As I near the end of my D'Arcy Residency and work to finish my my ten - or fifteen, or perhaps twenty - thousand word essay about Tonga, I'm flicking through photographs I took during our last visit to the kingdom in July and August. As I strive to remember the difference between a cassava and a tapioca plant, or the way the sun feels when it is reflected from a coral road on Tonagatapu at two in the afternoon, or the colour schemes various denominations favour on the rooves of their churches, the photographs have become essential references. After looking at them too long and too wistfully, I've begun to unlearn geography. I look out the window of my study at suburban Auckland, half-expecting to see the fruit bats and sperm whales of the Tongatapu channel.
Here are Cerian and Aneirin, dining under the cool gaze of the late King Tupou V; the fleet of fishing boats at Ohonua, the capital village and only port of 'Eua Island; the old gas station on 'Eua's plateau; the cemetery named Pangai, on the road out of Ohonua, where some of the original refugees from the slave raid on 'Ata are buried; a Free Wesleyan Church on the plateau, with cyclone-proof pillars and Mondrianesque plastic windows; our 'Atan friends Pisaina and Masalu Halahala having lunch with us at the Hideaway lodge; and the half-dead shark that fishermen brought up from the Tongatapu channel in a blue ute one afternoon.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]