Tahiti and French Polynesia
More about French Polynesia...
Of course, these South Pacific islands weren’t French when British Navigator Samuel Wallis first brought them to the attention of the western world in 1767, or when Capt. James Cook sailed into Matavai Bay two years later to observe the transit of the planet Venus, or Capt. William Bligh came back looking for breadfruit with his eventually infamous crew aboard the HMS Bounty in 1776 — the same year the United States of America declared its independence from Great Britain.
FYI, the French assumed they were the first Europeans to “discover” Tahiti when Capt. Louis-Antoine de Bougainville arrived in 1768, less than a year after Wallis. By 1847 they had wrested colonial control from the British and the hereditary Tahitian chiefs; and today, Tahiti and the rest of French Polynesia is a semi-autonomous territory of France, and the islanders are French citizens.
But most of the islanders are also still Polynesians, and their interesting blend of history and culture has resulted in Tahiti being one of the most delightful places in the world, a mélange that has spilled over to the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Tahitian Dancer teaching guests how to dance at the Polynesian Cultural Center
La fête: Each July — usually in conjunction with the July 14 French national holiday, Bastille Day, for example, the PCC focuses on Tahitian culture. In France, Bastille Day, more correctly called La Fête nationale, marks the beginning of the 18th century French Revolution; but in the islands, la fête is a time to celebrate Tahitian culture with heiva — elaborate song and dance exhibitions and competitions.
Over the years at the PCC we have observed a heiva in various ways: Sometimes we put on community-wide cultural celebrations, or bring in special visiting groups, and stage children’s dance competitions. This year, in addition to special cultural activities in our Tahitian Village, we also sponsored a tamure marathon — three days of special instruction and work-outs in traditional Tahitian dancing.
You don’t have to wait for next July, however, to experience these activities: You can learn about tamure dancing and other aspects of French Polynesian culture every day in the PCC’s Tahitian Village.
Hinatea Colombani leading the 2014 Tamure Marathon at the Polynesian Cultural Center