Pacific should do more to celebrate early navigators
A film producer in French Polynesia says the Pacific should be doing more to celebrate its early navigators.
A Film Producer in French Polynesia says the Pacific should be doing more to celebrate its early navigators.
Eliane Koller recently made a film, focusing on the story of Tupaia, Captain Cook's Tahitian navigator, who skillfully guided the ship Endeavour to New Zealand from Polynesia.
Tupaia was known for his remarkable navigation skills and excellent geographical knowledge of the Pacific.
Ms Koller told Bridget Grace more about the man who inspired the film.
Eliane Koller: The film's about Tupaia, a character from Tahiti. A Tahitian arioi, and high priest who lived two hundred years and fifty years ago, and who boarded the ship Endeavour, Captain Cook's ship, and sailed all the way to New Zealand with Captain Cook. He was a high priest and he brought a lot of knowledge, especially he was a star navigator and he knew a lot of the culture. So when he arrived in New Zealand he brought back a lot of knowledge that had been lost in New Zealand, so people really appreciated him back there. Because actually when you read the journals of the sailors, or the people that were on Cook's boat, you can tell that, they write that, everywhere that Tupaia went in New Zealand there were crowds of people around him, listening to what he was preaching really. So he was a rather astonishing character. He's also the person, while he was sailing from Tahiti to New Zealand, they took a long time, they took 58 days to get there. So during that time and even before he'd been exchanging with the servants on board the ship, because they were astronomers, geographers on board, painters, intellectuals, so they were all interested in exchange. And he explained the South Pacific to them, he told them where all the islands were because he knew. And so in Tahiti it's a bit, some people think that he's a kind of traitor, because he gave away all this knowledge. Other people think it's great, because he really, he was a brilliant Taihitian character and thanks to all the journals that were on board, we know that he existed. He actually painted aquarelle paintings, and those paintings are in England, in the Museum.
Bridget Grace: Why did you think that this story was worth telling?
EK: I definitely think it has been a bit too long, that the South Pacific has been celebrating European stars, like Cook and Grenville and Wallace and Dana and all those sailors that discovered, kind of, the Pacific. But what people forgot is that the Pacific was actually discovered much earlier by star navigators who were much better at navigation. Who managed to find all the islands in the Pacific, which the Europeans didn't at all, lots of them died on their way because they didn't know how to find their way. So we had a highly intelligent people here, the Polynesians. And they were sold to the European population as, what you call it in English, the bon sauvage, the good savage. Beautiful, graceful, good at heart, but a bit naive. And this image is still prevailing today. So I think it's really important that we the Polynesian islanders, we start making films about our local heroes, and we start reminding people that, the population that lived in Polynesia before the Europeans came was actually a highly intelligent people.
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