The Tahiti Traveler

The 6th festival of the Marae of Taputapuatea

Raiatea, the starting point of Polynesian migrations

The festival of the marae of Taputapuatea takes place during the month of June in Raiatea. It is the celebration recounting the story of the Polynesian migrations through ceremonies and ancestral customs. Also called ‘the octopus’ , it is symbolized by nine tentacles that glide on the ocean”, this celebration traces the uniting of South Pacific islands to Raiatea, the sacred island and considered the starting point. The 9 tentacles represent the Polynesian migrations. Raiatea is the birthplace of Polynesian culture where the Maori were known to have dispersed to various places in the Pacific.

Indeed, it is said that Raiatea is the first populated island in the Pacific. Moreover the first and largest royal “marae” of French Polynesia is located in Raiatea : the marae ofTaputapuatea. A “marae” is considered a sacred place for social, religious and political activities and ceremonies.

Today, this marae has become a pilgrimage site for Maoris and Hawaiians. It is a place for international meeting. Every two years it hosts numerous polynesian delegations who come to represent their ancestors at the festival : Maori, Caledonian, Samoan, Hawaiian, Vanuatu…

During this festival, we are immersed in the Polynesian heritage of traditions, offerings and customs. There is a pious and surreal atmosphere during the festivities. Some guardians keep watch over the marae entry. Keeping to past tradition, women are not allowed in this place of worship during the festival. The offerings ensue in a respectful silence. The time comes to a standstill as one observes the delegations dressed in full traditional regalia as they make their offerings : Haka for hawaiian maoris, preparation of Kava for Vanuatu, traditional dance for the Caledonians… A special occasion for all polynesians far and wide to celebrate and share their heritage.