The rich and thriving ancestral culture of The Islands of Tahiti has been passed down through the generations. This ma’ohi heritage is a world where gods, warriors and men become the legends that rhythm the lives of the Tahitian people, in a land where music, dance and art are part of everyday life. It is also a sporting heritage: throwing the javelin was the sport practiced by the gods, surfing was the sport of kings and men competed in va’a paddling races and stone lifting.
The ma’ohi heritage
Immerge yourself with Mana
The history of Tahiti
The first European to set foot in The Islands of Tahiti was Samuel Wallis in 1767, but the islanders had already been living here for over a thousand years. The first Polynesians came from Southeast Asia and spread throughout the Pacific.
The indigenous people of the Polynesian Triangle, which includes Hawaii, Easter Island, New Zealand and French Polynesia all have the same origins and similar culture.
Writing in 1831, W.Ellis described the dances in pre-European Polynesia as being “many and varied,” but few traces remain of what he witnessed. All we really know is that men and women danced, sometimes together and sometimes separately, sometimes standing and sometimes sitting.
Musicians accompanied the dancers with a limited number of instruments, essentially the pahu (a double skinned drum) and the vivo (nasal flute).
Like tattooing, dancing was associated with nudity and sensuality and was banned by the missionaries. It wasn’t until the 1950s that this ancestral art was reintroduced into Polynesian tradition and recreated thanks to oral transmission and the writings of early visitors to the islands.
Sculpture, weaving, sewing: artistic expression is rich and varied in Polynesia. The materials are mostly natural vegetal fibers, such as the pandanus leaves, coconut fiber and ni’au (coconut palms) used by the Tahitian mama to weave beautiful hats, bags and mats.
A love and appreciation of nature can be seen in the magnificent patterns of tifaifai hand sewn bedspreads. Precious woods such as tou and miro (local varieties of rosewood) are used to outstanding effect by local carpenters and sculptors.
Some craftsmen work with volcanic stone, coral and even bone to make superb creations. But the skills of the Polynesian artist are best displayed in the Tahitian pearl jewelry that adorns the necks and earlobes of our beautiful vahine.
Exotic tastes and flavors
In The Islands of Tahiti, food or ma’a is something of a tradition with a special place in local customs. The best way to fully appreciate the tastes and flavors of Polynesian cuisine, is to eat food prepared in an ahima’a traditional earth oven. The more adventurous can try some fafaru, a pungent dish of raw fish in fermented sea water. Don’t forget to take some Tahitian vanilla home with you, to give your cooking a taste of the islands.
Absorb the mana, the spiritual force that animates every part of Polynesian life. Enjoy your vacation to the full, try new adventures, have new experiences and make unforgettable encounters.
Not to be missed
The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word tatau. In The Islands of Tahiti, the designs have a particular significance for the wearer and connect his body with his ancestral culture, the Mana. The presence of Tohu, the god of tattoos, is represented by a fish of the ocean, and confers on each tattoo the basic essence of the meaning of life. The tattoo is a representation of the link between the heavens and the earth. In Polynesia, tattoos are also signs of beauty and in ancient times, played a major role in the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood.
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The ma’ohi language is a major part of Tahitian culture. In The Islands of Tahiti, French and Tahitian are the two most widely spoken languages. Learning a few words and phrases such as ‘Ia Ora Na (hello), and māuruuru (thank you) will help to make your vacation even more authentic and immersive.
If you go a little further than the Society Islands and visit the Marquesas, Austral, Tuamotu and Gambier Islands, you’ll hear many different dialects, sometimes only spoken on one particular island.
Experience Tahitian culture
Look at our selected vacation packages for French Polynesia. Meet the local population, explore their beautiful islands and appreciate their enviable lifestyle. Enjoy The Islands of Tahiti.