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mardi 5 août 2014

Tū'aro Ma’ohi, ancestral Polynesian Games


Fruit Carriers' race

Polynesia is one of a kind. Nature is its cultural background: the lagoon, the sea, a little urbanized coastal belt (except around Papeete, the capital city!). More than 60% on the 4200 km² of land mass are invaded by the vegetation, whose two thirds of forest area are enclosing the cultures.

A “green sensitivity”, the “vegetal feelings”… of the Polynesians betray in the daily life, a symbiotic relationship with Nature. Thus, fruit carriers’s, timau ra’au, continue to launch their challenge for millennia on the paths barely cleared.  Since, the Pa’ofai gardens in Papeete vibrate to crumpling rustic and “fruit carriers’ race” or Horo ma’a, enliven the annual festival of traditional games or “Heiva Tu’aro Ma’ohi.

Tutti frutti …
In each island, since “the time immemorial”, jousting related to traditional labors were accomplished spontaneously. Initiated in 1985, the festive gathering or Heiva I Tahiti inducts dance and singing at first. Then there combines the Heiva rima’i (festival of crafts), before inviting all aboriginal sports games on the grassy plaza of the Museum of Tahiti and its islands. Tahiti officially introduced in 2006 as a rehabilitation program for arts heritage.

The “greenery feeling”
It’s not only on the head that Polynesians wear green foliage. The greenery is a part of their mind: crowns or reed hats for vahine, headbands or bandanas braided for tane, floral necklaces welcome that only last one day. The plant product isn’t a gadget: emerged to give a local image folk. Fiber braid, strand, rope, lace, antlers and herbaceous curls, contribute, all or part of the costume.


Greenery feeling, a culture!
Citizens, close to a bush, have the natural reflex to wear a flower behind the ear. The domestic and public setting, the surrounding shops, as well as jewelry and everyday objects are decorated with braids and floral compositions… Everything breathes, all fall into this prolific nature. And every day, the little miracle occurs, in its freshness, the varnished leaves and palm.

The vast majority of families, to meet their family’s daily needs, upon these sixty-seven inhabited islands (among the 118 of Polynesia), cultivates their garden, fa’a’apu… The ingredients but also the elements of the vegetable garden enter the culinary scenery of the kitchen: baskets, dishes, cookware…


Vahine fruit carriers: the flight…
Don’t be surprised if: leisure sports feature clusters of fruits and tubers and if competitions are related to the fields.

Before… and still now
On all the islands, whether with tiny roads barely visible in the heart of vegetation or it passes through stony circuits, the haulage of fruits and vegetables is still and very often bore on shoulders… given the slope or narrow paths.

From one valley to another, on the high islands, the fa’a’apu often located on a hillside near the salty shore, from the low islands to the motu, the food carrier is dangerous but necessary. Farmers and growers are forced to tackle it.

Emblematic figures
A bamboo branch, a piece of young trunk, laid across the shoulders like a yoke and at each end, the charge. the harvest shouldn’t expect because weathering and expiry. The operation must be quick. Bananas, oranges, coconut, taro and other vegetables go down the mountain… on man’s back.

        Thence to transform the work into tournament, the margin is small. All tasks that require strength or address may be subject to festive emulations: javelin or patia fa, stone lifting or amora’a ofai, copra preparation called pa’aroha’ari, climb coconut-tree, carrying fruits…


Fruits and tane, all very muscular!
“Originally, this competition comes from the island of Taha’a, where the natives have launched a challenge each other: the first to arrive with its load of fruit is designated as the strongest man of the village”. “Transporting fruits on workers' backs is still used in Tahiti when picking oranges in June, on the plateau of Tamanu, Punaauia”.

The fruit-bearing on their marks!
The race is open to women and men at once. The effort is intense, violent and short: no more than 5 minutes to cover a distance of between 1 000 and 1 300meters for men and 800 to 1 100 meters for women. Six types of races are engaged according to the category and age. The fillers can vary from 15 to 50 kg.

The stages of the race
Leisure foremost, pleasure of the game, the Heiva or ancestral festivities of this kind had disappeared with the forbidden enacted by King Pomare II under pressure from Christian morality preachers. With the republican government of Jules Grevy (1879) and the establishment of secularism, celebrations came back at the first celebration of 14 July (1880 in France, 1881 in French Polynesia). They change their name: from Tiurai (english July) in 1985 to “Heiva i Tahiti”. In 2006 the traditional sports enter the festivities as “Heiva Tu’aro Ma’ohi”.  


The winners 2014
Initially, the package: a stake measuring between 120 and 150cm long, with a diameter less than 15cm and a fruits and vegetables weighing: bananas, coconut, pineapple, taro, carrots… “The load securing is mandatory with vegetable fiber. Along the race, the load's on the other shoulder, several times.

Upon arrival, shouts of victory! Some runners collapse. Water spray and immediate support! Fast relaxation! PowerBar; flower necklace; rest of the warrior, surrounded by his admirers, Aito for posterity! The weighing is often handled by friends. Check that the load is complete and that the fruits aren’t fallen.

Fa’aitoito! Cheer up!
In a short pareu, twirled closer to the body, braided fibers or bandana, monoï coated or not, the tane rush forward! As for vahine, the outfits are more eclectic. Everybody is vegetal crown headdress. Competition, quite in the spirit of friendliness ma’ohi culture is open to all-comers.

On the footprint of… ancestors
Trapezius and deltoid under strain for everybody but also mental strength are in this round.  Some are training to run every morning, some strengthen, some work in the plantations, others come to enjoy pure happiness of game as in ancient times. They wear, they run, they steal, these light-footed Achilles!

Spectacular races because candidates are concentrated in the extreme. Taut muscles, explicit to the tip of their toe, their face express toughness beyond suffering. Attitudes are an unforgettable beauty, gaits breathtaking. The atmosphere is friendly, the runners' words gentle after exercise!


Sunset at the pace of Marquesas
The fruit carriers’ race may only end with dancing. These are the Marquesas that feast: of course, they invite the audience to dance with them. The party is for everyone to the rhythm of “pahu”, “to’ere” and calls of !...as in the tiny Lilliputian villages of the French Polynesia Islands…

            If developers, planners, urban consumers today careless, vandalize and pollute the environment shamelessly… however the true culture didn’t fail to come back. It doesn't forget to apologize to the spirit of ancestors, to the tree they must kill… This consciousness and this respect of nature restore the edenic Tu’aro Ma’ohi

An article of Monak


See also: Heiva I Tahiti and all the categories

Lexicon from the Tahitian Academy Fare Vāna'a:
- Tu'aro, Sport or tā'aro
- Mā'ohi: originally from the French Polynesia. Te reo mā'ohi: The language spoken by the Polynesian and Tahitian, indigenous languages of Polynesia
- Fare vāna'a: Place where young people were educated genealogies, legends and prayers ('upu); Tahitian Academy.
- Fa'a'apu: Land cultivation, field, small family garden.
- Ma'a: 1 / Food in general, food, meal; 2 / The food that accompanies the ina 'i (fish or meat), eg "taro", etc.. ; 3 / The fruit of a tree. E Ma'a tō ni'a tumu Te Vi i = a Mango fruit.
- pu: seashell used as trunk


Copyright Monak. Ask for the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.



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