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Culture

Bora Bora, today, is renown for its numerous famous cultural events all year long; the “Tauru’a Varua”, the school festival, the “Heiva I Bora Bora”.

The Polynesian culture was under the menace of extinction since the evangelisation of the oceanian people. Yet, in a contradictory way, the Tahitian language is taught today by the protestant evangelical church. Thus since their younger age the members of the church are initiated to a declamation called “orero” in Tahitian language, by giving to the assembly the meaning of a text from the bible.

Learning the “reo maohi” 

The teaching of the “reo maohi” has been promoted in the school program aiming at the preservation of the Polynesian cultural identity. The children are taught, in written and oral ways, the basis of the language that will allow them to converse and communicate in the local language. With the preservation of the language guarantees the preservation the other elements of the cultural heritage: the songs, dances, legends, history…

Traditional singing and dancing also take place in school. The local population enjoys the songs and dances of Bora Bora’s pupils, who come together at the end of each school year. The school festivities give a sense to the words: solidarity, unity and brotherhood and they are proud to live their culture.

In order to preserve even more the cultural identity of the island, the mayor and his city council take a great afford to maintain their culture alive wit he festivities of the month of July; they are called “Heiva I Bora Bora” and continue since 60 years. All members of the family, fro the youngest to the tallest contribute in the preparation of the festivities by making costumes, flower leis etc . And for this occasion huts are build only with a vegetal roof and especially for this period; after the feast and before the beginning of school they are taken down.

For this occasion the city council donates every year 184.360 Euros or 22.000.000 XFP. They are given as prizes, rewarding the creativity and beauty of the different ceremonies of all different groups, of art and craft and sport events.
The town gives the responsibility of the festivities to an organizing comity, composed of society members and led by a president who is a member of each group, changing every year.

Dances

The team is composed of a president, the chief of the group, a choreographer, boy and girl dancers, generally they are from the same district as the group; a chief of the orchestra with his drummers, mamas and lot’s of members giving their time in order to help and support the group.

Every year, the chief of the group is in charge to choose theme, which will inspire all the performances of the Heiva. The choreographer and costume designer have the difficult responsibility of adapting the choreography, gestures, songs and decorations as well as the costumes reflecting the chosen theme. Some examples of chosen themes are love “te here” , fire “te ahi”, the message “te poro’i” etc…

All the pieces of the costume are created and sawn by hand with local materials like stuffing fibre, dried leaves, coconuts, the “auti”, mother of pearl, the banana leaf etc… Among all the pieces composing the costume, the “more” is common to all groups as it is often used for the “ote’a”.

Chants and music

The Heiva festivities are accompanied by dances and music. The instruments are created using rosewood, “te miro”, the fire tree, skin of animals like the shark, cow etc…. the instruments consist of the wooddrums or “toere”, ’atete” “pahu and the “ofe”, the local banjo called ukulele, the shell named “pu” and many other instruments. Each group unites their drummers and creates a piece of music without any conditions concerning the number or type of instrument to use. Thus the best orchestra will be rewarded.

The flag rising while the National and the Tahitian hymns are played during the opening ceremony of the Heiva, of the 14th of July national day and the Autonomy Day on June 29th has become a tradition, cherished by the inhabitants of the island. These hymns honour the country, the authorities and the brave gone soldiers.

There are four traditional songs performed in the Heiva: himene “tarava”, himene “ru’au”, himene “popa’a”, and “ute”. These songs invite the population to remember the ancient times. Thus the songs are the manifestation of a state of mind, of a special situation: mourning, a wedding, a gathering.