Pacific Island Books

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Brief History of Niutao, A by Pulekai A. Sogivalu. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies. ISBN 982020058X. Recommended retail price $9.

In the South Pacific Ocean, not far below the equator, lies the independent country of Tuvalu, previously known as the Ellice Islands. In the north of the group lies the neat and magical island of Niutao, renowned for its knowledge and traditional skills. This book tells of settlement, local chiefs, battles and reigns, European influence, church building and government. It is the story of the people of Niutao. Soft cover, 45 pages. Published in 1992.

Introduction to Tuvaluan, An by Geoff & Jenny Jackson. Recommended retail price $17.

A small book to explain dialects, everyday expression, grammar, numbers, pronunciation and usage. It is not the purpose of this book to provide a complete, exhaustive analysis of the Tuvaluan language but rather an “introduction” to the Tuvaluan language. It is for the average person who does not know a lot about grammar. Soft cover, 64 pages.

Material Culture of Tuvalu, The by Gerd Koch. Recommended retail price $15.

Much of the old Polynesian culture of these islands still exists today. This meant that a significant part of the work could be accomplished by personal observation and by collecting as many artifacts as possible for the museum. That material is now published in this book. Old men and women provided information about the past to the best of their ability and in most cases that information could subsequently be confirmed by questioning other islanders. Soft cover, 215 pages.

Songs of Tuvalu by Gerd Koch. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies. ISBN 9820203147. Recommended retail price $24.

That Radio Tuvalu broadcasts old songs on a daily basis demonstrates the high regard that Tuvaluans have for their old songs. Although ot forgotten, perhaps these old songs needed the extra support that government could share. So it was that leading members of government in the 1960s encouraged Professor Gerd Koch in his study of the songs of Tuvalu. Professor Koch recorded songs on tape and wrote in German. He asked that Mr. Guy Slatter translate the work into English. The present government of Tuvalu continues to support the perpetuation of these old songs by bringing to bear the staying power of print along with new technology in the form of compact discs.

This collection includes songs about the sea, life on land, magic, Christianity and church. The words are at once succinct and expressive. The songs mark such significant events as death or famine, as well as such everyday occurrences as fishing, planting and harvesting. These songs testify to the communities' respect for specialists in house building, magic or food production. Church hymns and pop songs have affected Tuvaluan songs and vice versa, creating a blend that is still uniquely Tuvaluan. Dancing and drumming accompany many of the songs, and this collection describes some of the dances and instruments.

This book is a celebration of Tuvaluan song. It is joy that may be shared by anyone who reads this music or this text or who plays the accompanying compact discs. Hardcover + 2CDs, 197 pages. Published in 2000.

Tala O Niuoku, Te: the German Plantation on Nukulaelae Atoll 1865-1890 by Suamalie N.T. Iosefa, Doug Munro, Niko Besnier. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies. ISBN 9820200733. Recommended retail price $12.95.

In 1865 a trading captain called at the tiny atoll of Nukulaelae in Tuvalu and obtained a 25-year lease to the eastern islet of Niuoku on behalf of the German firm of J.C. Godeffroy & Sohn. the firm then developed a coconut plantation which was never free of controversy. There were quarrels between the people of Nukulaelae and the imported laborers and endless disagreements between Godeffroys and the people over the terms and conditions of the lease. The alienation of their largest islet caused considerable suffereing to the people of the atoll, whose numbers had been decimated by Peruvian slave raids a few years earlier, but the Germans refused to leave until the lease expired in 1890. Today, the events surrounding the German plantation at Niuoku is a tale of note in Nukulaelae recollection, and every year the community commemorates the day of rejoicing when the lease finally expired.

The first edition of this bilingual publication was specially written for the centenary commemoration in May 1990. In reviewing the book for Pacifica, Michael Godsmith wrote:
“The strengths of the book are its reliance on oral as well as written testimony
and its use of the indigenous language to make the publichation available to the
community concerned. Through their choice of topic and medium, the authors demonstrate a pleasing and necessary commitment to recovering one of the subjugated histories of the Pacific.

The authors have all lived at Nukulaelae. Suamalie Iosefa is a Minister and senior administrator in the Tuvalu Church, Doug Munro teaches at the University of the South Pacific, and Niko Besnier teaches at Yale University. Soft cover, 50 pages. Published in 1991.

Te Tikisionale O Te ‘Gana Tuvalu, A Tuvaluan-English Dictionary by Geoffrey W. Jackson. Recommended retail price $20.

Current vocabulary; up-to-date spelling, usage & translations. A useful reference book for Tuvaluans as well as students of, and visitors to, Tuvalu. Soft cover, 224 pages

Time and Tide: The Islands of Tuvalu by Peter Bennetts and Tony Wheeler. ISBN 1-86450-342-4. Published by Lonely Planet Publications. Recommended retail price $19.99.

This large format book is very different from the usual Lonely Planet guide. It's also a book that should be read by everyone on George Bush's energy policy team. The islands of Tuvalu are under substantial threat from global warming. The cover blurb outs it this way:

One of the world's smallest nations is bearing the brunt of global warming as rising waters threaten to drown these low-lying atolls. While developed countries debate the greenhouse effect, Tuvaluans are slowly being dispossessed of their country by climate change. Despite the prospect of becoming environmental refugees, islanders are resolute that their culture willsurvive and their nation remain strong.

Join internationally acclaimed photographer, Peter Bennets, and Lonely Planet co-founder, Tony Wheeler, as they explore this endangered land and celebrate an enduring culture. This book's vivid photography provides glimpses of Tuvaluan daily life and gives voice to ordinary islanders through intimate interviews. More than a portrait of a natio in crisis or a cultural document this book articualtes the flourishing optimism of a people.

I can only concur. This is a wonderful book. Check out some of the photos below (all copyright Peter Bennetts). Soft cover, 163? Pages. Published in 2001.

Traditional house (114k)
Cooking pig (63k)
School Children (76k)

Tuvalu: A History by Simati Faaniu et al, edited by Hugh Laracy. Recommended retail price $15.

This book is a history of Tuvalu written by Tuvaluans. It is intended both as a contribution to the knowledge of Pacific history and as an expression of Tuvalu’s cultural identity, complementing the political identity officially born in 1978 when Tuvalu became an independent nation. It is fitting that people who rule their own country should produce a history of their own for they, more than any others, should know – and need to know – who they are.

Genesis, old order, old-time religion, land, singing & dancing, life cycle, traditions, Palagi, pastors, travelers, workers, colonial rule, war, post-war development, secession, independence, present and the future are all subjects that are covered. Soft cover, 208 pages.

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