LĀ’IE, Hawaii – Following a 16-month restoration, the new Tonga Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center opened Saturday, June 11, in a ceremony steeped in culture and celebration, highlighted by the presence of the Royal Family of Tonga.
His Majesty King Tupou VI, joined by his wife, Her Majesty Queen Nanasipauu, made a special trip to participate in the ceremony as a tribute to the people of Tonga and the spirit of the Tongan culture being perpetuated at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
King Tupou VI addressed the audience, praising the Polynesian Cultural Center for its dedication to showcase culture. “The Polynesian Cultural Center is a window the world can look through to understand lesser-known islands and their people,” said King Tupou VI. “The Tonga Village fosters pride in the cultural identity of our people and allows them to preserve and pass on that love to our younger generations.”
Alfred Grace, president of the Polynesian Cultural Center, told the gathering, “We are grateful to have His Majesty King Tupou VI and Her Majesty Queen Nanasipauu join us to celebrate this beautiful village and the proud and noble people it represents. Here in the Tonga village, we encapsulate all that is significant, worthy and meaningful to the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is a showplace for a magnificent culture.”
It was the first appearance at the Polynesian Cultural Center by the Royal Family of Tonga since 1993 and the first for King Tupou VI since assuming the throne. Known as the “Friendly Islands,” Tonga is the last remaining monarchy in Polynesia ruled by a king.
The ceremony’s festivities honored the Royal Family with cultural gifts and performances representing the Polynesian Cultural Center’s six island villages, Hawai’i, Tahiti, Aotearoa, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
Built in 1963 when the Polynesian Cultural Center opened, the Tonga Village was restored over the past 16 months, a process undertaken to present a more authentic showcase of the Tongan culture. All of the structures have been built using traditional Tongan materials and lashes. Highlights of the new Tonga Village include:
• New, large town hall for cultural presentations.
• Restored family house and queen’s summer house.
• New kitchen and underground oven to display Tongan cooking methods.
• New women’s workshop for weaving and cultural activities.
• Restored drum presentation stage for cultural performances.