Malo e lelei 'a Hou’eiki moe kainga, pea malo ho’o mou me’a mai ki he ’Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga!

Ko hoku hingoa ko Halaifonua Finau 

Ko eku ongo matu’a ko Tevita Finau mei Nukunuku/Kolovai mo Valeti Finau mei Holonga, Vava’u. Ko eku mali ko Crystal Finau pea oku i ai e ma fanau e ua, ko Isabelle Ihorei mo Manuaipolo Hiwaiterangi.

The Ministry of Pacific Peoples theme for Uike Lea Faka-Tonga 2023 is: 

‘E tu’uloa ‘a e Lea faka-Tonga ‘o ka lea’aki ‘I api, siasi, mo e nofo-a-kāinga,

which means

The Tongan language will be sustainable if used at home, church and in the wider community.

For me, this is such a pertinent theme, especially this year with the release of my film Red, White & Brass.

I was born and raised in Wellington, and my parents were very adamant that me and my siblings speak Tongan. We grew up speaking Tongan at home. My uncle Simi, also lived with us and he was pretty much the Tongan language enforcer, we’d get clips around the ears if he caught us speaking English at home.

Though, at the time I didn’t see the importance of what my parents were doing, fast forward to 2023, and I know now that I’m bearing the fruits of the language seeds they planted when I was a child, and now I’m trying to replicate this with my children, although, my babies are also Māori, so we’re trying to raise them with both te reo Māori and lea faka’tonga.

I’ve been in the film and television industry for 18 years. I started out acting and presenting and more recently have moved into writing and producing. I guess this is where this year’s theme speaks to me and what I’m currently doing.

Through all my work, I just want to make being Tongan 'mean', as in cool. I really believe if I wasn’t as strong in my language and culture as I am, thanks to my upbringing, I wouldn’t be where I am today as many of the opportunities that I’ve been presented have been directly connected to me being Tongan.

JONAH, the telefilm on the Tongan rugby legend needed a Tongan writer who also loved rugby, so I got the call-up. The Panthers, a television drama series inspired by the Polynesian Panthers, had a Tongan character in the lead role, so my now business partner, Tom Hern, was looking for a Tongan to join him as a producer and writer.

This all led to Red, White & Brass.

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I’m extremely proud of all these projects but Red, White & Brass holds a special place for me because it’s so personal. It’s my letter of thanks and gratitude to my parents, family, and church for gifting me the beauty of our language and raising me to be a proud Tongan. I was raised to always be proud of who I am and where I come from and hopefully, in a small way, the film can do that for not only Tongans but also other Polynesians and indigenous people.

Although the film is Tongan, the themes of the film are universal, being proud of our culture, the importance of family, the power of community, and parents supporting our children’s dreams.  As a kid I’d complain about never having a birthday party like my friends at school, or doing things that my friends were doing in the holidays because we were doing stuff with our family or the church. 

My mum would always tell me...

“We invest in people, yes, we may not have money but when we invest in our people, the return is much more than money can ever buy”. 

This was never more evident to me than when we filmed Red, White & Brass. Not only were my family in the film as my parents and brother were acting for the first time, but my church were all involved too. It blew me away that my family, my uncles, cousins, and aunties would step this far out of their comfort zone for me.

When I was finally able to share the film in Wellington for the premiere, seeing the joy on their faces and the pride they had in their story shining on the big screen, was both overwhelming and extremely humbling.

I guess this is what my mum meant when she said the return on investing in our people is more than money can ever buy.  

Ko e koloa 'a Tonga ko e fakamalo

The expression of gratitude is the treasure of Tonga.

Welcome and warm Pasifik greetings

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