Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Futa Helu: 'A genius who built something from nothing'

FOR MORE than four decades, 'Atenisi Institute founding professor 'I Futa Helu has been one of the greatest philosophers in the Pacific, with an extraordinary international influence on education, social and political discourse - and even media. His sad passing this month at the age of 75 has left a gap in the intellectual leadership and humanity in Tonga and the region. The Pacific Media Centre joins with the many who have been touched by Futa's charisma, insights and wisdom. AUT's foundation Pacific professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop praised how he had "captured the dreams of youth" and PMC's director, associate professor David Robie, spoke of a contribution to media independence.

Other tributes have been sent to the PMC. Taimi 'o Tonga newspaper publisher, broadcaster and author Kalafi Moala had this to say:

Futa Helu was the kind of talent that comes around in a society only once in a while, and extremely hard to try and reproduce or imitate. He is from a family line that have excelled academically, and it really is no surprise that he made his mark in Tonga and the Pacific in education.

But what was special about Futa was the way he built something from nothing. He was a genius who was well educated in so many diverse fields. He will be missed greatly. We await the emergence of others like him to help take us further in Tonga in our search to know truth.

Dr Wendy Cowling, one of six scholars inducted at 'Atenisi last June on the occasion of Futa's 75th birthday celebrations, dedicated this poem to his memory:

The pandanus garland
For Futa Helu (1987/2010)

The fire-coloured,
sweet-scented fruit
was sacrificed
to make this garland.

The children took the fā
at my request
for I knew
the withering fruit
would scent the air
long after my going.

Our memories
of our Loau –
your songs,
your stately dance,
your speech,
so full of gravitas,
unlike the garland
will not wither
but sweetly remain.

Malo, malo kaumea!
Ofa ātu aupito.

Wendy E. Cowling
Hamilton, New Zealand

Tongan philosopher Futa Helu dies
- Matangi Tonga tribute

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