Comprising of more than 100 islands in the South Pacific, French Polynesia covers a vast area – four million square kilometres, but its many islands are small and plentiful. Perhaps the best known is Tahiti, maybe the closest thing to paradise on the planet. The spectacular beauty of the region is well known, but there is also a fascinating history and deeply special culture that can be found too.
The culture of Polynesian people can be traced from their ma’ohi ancestors. Once you step foot here the first thing you will notice is the kindness and generosity of the people. The attitude of Tahitian people emanates from the philosophy ‘aita pea pea’, roughly translated as ‘not to worry’. This stress-free, relaxed attitude is the perfect accompaniment to your holiday and you will find it to be incredibly infectious.
You might be familiar with the concept ‘Mana’, it doesn’t really have an exact translation but words such as; strength, power, influence, control, nobility, presence and many more have been used as a guide to its definition. It is a life force and spirit that connects all living things and is often associated with the region.
When you look around the many islands here you will discover that Tahitian and French Polynesian culture permeates every aspect of everyday life here. You may notice the bamboo huts built with pandanus roofs that are actually still used to live in; you will see the many colours that the locals wear in the form of ‘pareus’. Traditional Polynesian clothing was made from tapa cloth, which is made up of dried pandanus leaves, coconut fibers and breadfruit bark. Today, you will see many wear colourful quilts known as tifaifai as homage. Other aspects of the rich and vibrant culture take the form of weaving, woodcarving as well as tattooing. All of these are sacred and can still be enjoyed today.
The first people to come to the French Polynesia region were from Southeast Asia, in roughly 500BC. These were likely to be sailors who miraculously navigated the Pacific Ocean using wooden canoes. They were later discovered by European explorers during the 16th century and eventually colonized by France. Now officially known as French Polynesia, Tahiti is an autonomous overseas country of the French Republic.
If you want to take a closer look at the history region then a visit to the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands is an absolute must. It is celebrated as one of the best and most beautiful museums in the whole of the South Pacific. Here you can find carefully recorded Polynesian history, it comes wiith a stunning backdrop found about 10 miles south of Papeete in the small surfing town of Puna’auia. You will find the museum is conveniently divided into four separate sections; geography and natural history, pre-European culture, the effects of colonization and natural wonders. Some stunning artefacts can be found here such as rare collections of art carvings and historical artifacts. The displays are in English and French and the gift shop is quite good too.