Words from the Wise-- Dr. Konai Helu Thaman

Dr. Konai Helu Thaman is a Tongan native Scholar and Professor at the University of South Pacific (USP) in Fiji. She holds a BA in Geography from the University of Auckland, an M.A. in International Education from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and PhD in Education from the USP.

Dr. Thaman's PhD Dissertation entitled ‘Ako and Faiako: Cultural Values, Educational Ideas and Teachers’ Role Perceptions in Tonga was based on studies of the relationships between cultural values and educational ideas and how these were reflected in teachers’ perceptions of their professional role. She has conducted research, consultancies and published widely in the areas of teacher education, curriculum development and culture and education and has held senior administrative positions in the USP including Director of the Institute of Education and Pro Vice Chancellor and Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor.

She is a Fellow of APEID (Asia-Pacific Programme of Educational Innovation for Development) and a member of several international and professional organisations including the UNITWIN/UNESCO Asia Pacific Higher Education Network and the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation on the Status of Teachers (CEART), and the Asia Pacific Regional Scientific Committee on Research in Higher Education. She serves as the UNESCO Chairperson in Teacher Education and Culture. She is also a widely published poet. Read more HERE

The following is a quote taken from her keynote address at the Center for Pacific Island Studies Conference in 2003. Her talk was entitled "Decolonizing Pacific Studies: Indigenous Perspectives, Knowledge, and Wisdom in Higher Education"

"...my western education has not caused me to shift from a belief and reliance in the supernatural...I am a Tongan woman of the commoner class, and although schooled in western ways, I continue to see myself as part of an organic unity, not as a chance result of natural selection at work in a world devoid of supernatural guidance..."

you say that you think
therefore you are
but thinking belongs
in the depths of the earth
we simply borrow
what we need to know
these islands the sky
the surrounding sea
the trees the birds
and all that are free
the misty rain
the surging river
pools by the blowholes
a hidden flower
have their own thinking
they are different frames
of mind that cannot fit
in a small selfish world
(Konai Helu Thaman, “Thinking”)
I have always loved Dr. Thaman's work and how her words articulate a reality that is based on indigenous Tongan thought that claims knowledge existing and arising from the supernatural. It claims multiple ways of knowing and thinking! It aims to deconstruct the western thought and idea that literacy equals intelligence. Her words have helped me to expand my thinking beyond the walls of my classrooms and to envision and redefine education in a broader sense. It ruptures the idea that formal education is the only space where knowledge is created and produced!

Monday, November 17, 2008


fantastic said...

This book was my first Amazon purchase almost nine years ago.. ;)

Thanks for featuring her work!

Anonymous said...

Hey Anapesi,
I dont know if you will remember me, but I was in Victor's class when you came with your presentation. I have a problem though, I can not find a poem of Thaman's you know the one about the father and the son, funny enough i think that the poem is actually called that, but i was wondering if you could tell me where i could get it, or if you have a copy that you can send to me...my email is lud_muth_@hotmail.com, im doing it for my english class and i want to show my palangi roommates some pacific islander poetry...thanks!

Ron Thaman said...

My name is Ron Thaman from Westerville, Ohio. I am researching the Thaman Ancestry. As i understand it the Thaman's started in Ohio (McCarteysville)and were four sons of Henry and Cecelia Thaman. Please let me know if that is your family origin as well : ron@flyerhoops.net Thanks

Anonymous said...

always love Dr. Thaman's poems. It always reminds me of my identity, who I am, wherever I am or may be. It always brings my memory and my thoughts back to the lands of my birth, the lands of my fathers. Just with these thoughts, my eyes fill with tears and my heart aches for the time when I will feel again the heart beats of my lovely island, Kiribati, which I have always hold dear in my heart, mind and soul, now and forever.
Thank you Dr. Thaman for your inspiring messages in your poems.
Tamana Itaaka

shakuntala prasad (Fiji/australia) said...

I took great pleasure reciting Thaman's poetry to my students during every literature class so do my students enjoyed writing and sharing various issues of concern which Thaman depicts in her poetry. Thaman is a great South Pacific poet; as a young teenager struggling with arranged marriage and traditon l always turned to her poetry"you the choice of my parents" she writes about me.

Anonymous said...

My name is Victorina Palu. I'm currently a form 5 student at Tonga High School. I may not know you but after reading your poems, I feel like u've put our island up in the sky, something that we'll always be proud of. It's like we are filled with pride and I thank you for that. You show me the meaning of cultures and how important they are and the valuable of the pacific people. I like all your poems and we read a lot of your writings including You, the choice of my parents, Basket of light, Quiet pain, Island fire, The cinema, Because of you...etc
Thank you for enlighten me and I will tell you this...I will always be proud of Tonga because that's what makes us special. Our culture defines who we are...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The poems you wrote are real and full of learning. it would be great to see some of your work are available on this site.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anapesi,

I stumbled across your blog entry and was wondering in which book was Thinking taken from?