Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel (a well known French musician) are united for eternity on the island of Hiva Oa. Both of them fell for the charms of this beautiful island and spent their last days in Atuona, the main village. They are buried a few meters apart, in the island’s picturesque Calvaire cemetery.
“To us, Brel wasn’t a celebrity, he was just the man who organized film projections for us.” The people of Hiva Oa appreciated Jacques Brel, just as he appreciated the beauty and tranquility of French Polynesia. Paul Gauguin made the island famous through his paintings of the islanders and the beautiful scenery. Both of these tormented artists sought refuge in this peaceful setting at troubled periods in their lives, and both remained there for the rest of their lives.
Follow in their footsteps in the island’s main village, Atuona. They are buried close to each other in the picturesque Calvaire cemetery, on a hillside above the village with splendid views over Atuona Bay. The island of Hiva Oa has always been a home for artists, and the local craftmen and women continue to create works of art, often inspired by the island’s two most illustrious guests.
Gauguin and his Maison du Jouir, Brel and his light aircraft
Follow in the footsteps of these two famous artists in the streets of Atuona. Seeking inspiration and authenticity, Paul Gauguin disembarked from a schooner in Hiva Oa in 1901. He was sick and decided to sty on the island. He bought a plot of land from the bishop in the center of the village and built a fare, a traditional Polynesian house, which he baptized the Maison du jouir (House of Pleasure). Rebuilt exactly like the original, it is now a cultural center where you can see various objects that once belonged to the artist.
Jacques Brel arrived in Hiva Oa on his yacht during a voyage in the Pacific in 1975. He immediately fell for the charms of the beautiful scenery and the Marquesan islanders, and he decided to stay there for the rest of his life. The ‘Espace Jacques Brel’ is a photographic exhibition, set in an aircraft hangar where Jojo, Brel’s light aircraft, has pride of place. Brel used the aircraft to transfer sick patients to Nuku Hiva, collect mail and pick up medicines. He was very much appreciated by the local population, to whom he paid an affectionate tribute in his album ‘Les Marquises’ (The Marquesas Islands).
Discover the island of Hiva Oa
Hiva Oa is called ‘The Garden of The Marquesas Islands’ and is the third biggest island in French Polynesia (after Tahiti and Nuku Hiva). There’s a wide choice of activities on the island, with there’s something for everyone. Beautiful black sand beaches to laze upon, mountains and valleys to hike, museums to visit and archeological sites to explore. You’ll find plenty to do during your stay in Hiva Oa.
If you like watersports, you can go surfing or scuba diving at Atuona. There are also lots of hiking trails for you to explore by foot or on horseback, most of which lead to superb scenic viewpoints There are also countless archeological sites to visit, such as the truly impressive lipona as well as many different marae. Hiva Oa really should be a part of any voyage to The Islands of Tahiti.