The entire archipelago of the marquesan islands gathered in Nuku Hiva for this last festival of the second millennium. But more than that , the entire polynesian world came to participate , with representatives from the Cook Islands , Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Hawaii , Tuvalu , Tahiti , the Australs , and the Tuamotus. The skies were luminous as the pahus (drums) beat out the rhythm of the times.


"Keeping our culture unique in the world , and the pride with which we hold within ourselves , this we share with other people. The six elements which represent the six islands of our archipelago are united here today. We are alive and constantly asking ourselves the fundamental questions : Who are we ? Where do we come from ? Where are we going ? This festival is already a response. We are proud of our past, of our language, and of our dances. The sacred sites here come alive again and we have always respected them. They will always transmit messages chat will pass on to new generations." Remarks by Heetoua Epetahui, a young marquesan from Ua Pou.



Men from Easter Island painted in red caused a stir,

recalling chat they come from the so called navel island

of the world where all the winds of the Pacific take

their breath before sweeping across vast watery horizons.



Ancient times. Such was the theme of the second day of the festival chat took place on the tohua (stone platform) of Kamuhei. The colour yellow was worn by both the participants and the spectators. Three years of work under the direction of the archeologist Pierre Ottino were needed to restore this site hidden under the vegetation along with the impulsion of Yvonne Katupa and the strengh of many volunteers. The tranquil village of 220 people welcomed nearly 4000 visitors.

The "Ruhu" sung by the entire array of Marquesan groups was the send -off to the haka that followed it. From Ua Pou to the powerful dancers evoked the action packed kapa stolen from the Gods by Taopo in Tahuata which reconstituted the events that saw the Marquesas annexed to France by Admiral Dupetit-Thouars, as well as the red and white painted dancers from Rapa Nui, the sounds of the pahu, the stamping of the dancers, and the enthusiasmof the public created a real magic that went on well into the night.


The Bird Dance




A very colourful delegation



The theme : present time. Aday dominated by the colour white. An enormous kai kai (feast) and religious meetings were the highlights of the day. Whereas the dancers and the spectators dozed off after the long day at Hatiheu , the masters of the ground ovens had been hard at work since midnight. Seven ground ovens had been prepared in order to feed more than 1000 people.A hunting party on the uninhabited island of Eiao brought back wild sheep and pigs, but the ovens also contained beef, goat, fish, bananas, taros..

To the sound of the pu (conch shell) and pahu (drum), the ovens were opened at 11 o'clock and at times it took more than a dozen men to lift out the enormous baskets with their appetising smells.

The dance groups that followed put on their dance shows simultaneously in the three different locations , which let the spectators wander from one to another depending on their tastes.


KOUEVA, Taiohae

Here the theme was the future, and the dominant colour was red , the colour of the chieftaines. "Where are wegoing?" was the question asked by young marquesans who, for the most part want to preseve their traditions without turning their backs on the modern world.

The beginning of the last day was accompanied by the beating of all the pahu together, the ancient stones vibrated as they recaptured their long forgotten mana. The day continued with games, stone lifting contests, string games, stilt races. Then the singing and dancing took place again. The day resonated to the songs and sacred movements of the "haka". "I want to keep my culture", was the message hammered out by the dancers with their deep throaty shouts and their powerful gestures that made this dance the very soul of the festival.

That evening the group from Ua Pou led by Rataro began the closing with a fire dance under the branches of the majestic banyans which dominate the site. Finally the group from Nuku Hiva closed the festival late that evening with an energy that fortells a dynamic future for our archipelago.


Tahuamate Tetahiotupa shows us the meaning of the marquesan flag.

It is yellow, red and white with a stylized tiki on the white. The yellow symbolizes the celebration, for which occassion the women smear their skin with "eka"(saffron coloured ginger)

Red is the royal colour, and white represents peace.

The tiki is the sign of Polynesian culture, wherein everyone recognises himselfin it's face, and the Marquesan recognises himself in the enormous all- seeing eyes.


Dancers from

Photos : OLIVIER Eric - B.P.203 Atuona Hiva Oa - Marquises - Tel (689) 927006
Texte : HOARAU Isabelle


Island Children
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Calendar of events 2002
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Copyright 2000 "Sophie LE NAËR"
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