Free Radio for the Tonga people!
tonga.onair - Free Radio for the Tonga people!
Tonga - a people torn apart
In 1957, the people of Tonga, who used to live in the valley of the river Sambesi, were by force transferred because of the construction of an embankment dam. Due to that, the people were deprived of their  means of existence, as the fertile river-valley, which today forms Lake Kariba, was mainly destroyed.

Because of the transfer, families were torn apart and have not been reunited up to the present, partly due to the border-situation between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Life in diaspora has reduced the Tonga’s rich and various culture and music, but couldn’t erase it. Nevertheless, organized meetings, communication and the exchange of people over farther distances is difficult which massively reduces the capacity of self-organizing and –help of the Tonga.

Tonga.onair grants the Tonga a democratic instrument of medial articulation, supporting self-organization and communication as well as the creation of awareness regarding the political and social situation.
The development-project has for years been engaged in the construction of infrastructure for communication and in establishing free access to information for the Tonga people, who live between Simbabwe and Sambia.

Even in the past, the partners of the project have promoted a lively exchange of culture, which lead to several artistic projects and cultural co-operations between artists and persons engaged in the cultural sector in Austria and Sambia/Simbabwe. - initiated by the "Arge Simbabwe Freundschaft" has enabled the Tonga people and their fascinating, but endangered culture and intricate musical art access to computers and a voice in the internet:

In 2001, at the Binga Highschool on Lake Kariba a first computer centre was installed with 15 seats for training. In the meantime, the project was enlarged to further schools in the villages Siachilaba and Siansundu / Simbabwe.
Intention: Tonga.onair
Currently, should, by help of tonga.onair, reach across the wide river (in the Tonga language called "mulonga") retained in Lake Kariba - over to Zambia and help combine the community, torn by the erection of the dam fifty years ago. Facing the widely-spread poverty and deep political crisis in Simbabwe, the access to information an knowledge due to modern technology is just as important for survival as is the supply of food, which has become rare.
Democratic potential
Especially for a socially and culturally marginalized group as are the Tonga, community radio is an instrument of medial articulation and self-representation which not only helps in strengthening self-conscience, identity and culture of the Tonga, but also is an apparatus of communication which contributes to emancipation and autonomy of a people in a region dominated by political crises and gives impulses to a vivid public discourse on culture, society and politics. In that way, free radio is a promoter of  broad public discourse, it forwards equal medial participation, it is open, democratic and self-organized.

 Free radio functions following the proved principle of open access: everybody can use the facilities of the transmitter in order to communicate his or her individual and collective concerns via the organ of the radio. Different cultural techniques, linguistic, musical or other cultural peculiarities are components of a manifold self-featured program.

  Community Radio
  • is, due to its open access, a democratic instrument of medial articulation
  • contributes to the creation of awareness of the situation and of democratic possibilities
  • establishes communication between large distances
  • supports the joining of families
  • helps at self-organization
  • makes the socially and culturally marginalized Tonga and their culture audible
  • gives impulses, accompanies and reflects the current public discourse
  • forwards exchange and cooperation
  • forwards the competence of media and offers possibilities of education
  • is a field of experimenting for artificial creation
  • complements the conventional commercial program by a self-created, non-commercial,  manifold and near-to-community one.
Besides the construction of a VHF-transmitter and a radio-studio, capable of transmitting, in the school of Sinazongwe, a comprehensive offer of work-shops is integral part of the project.

Contents of the radio-instructions are: studio- and transmitting-techniques, analogue audio-cut, microphone-techniques and the common work-out of the first editorial and technical radio-transmissions.

Within the workshops there is space for trying and experimenting with the possibilities of the media. The medial reports of actual happenings in the region should already be part of the worked-out transmissions.

The local people will acquire the medium to use it in order to communicate their concerns to a wide publicity. The medium broadcast offers space for medial and artistic discussion and, at the same time, is experimental ground and possibility of training, all in one.

The conclusion of the three-weeks-stay will be the ceremonious opening and transfer of the broadcasting station to the village-community within the traditional harvest-feast, which will already be accompanied by the local broadcast-activists on air.

The project is widely documented by video-recordings, photos and interviews.

A presentation of the stay and a public exhibition of the documentation in a cultural institute in Linz will finally complete the project.

Translation: Ulrike Prlic