A new era for Tokelau National Handicraft Committee

Apia, 9 June 2017

The first official meeting of the Tokelau National Handicraft Committee was held from 5 to 8 June 2017 at the Insel Fehmarn Hotel in Apia Samoa. It was attended by three representatives from each island in Tokelau; Nukunonu, Atafu and Fakofo.

Representatives comprised two women and one man from each respective island. The meeting was officially opened by the Minister of Telecommunication and upcoming Minister for Fisheries, Honourable Mose Pelasio on behalf of the Minister for Economic Development, Natural Resources and Environment (EDNRE) and the Department.
Participants to the Tokelau National Handicraft Committee meeting, June 2017

The official opening was also attended by the three ministers, witnessing this occasion as a way forward for economic development in Tokelau.

Hon. Mose Pelasio, Minister for Telecommunication and upcoming Minister for Fisheries
Hon. Mose Pelasio in his opening speech, acknowledged the presence of the elders from the Nuku. He also extended his sincere gratitude to his fellow Ministers for making Tokelau affairs a priority in attending this auspicious occasion. Noting the participation of few elderly participants, he expressed his heart-felt affection towards them and commented on their courage and bravery to travel through rough seas to make this initiative a reality for Tokelau.

In line with their departmental strategic plan 2016-2020, the Department of EDNRE through its Economic Development Unit, organised to revitalize the long dormant handicraft committee. It existed up until the early 1990s as a means to increase economic activities that promote and preserve Tokelau’s culture & traditions. Handicrafts are unique expressions of Tokelau’s culture or economy through its local craftsmanship and its materials. The Minister in his speech highlighted the uniqueness of Tokelau’s handicraft as compared to other Pacific Islands. Tokelauan handicrafts are well known for their finesse or intricate and elegant presentation that carries with it the Tokelauan identity and culture.

With globalisation, products are becoming more and more commoditized including handicrafts, which are now part of a much larger home accessory market. Hence, the Tokelau National Handicraft Committee now has taken the challenge to take Tokelau’s handicrafts and craftsmanship a step forward from home to showcase their culture and fine traditions to the world. In addressing this, the Minister fully supported this initiative and reiterated that this is a “dawn of a new era”.
A way forward that is now a priority fully supported by Tokelau and at the same time Tokelauans are mindful of the environmental and economic sustainability aspects, given its limited resources. It was identified that each islands in Tokelau has their own conservation strategies that guide them to sustainably using their limited natural resources.

The committee’s week-long meeting engaged them to look at establishing a market here in Samoa with the possibility of extending the market overseas in the future, scrutinising the prices of handicraft to best suit their target customers and also engage in tours around excelling small business outlets in Apia.

The committee held a one-day seminar during the week, whereby key speakers from the organisations UNDP, Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC), and Samoa Chambers of Commerce deliberated on their organization strategies and the opportunity of partnerships with Tokelau.
Elisapeta - elderly participant from Nukunonu, Tokelau
Tokelau National Handicraft Committee in session
UNDP Speaker Ms Rumana Khan talked about economic opportunities that can be built, particularly to address climate change issues in Tokelau and where UNDP can offer support. The speaker from SBEC talked about small business enterprise that Tokelau can potentially explore. The representative from Samoa Chambers of Commerce talked about the opportunities of memberships to create networks and dialogue on potential opportunities that Tokelau could engage in.
The committee had the opportunity to visit some of the small handicraft operators in Samoa and were also invited by SBEC to participate in Samoa’s upcoming Trade Fair event at the end of this month. This would be a good opportunity to showcase their traditional artefacts and handicrafts. The meeting ended on a high note with the committee rendering their full support to progressing the economy of Tokelau through the small business sector.

After the week-long event, the Director of the department of EDNRE officially closed the meeting. He thanked the participants for their patience throughout the week of deliberations and expressed the hoped this is the beginning of a long journey for success in the small business sector of Tokelau. He also acknowledged the efforts put forth by the staffs of EDNRE for organising the event; and last but not the least, special appreciation toward the Government of Tokelau for the financial support that has made this event a success.

Story and pictures by Loia Tausi
Department of EDNRE
Email puavasa@gmail.com
Mobile: +685 7708444