This week is Tongan Language week - Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga. Queen Salote Tupou III was and still is Tonga’s most celebrated and loved Monarch.
She brought Tonga to international attention when she attended the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, endearing herself to spectators by riding through the streets in an open carriage, smiling and waving in the pouring rain.
In support of Tongan Language Week, here’s a brief account of Queen Salote’s contribution to Tongan language and culture by Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum.
In Tongan Language week it is difficult to look past the contributions of Tonga’s Queen Sälote (1900–65) to the preservation and creative use of the Tongan language. Queen Sälote was a celebrated writer of poetry and song. She composed over one hundred songs, lullabies, laments and dances.
Queen Sälote has a connection with New Zealand that began in 1909 when she was sent to school in Auckland where she stayed until she was 14. She visited New Zealand regularly throughout her life.
In 1952, the Tongan government bought an Auckland residence, ‘Atalanga. This became Queen Sälote’s home away from home and later included a hostel for Tongans studying in Auckland. Her visits were mostly private, but she was acknowledged by both government officials and Mäori dignitaries.
When Queen Sälote died in 1965, she was deeply mourned. She was a loved and respected monarch. Queen Sälote’s children and grandchildren continue to maintain close links with New Zealand, especially with the Mäori monarchy, the Kïngitanga.
Te Papa has several treasured items and images associated with Queen Sälote in the Pacific Cultures Collections. They include a kie (fine mat) once owned by Queen Sälote, photographs featuring her by renowned photographer Brian Brake, and a ngatu launima some 23 metres long that was placed beneath her coffin when her body was flown back to Tonga from New Zealand in 1965.