Topic: Pacific Affairs

Niuean music legend encourages his people to uphold their language

updated By Tema Hemi
  • Auckland

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio kicked off Niuean Language Week today with events being held in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington and Auckland. 

Renowned Niuean musician, Tigilau Ness, is working on a new single written entirely in the Niuean language. The theme 'Niue Child, Nurture and Embrace Vagahau Niue' is something he encourages everyone to support. 

Source: The Ministry of Pacific People's Website

Born and bred in Niue, Ness was totally immersed in his native tongue. But his is a dying breed.

Like many Niuean immigrants who moved to NZ, the language was not passed on. The Niuean language is currently classified by UNESCO as a 'definitely endangered language'.

Tigilau Ness - Photo / File

Ness says, "It was my mum who was the one responsible for me learning, speaking and writing Niue. From inside our house, we spoke Niue, outside it was English. So that was my first language.

"My mum knew how important it was so she sat me and my sisters around the kitchen table and taught us from the Niue bible. Because my mum and dad were immigrants they came here for a better life, so they knew we had to learn English and I guess in their generation to speak Niue wasn't profitable.

"A lot of the elders could see that the language was slowly dying out and they were very afraid of that, in fact, they have a saying, "Aloalo tea Niue" or "Goodbye Niue" and that's the language."

Source: Che Fu / Twitter

He says, "With Che, my eldest son, he understands and he speaks a little but again it's who you hang out with so if you hang out with a lot of people who speak the reo, the language Vagahau Niue then your gonna get more fluent at it."

Ness says, "Mei he tumu tuka tumu tuka ulu ahau kei te aloalo hui he Niue akai, from the top of your head to the souls of your feet you are Niue."