Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coming soon on Tongan telly

If you happen to live in the Friendly Islands, or live elsewhere but got a satellite dish installed on your roof because you need a regular fix of Tongan Television, then you can turn your set on today at five o'clock and see 'Opeti Talia, Sisi'uno Langi-Helu and me discussing the 'Atenisi Institute and the intellectual and cultural tradition it represents.

In the course of our talk, which was recorded yesterday while we sat on handsome wooden chairs with royal red padding in the cramped green-walled studio of the state broadcaster, names like Tongan Ark, Paul Janman, Heraclitus, Ted Jenner, 'Jackson' Ross, Dave Bedggood, and David Howard were brandished. I sat quietly and tried to look knowing whenever 'Opeti and Sisi'uno spoke in their native Tongan, and chimed in occasionally in Kiwi English. Our broadcast lasts three quarters of an hour, and was made to let the Tongan public know that 'Atenisi is up and running this year. We're hopeful that a minute or two of it might be featured on the national news, which is broadcast in Tongan at seven o'clok and in English at eight o'clock.

Tonga has only three television channels and a relatively small number of radio stations, so the chances of the masses catching a broadcast are higher than they would be in a nation like New Zealand, where there are often scores of channels on offer. When I talked to Brett Cross, the boss of Titus Books, last night, he got excited by the idea that our broadcast might help him to sell titles by the likes of Jack Ross and Ted Jenner in Nuku'alofa's Friendly Islands Bookshops. Little did he know that FIB, which exploits its monopoly on the book trade here, was flogging Titus volumes for eighty-three pa'anga a pop...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction. 'Atenisi is not yet registered nor accredited by the authorities.

10:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry about the Tongan cops. The post-Futa leadership group of ‘Atenisi maintains their narrow view of Futa's approach to management and combine that with the Tongan elite’s avarice and fiscal rectitude, absent Futa's intellect. Sadly, Futa is gone, and so has 'Atenisi. Nowadays the greatest threat to Futa's vision lies within. Despite this, there appears to be an ongoing flow of gullible internationales ready and willing to maintain the charade. The offer of grand titles such as ‘Dean’ and ‘Vice-Chancellor’ have a strong record of baiting such folk. Invariably they end up not paid, and other commitments are not met, and the legitimate resources they have gathered from donors get illegitimately diverted to the same old private personages, and they leave embittered and disheartened, but a little wiser about the realities of governance and institutions in Tonga. Good luck. Watch your wallet.

11:22 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

I think these comments are a little silly, given what I know of the people running 'Atenisi, and I certainly wouldn't be up here in the steam and mist of a Tongan February, away from the larger job market in Atalanga, if I were concerned about my wallet!

But each to their own. If critics of the present setup at 'Atenisi develop their own ideas and publish about Futa Helu and other important thinkers in the 'Atenisi tradition, then they'll be doing good service to intellectual discourse, regardless of their institutional affiliations. Ultimately a thinker like Futa Helu is valuable if he can help people distant from him in time and space understand the world. Whether or not this or that institution bears his name isn't important.

In fact, one could argue that a mark of an important thinker - of Marx, or Freud, or Kendrick Smithyman - is sharp disagreement about the meaning of that thinker's legacy. Intellectual creativity breeds debate and divergent schools of interpretation.

12:07 pm  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Anonymous is reproducing one more round of 'laukovi' against 'Atenisi. It's very sad but I hope that the new 'Atenisi will weather it, as Futa always did.

In making Tongan Ark over the past seven years, I have been very intimate with much of the goings on at the school and although there have been a few unfortunate slip ups in 'Atenisi's difficult history, Anon's comments are essentially unfounded.

The new administrators have a clean record and they have now, against the odds, won registration of the school. 'Atenisi is more financially secure than it has been for a decade and a new wave of talented and willing intellectuals are flowing in this year.

In the name of Futa's true legacy and in order that we don't dismiss you unfairly Anonymous, please reveal your evidence and yourself so that these slanderous comments have a context.

Otherwise, we can only assume that you are concealing another agenda.

4:31 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There is "avarice" everywhere. Maps is not pulled by egotism although of course it is flattering to have a position and a name etc but I think that Maps and Paul and the others are no fools. Maps and Paul (or the over-zealous Maps) I have been urging to get a well paid job in academia which is what I would do in his situation. But his wife has agreed to go which is big thing for a young mother to do. So I know that Maps and most of the others are sincere.

Also I have found that at University here in Auckland it was interesting to have lecturers from other nations and in fact the HOD of English at the time I was there (as an adult student) was the Samoan writer Albert Wendt. In Philosophy we had lecturers from the US and elsewhere.

There is a range of viewpoints.

The world is de facto rapidly very 'internationale' - while national differences remain.

I wish Atenisi well. I may even go there except I'm not a great traveler...

All the best how have gone, or do go!

8:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why do those who whinge about achievements like paul's tongan ark or other atenisi successes never make their own film or write their book? etc

anonymous whining is easier i suppose

4:21 pm  

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