An open air art gallery on the streets of Papeete. Take your camera and explore a very different side of Papeete, the side of its buildings. Numerous walls in the city have been painted with graffiti, with the blessing of the local authorities, and are now works of art.
From 2014 to 2018, a Polynesian businesswoman, Sarah Roopinia, with the support of the local authorities, staged the ONO’U street art festival in Papeete. This international festival brought together world famous and local artists to decorate the outside walls of selected buildings. The resulting murals received immediate acclaim from the local population and add a touch of modern color to the capital. Here’s our guide to the walls of Papeete.
The ferry terminal and the market
Begin at the ferry terminal on the seafront. There is a surprising three dimensional painting on the outside wall of the first floor. Painted by Leon Keer, it portrays a group of joyful robots, who seem to move when you change position. A very popular work of art, especially with children.
Leaving the ferry terminal, head for Papeete market, where three local artists created this superb painting in quadricolor (four different colors). Abuz, Jops and HTJ are well known street artists in Tahiti and this painting, which depicts the face of a tiki, includes Polynesian symbols that are important to them, including the tiki, the shark and the vahine (woman).
The vahine (woman) in a red pareo at La Mennais College
Without doubt the best-known and best-loved work of art on the walls of Papeete, this painting of a young vahine asleep, wrapped in a red and white pareo, is by the artist Seth, assisted by the local artist HTJ. Observe the painting closely and you’ll be surprised at some of the details. The vahine was featured on a postage stamp issued the local post office, Fare Rata.
The Brazilian artist Eduardo Kubra uses diamond lozenges to create the faces in his paintings. The staring eyes of the two vahine on the wall of La Mennais College are hypnotic it is a stunningly beautiful work of art.
The portrait of Vhils and the vahine with the blue mask
Papeete is proud to have a work of art from one of the world’s very best street artists, Alexandre Fartos, alias VHILS. The artist used a jackhammer to create this incredible image of a young girl in black and white on another wall of la Mennais College.
As you go down the Rue du Dr Cassiau in the direction of Avenue Charles de Gaulle, look to your right and you’ll see a mysterious vahine in a blue mask. In each hand she’s holding a bird found in The Islands of Tahiti. The luminous blue in this painting by the Irish artist Findac is a reflection of the Pacific Ocean.
The flowery vahine and Paofai
The flowery vahine by the artist Vinie is always a delight to see painted on a wall at the end of Avenue Charles de Gaulle, this image of a beautiful vahine with a mass of flowers in her hair is one of our favorites. There is another flowery vahine by the same artist on a wall in the Mission quarter.
Having already painted the majestic birds on the wall of the Vaima Shopping Center, the Spanish artist Okuda pays homage to Paul Gauguin with this colorful interpretation of ‘The lady with the fruit’.
There’s more to see
Our suggested tour stops here, but depending on how much time you’ve got, there’s still a lot to see. In fact, there are about another thirty works of art painted on the walls of Papeete. And if you go to go to Raiatea, you’ll be able to admire the magnificent creations by street artists when the ONO’U festival was held in Uturoa.
Street art is an expression of the vibrant artistic culture that continues to flourish in The Islands of Tahiti. It is part of our tradition, our Mana.