|It is absolutely essential we do all we can to keep the rich Tongan heritage
We cant know where we are going in the future - if we don’t know where we have been in the past; nor can we appreciate our real worth if we don’t know our own current make up – and what makes us tick!
We also have to look to the children - as they are the future.
A lovely Children’s Book in the Tongan and English called
A Little Seahorse in Love –
|This is a delightful fairytale, which appeals to the young - and those
of us who are young at heart ...
Incredibly, the book was written for the people of Tonga by Dr Michael Schirmer, renowned German author and artist, who dedicated this tale to His Majesty Taufa’ahau Tupou IV and the Royal Grandchildren – as representatives for all Tongans around the world.
Now one may ask what is the connection? In fact there has always been a strong bond between Tonga and Germany starting with the Bismark Friendship Treaty of 1875 which HM personally renewed in 1987 and; what you may not realise, Tonga, for many Germans, is the land of paradise of their dreams.
However Dr Schirmer’s motivation was different. As a small boy he was forced to escape from East Germany with his family after the war. In 1990, when the Berlin wall came down, he was very touched to see His Majesty travel halfway around the Globe to congratulate the Germans on the reuniting of East and West. Dr Schirmer was so moved that he wrote and painted this delightful story set in the Friendly Islands. It was my own German mother-in-law, Viktoria Raedler MBE, who noticed the book written in German, but dedicated to the Tongan people.
We were charmed by his tale of a little love struck Seahorse, too young to know prejudice, who strays from his home. This innocent creature becomes hopelessly lost, but makes unlikely friends who ultimately help him overcome impossible obstacles and to make his dream come true! Inspired by the author’s setting in the deep blue waters of the Friendly Islands, - described in words of poetry and watercolours,
- we thought “how wonderful it would be to bring this book to the Tongan people...”
Then, we thought, ALL Tongans should be able to enjoy the book; and Her Royal Highness Princess Nanasipau‘u Tuku‘aho was delighted at the idea of a book written for children in both English and Tongan.
Now, 18mths later, this Tongan-English edition is a reality - and has been published to Honour and Commemorate His Majesty’s 85th Birthday. And, how fitting to be able to acknowledge His Majesty’s enormous contribution towards education, right from when he was a young man, achieving 98.5% literacy in the Kingdom – one of the highest in the world.
His Majesty’s grandson, HRH Prince Uiliami ‘Unaki‘otonga
Mumui Lalaka-mo-e-‘Eiki Tuku‘aho, was very happy about the
project and graciously agreed to be the patron of
On our last trip to Tonga, we realised we needed to do more than bring out a book in Tongan and English. We needed to make it widely available to the children in Tonga. My father, W.S.Waterhouse, Consul General for Tonga since 1974, said he would be honoured to make a contribution to the children in the Kingdom.
But we totally underestimated the need... the author had kindly agreed to let the Consulate buy 500 books at cost to give the Primary Schools of Tonga. However, when we rang the Tongan Minister of Education, The Hon Paula Bloomfeild, he was so excited he said he could use 4,000 books! He wanted all his schools to use the book as a learning tool and so he would need enough copies to give the schools up to 40 books each! A Great Idea, however, it is always hard to find financial support.
Just when we were feeling it was not possible, a German Aid Fund came to the rescue – Internationaler Hilfsfonds e.V. had the vision to see the merits of such a project; ...and between us we came up with the funding we needed to buy more than 3000 books for the Primary Schools of Tonga.
But the project could not have happened without the support of the Australian Tongan Community, and the translator, chosen by HRH Princess Nanasi, Miss Veiongo Mafi. Veiongo dropped everything and worked day and night to find beautiful words for the poetry and story – to create a superb Tongan translation.
We thought the English translation was hard but not in comparison with the work to ensure the Tongan typesetting was right. I think every macron; every glottal stop - in every word, must have been checked at least 3 times – as the German printer’s software programme did not know what to do with all the unusual symbols!
Both Tongan and English are presented side by side – so, using either language - we can now all enjoy this lovely work. Our vision for the book is not just for children in the Kingdom but also Tongan children in Australia and the rest of the world - whose first language is English.
The wider goal is to move the hearts of the young to preserve the treasures
of the Southern Seas for future generations and, also, to help your young
ones recognise and appreciate their Tongan identity, whether they live
in Tonga or in a western environment.
|Louise S.R. Waterhouse
25 June 2003