This May, the 130th celebration of Heiva i Tahiti will kick off, bringing with it the best Tahiti has to offer when it comes to traditional dancing, artistry, and athletic competition. The South Pacific Art Festival is the largest cultural festival of its kind in French Polynesia and will take place in Papeete, Tahiti for the duration of two months. Can’t wait for the festivities to begin? Take a look at these five fun facts about Heiva i Tahiti:
Say My Name, Say My Name – Before 1985, when the festival was rebranded Heiva i Tahiti, it went by the name Tiurai, a derivation of the English word, July. The festival got its new name in 1985 after French Polynesia obtained internal autonomy.
I Could Have Danced All Night – No, actually you couldn’t have. In 1881, after Tahiti was annexed by France, the then named Tiurai festival began to take shape. Included in the celebration were games, entertainment, and singing. Dance, however, had been abolished 1820 by British missionaries and was not included in this event until many years later.
Brilliant Disguise – There are three different groups of performers who wear costumes during Heiva i Tahiti: chiefs, dancers, and musicians. Rules surrounding the event dictate that costumes be hand crafted and made of materials indigenous to the area, using the color blue only on cloth. Jewelry is prohibited.
Sing for the Moment, Sing for the Year – All singing involved in the festival contains a religious element, thanks to British missionaries’ early influence on the region. Included in the festival are three distinct types of singing: The himene ru’au, sung acapella, the himene tarava, sung by 60 to 80 people and made up of 6 to 10 parts, and the ute, a song with a satirical tone and generally performed by 2 to 3 people using modern instruments.
Rumour Has It – Oral tradition is a big part of Heiva i Tahiti. Pre-European French Attendees of the festival can experience Pre-European French Polynesia through the ‘orero, an oral presenter who must know all the culture of Tahiti perfectly and be able to accurately pass on this knowledge in the form of stories down through the generations.
Those planning a Tahiti vacation this May, June, and July will have no shortage of events to add to their social calendars. Heiva i Tahiti combines traditional festivities with friendly competition, giving viewers an experience to remember.