16 August 2012

The New Red Roof

Langafonua's fading red roof
Every day as I sit at my desk, I look out at the normally faded red roof of Langafonua Gallery and Handicraft Centre. Given to Langafonua by her Majesty Queen Salote, reigning monarch of Tonga from 1918 to 1965, the building is beautiful but in need of repair. And the past couple of days have seen Langafonua get a newly painted, shiny red roof. This is the start of what I hope will be some exciting developments for Langafonua and the handicraft sector in Tonga as a whole.

Artisans gathered to brainstorm exciting new product designs
Before going much further, I have to apologise for the long silence on the blog - or perhaps Digicel, one of two oligopolic internet providers here, should apologise. We've been having horrible internet problems for the past month, which I might describe in a later post, but suffice to say, we have had barely any access because of continual service errors that have taken a hugely long time to resolve.

At Langafonua, on the other hand, things are getting exciting. Last Friday marked the completion of a handicraft Product Design process course organized by the Tonga Business Enterprise Centre and taught by Chris Delany, as a first start of training to be provided by a new handicrafts project through my employer. The idea of the larger project is to strengthen the handicrafts sector here through two main areas: developing handicrafts' quality, marketability, and link with Tongan culture while at the same time working on improving market access, or ways that consumers buy the products.

Lamps with beaten fibre lampshades being shown for auction

On Friday, we arrived at a beautifully lit and already very crowded Langafonua for an auction of some of the products that the group in the training produced. There were gorgeous woven lampshades, delicate paper-like tapa candle shields, hand-designed screen printed linen towels, and pillowcases with hand-carved pearl shell button clasps.

Everyone was excited to show support and demand for the new products

Many of the more prominent businesspeople were there, along with many other enthusiastic supporters, and the bidding was fierce and filled with jokes and laughter. Langafonua bought the items from the trainees at market value, with the trainees agreeing that anything above that value gained in the auction would be donated to Langafonua for much-needed facility repairs. It was a huge success, and we all hope that the red roof is just the first sign of many exciting things in the handicraft sector to come.

The successful workshop saw many creative uses of local natural fibres, including this tapa wall hanging for children learning their numbers


  1. Nice to hear from you! And, continued success in the development of the handicraft sector.

  2. That will be a big boost for the handicrafts sector of the country. If they know that the government is dedicated in giving them the right funding and support, I'm sure that the sky is the limit for them. I hope that newly-repaired roof will start something bigger for them. Cheers and good luck! :) - [Kermit Lukacs]


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