There’s a lot to know about Tonga, but much of it’s present and past is around water. BlackrainLF provides a good imagery of what it is to be Tongan. You can’t escape the water, and it even provides some distraction for visitors.

These pages began as a collection to introduce a biased view of Tonga to the Internet. We drive to be factual but not encyclopedic, another view we hope people can also enjoy.

News and information

Before the Internet, Tongans were sharing news and information in many ways. Like Biblical times, letters would often be shared (either in full or ‘condensed’). Events (such as church) became centers for Tongans overseas to share their culture and information from ‘home.’ Tongans got involved with the local ‘media’ outlets, and various ‘community’ radio stations around the world would have a ‘Tongan’ version. The Tonga government and Tonga church newspapers were distributed amongst the diaspora of Tongans. More dedicated entrepreneurs like Kalafi Moala’s Taimi ‘o Tonga published ‘Tonga’ and ‘local’ content newspapers for the Tongan audience.

Pesi and Mary Fonua’s Matangi Tonga Online have been the constant Internet presence of news and information from Tonga.

The foreign news service from Radio New Zealand Pacific offers short snippets of political and local news.

Consuming the Web

Tonga has a saying “Tele lou niu” which euthemistically means we love to talk, about anything and everything. We have opinions ready to roll. When the walled gardens of social media like MySpace exploded on the Internet, Pacific Islanders of all walks were in there stirring up awesome and tripe content, like everyone else.

They say that humans are social creatures, I tell you that Pacific Islanders are kainga people. We are in love/hate relationship with our kainga. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. We have to get together for many things and any medium that can help facilitate that, is quickly adopted (once it becomes affordable.)

Creating your own space, through websites, is difficult for most people. Tongans ventured onto the Internet as publishers and created meeting places that were quickly filled with peers. Tonga Online, Planet-Tonga are examples of early pioneers. They provided forums that Tongans could drop into and vent in English or Tongan.

But when the Social Networks came on the scene, the entry into self-publishing (spewing) dropped. Tongans drove their kin, and their kin into the various Social Networks, be it MySpace, Flicker, to Facebook and Youtube. The Tele Lou Niu went from the back yard, koka’anga, kalapu, and got global. Newer mobile phones made posting pictures easier, then they made posting videos easier too.

The rest of the world may love cat photos, Tongans have lau’i (euthemism for) ‘diligently view’ every wedding, funeral, the gift keeps giving.

Where Time Begins - where we were

There was a time when the only means of finding information about Tonga, was to check-out the articles in your local library’s faded Encyclopedias. They promised well researched material, although possibly ‘dated’.

Information about Tonga was very ‘filtered’ by the gatekeepers of knowledge, whether the tour operators or lauded anthology knowledge brokers. There was little to be found on Tonga in print and little outside of a few academic materials including sound and visuals.

There were some films available on VHS, and the below is a snip from one that were assigned to High School students as part of our Pacific History.

The European, Exhuberant loose but entertaining interpretation of Bligh’s diary, hardly ‘accurate’ (other than the narrators reading of Bligh’s diary). The righteous white crew, victorious over the barbarous savages fighting over coats they don’t even use (nor need.)

The dialogue on Tonga and her history is framed with foreign bias verging on ignorance.

Our children were taught this as the view of the ‘civilised world.’

At the dawn of Internet in Tonga, thanks to the help of Eric and Eric, who built the 1st ISP for Cable and Wireless, Tonga, using satellite routing through to the US and local 9600 baud dial-up services. We found ourselves, in Tonga, armed with ‘tech’ and wanting to be part of this new information revolution (medium for dialogue).

Eric and Eric opened up a web space and Tonga On the ‘NET was publishing from Tonga.

Thanks to the WayBack Machine we can take a brief look at how it was.

Taholo Kami published Tonga Online and with the online forum “Kava Bowl” became the premiere destination for Tongans on the Internet.

More ‘tech’ capable Tongans were already on the Internet, and also saw the opportunity to share and bring together Tongans, ‘Anapesi and Tevita ‘O Ka’ili with friends and family published Planet Tonga and became a strong source of community and information on Tonga.

Passions change, and life intervened along the way. Fortunately, many of the news and information publishers eventually found there way onto the Internet, whilst new entrepreneurs used the Internet as their primary or only publishing circle.