Pacific | Niue

Using Niuean Language Week as a platform

Rather than just a week to speak it.

In celebration of Niuean Language Week (Vagahau Niue), which honors 30,000 Niueans living in Aotearoa, a daughter of Niue is taking a unique approach to promoting the use of their native tongue.

Eunique Ikiua, a music artist, is harnessing her digital skills and love for her Niuean culture to encourage its revitalisation.

Despite more Niueaens living in Aotearoa than the country itself, only 11% of Niueans speak their native language.

Ikiua firmly believes Niue Language Week can serve as a catalyst to establish essential language-related initiatives.

She has outlined her ambitious plans for this week.

“We are launching a few things, including our education centre at the hub, at the Ariki house (Grey Lynn, Auckland).

Tech lab for Niuean

We’re going to use this week to start a tech and innovation lab to see if we can start building some apps and games that can work toward Vagahau Niue, as well as a performing arts academy which will be launched soon.”

Music is a pivotal element in Ikiua’s strategy to ensure the Niuean youth hold onto their language.

She is convinced the infusion of contemporary music can engage the younger generation effectively.

“I think there is a large demand for young ones to engage with more modern music. I think of my song Niue Honey, and thought that’s just a cool beat – let’s just make a little jam. As a muso, you just like writing songs. Then I released it and the traction has been amazing.

When I looked at the comments on social media, I was surprised there were people translating it, and others talking to each other, and people were really getting into it,” she says.

Ikiua recognises that music can be a powerful tool to convey the rich history of Niue, which many are unaware of.

Scared James Cook away

“Niueans weren’t savages; I like to think of them as tacticians. If I think about the pre-colonial era, James Cook, when he tried to colonise Niue, was actually scared off because all he saw were these Niueans with reddened teeth.

“What they didn’t know was that it was a tactical move using red banana leaves that stained their teeth. Knowing that we were able to evade James Cook and his colonising, that’ll be good for people to know and to clarify,” she says.

This year’s theme for Niue Language Week (Faahi Tapu he Vagahau Niue) is Fakatūleva e Vagahau Niue mo e Tau Aga Fakamotu ma e Tau Atuhau, Sustain Niue language and culture for future generations.

It concludes this Saturday. For more information please check out the Ministry of Pacific Peoples website.