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Road to Recital 2020: Tuaikaepau

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

[Note to Readers: The Road to Recital 2020 is an ongoing multimedia project by our 9th grade Digital Studies class documenting the behind the scenes preparations for this year's Cultural Recital. In this class, our scholars are learning how to utilize digital tools to organize, collaborate, communicate, manage deadlines, create digital content and develop 21st century digital skills. The work depicted in this space is the culmination of the skills and knowledge they are developing in the Digital Studies class, divided into teams of blog writers, photographers, videographers and a project manager.]

At Mana Academy, our secondary students are learning the song and the history behind the late Queen Salote’s composition Tuaikaepau. Queen Salote III is the past monarch of Tonga who reigned from 1918 to 1965. She is renown for her skills as a poet and composer of many Tongan classics.

Tuaikaepau is the name of a boat that sailed from Tonga to New Zealand with seventeen passengers in 1962. In the Tongan language, Tuaikaepau means 'slowly but surely." During their journey, the ship hit the Minerva Reef on the second day which severely damaged the ship. With their lives at stake, the 17 survivors found refuge in a previously capsized Japanese vessel that previously fell victim to the reef. They were stranded on the reef for 102 days.

The captain, Tevita Fifita, and Tevita Uaisele, a carpenter, and the captain’s son, Sateki Fifita, built a raft from the parts of the Japanese ship and sailed to Fiji to get help. Eventually, their makeshift raft capsized and they were forced to swim the rest of the way. The captain and Tevita Uaisele made it but, unfortunately, Sateki, the captain’s son, did not make it. Four other survivors did not make it before rescue arrived.

Queen Salote wrote this composition to honor the survivors. For this year’s recital, the entire secondary campus is learning the song, accompanied by a dance choreographed for our school by Deeno Vainuku and Sisi’uno Helu. According to our principal, ‘Anapesi Ka’ili, who also has personal connections to several of the survivors of the Tuaikaepau, this story represents a remarkable display of resilience and strength in a time of adversity.

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