The 1993 Silver Jubilee of Taufa'ahau Tupou IV

dancerOn 4 July 1993 the King of Tonga, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, turned 75. The occasion prompted an outpouring of traditional ceremony and celebration, commemorating both the King's birthday and (a year late, so as to coincide with it) his silver jubilee. The event was one of the biggest of its kind ever seen in Tonga.

performerI was in Nuku'alofa during those celebrations, doing the fieldwork that ultimately led to my book Changing Their Minds: Tradition and Politics in Contemporary Fiji and Tonga (Christchurch: Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, 1998). Since it was an academic book, it had no room for the many photographs I took during the celebrations. Now, though, there is room, here on the web.

dancerThe slideshow on the following page starts with some of the lavishly-decorated arches that temporarily graced Nuku'alofa's main roads in the weeks around July 4. It continues with a noble investiture ceremony at the Royal Palace on the weekend of the King's birthday; with parades along the Nuku'alofa waterfront (coinciding with the annual Heilala Festival); and with a day of performances by school children in honour of the King.

dancerLater slides show the royal feast held on 8 July 1993 on Mala'e Pangai, next to the Palace: "All afternoon, groups of dancers performed before the King and other dignitaries.... Almost overshadowing the dances was a constant procession of women bearing pieces of cloth and bark-cloth, which were carried fully-stretched to emphasise their great length. Their tribute formed an ever-growing pile before the royal enclosure." (Changing Their Minds, p.143.)

dancerThe slides include shots of Princess Pilolevu and other royal performers, along with guests Tu'ipelehake (the King's late brother, former Prime Minister of Tonga) and Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara (then Vice-President and later President of Fiji). You can also see several women 'jesters' singing, dancing, and lying down for Princess Pilolevu to walk over them (see Changing Their Minds, p.148, note 7).

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Page created 30 September 1999

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