end of the day, I must constantly remind myself that if the Tongan people, who legitimately own this heritage, don't mind its destruction, then why should I? (And through gritted teeth I reply that it's because it is what I do).


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there

As Tongan who base here in NZ for over 30 years I agree with your comment.

I'm doing some work for the Tongan government and private sector on IT. My own Observation, what is required right now is to develop a public awareness campaign to educate local people how important their past history now and to the future interms of economic development.
Majority of Tongans do not make that connection.
What requires now is the leadership and entreprenuership that tricker the sense of pride and ownership and the potential economic benefit to the community and the country as a whole if these historic sites are preserved.
As long as the current funding critria from Australia and NZ stay the same, nothing will change.
What is needed is the partnership between the community and private sector with the government role to facilitate and provide support.
Unless this happen, no progress will happen.