French Polynesian marae could be first cultural UNESCO site
French Polynesia's Taputapuatea marae, a centre for Polynesian seafarers from where they explored islands such as Hawaii and New Zealand, is up for world-wide recognition.
French Polynesia's Taputapuatea marae, a centre for Polynesian seafarers from where they explored Hawaii and New Zealand, is up for world-wide recognition.
France has officially lodged a bid with UNESCO to recognise the marae on Raiatea island as a World Heritage site.
The culture minister says if approved, it will be the first time a site has been recognised in the Pacific for its cultural significance.
Bridget Grace spoke with the minister, Heremoana Maamaatuiahutapu, about the history of the marae.
HEREMOANA MAAMAATUIAHUTAPU: Taputapuatea is a very imporant marae in the whole Polynesian world. It's a very high, sacred place. It's something like 1000 years of history, it's a testimony from our ancestors. In the early 17th and 18th century it was the most important religious, political, and cultural center. Just like the Mecca, it was the Mecca for the Polynesian islands. So very, very, very, important site. Also today most of the canoe when they travel around the Pacific, they come to Taputapuatea to make some ceremony over there, some testimony before the journey. The meaning for the canoe is still the same, than the time of our ancestor. Most of the people don't know probably that the canoe who went to New Zealand, to Hawaii, or to other islands, they first leave that place and then make the journey to New Zealand, to Hawaii, or other place.
BRIDGET GRACE: When they were going on journeys, they would go to that location first?
HM: Not on the return, but when they leave. Most of the time they go back to Taputapuatea. I think it was in 94, after hokule'a came for the first time, make the journey, like our ancestor, only with the stars, with ancient techniques. When they make the journey to Tahiti, they make the journey to Taputapuatea also. It was very important for them to pay tribute, to go back to the place where the Hawaiian's left, you know, for the first journey to Hawaii. Even today, for the canoe it's important to come to Taputapuatea, to that place. It's like place of sharing and celebration of a common identity, it's a place where you can celebrate the common roots of the Polynesian people.
BG: I understand it will be the first World Heritage site for French Polynesia?
HM: We are proud of that, but it's not only for French Polynesia like I said. It's going to be the first for most of the Oceanian islands. As a cultural site, it's going to be the first one. It's a unique and very important associative cultural landscape, temple, it's a testimony like I said for our history. When the Polynesian people came in the Pacific it was 4,000 years ago and they came through South Asia to the Pacific islands, and they built those kind of structure, of site. We will fight for the end of the process. Because we need kind of recognition from UNESCO. I told UNESCO that they went all round the world but not in the Pacific, so not enough. If you look just at French Polynesia, French Polynesia is as big as Europe. Of course most of the place it's small island with big ocean, but can you imagine the journey that those people made to live on those islands all round the Pacific.
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