HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HEIVA I TAHITI 2016 OPENING WEEK
The 135th Heiva i Tahiti festival 2016 kicked off with a cultural bang as dancers, drummers, spectators and the eyes of the world descended upon Tahua Toa’ta to celebrate Tahiti’s vibrant island culture. Tahiti Dance Online looks back at the opening weeks highlights.
On June 30th 2016 the Heiva committee presided by Matani Kainuku opened the Heiva festivities by performing a ‘Rahiri’ or ‘Ceremony of respect’ with delegates from all participating groups. This ceremony is extremely important as everybody pledges allegiance to their ancestors and are brought to demonstrate ‘fa’atura’ or ‘respect’ towards their fellow rivals. This year marked a new addition to the ceremony as the judges all introduced themselves and gave a small speech in the Tahitian language about the importance of cultural transmission. A spiritual and inspiring event that left everybody in awe.
© Matareva Photography
Perhaps the most riveting part of opening night was experiencing the dancing prowess of famous ‘Ori Tahiti dance group O Tahiti E. After last year’s loss, they came back in force by demonstrating their capacity for creativity in dance, music and drumming that left the crowd in admiration. This year marks the group’s 30th anniversary and the chosen theme was ‘Tahiti ‘ata ‘ata noa’ or ‘Tahiti, just laugh’ which is all about the joy of living and to never forget to smile, a seemingly simple idea but with deep significance. Writer Steve Chailloux in coordination with group leader Margurite Lai wanted to bring back the happiness and laughter of yesteryear where people were more open and enjoyed the simple things, whereas the modern world has left us somewhat longing for bliss. A more traditional show than what we are used to seeing but general feedback seems to be overwhelmingly positive so we can expect them to be contenders for the winner’s title.
The second Heiva night made way for newcomers to the Hura Tau scene since 2013 Pupu Tuha’a Pae. Hailing from the Austral islands chain situated below Tahiti they have become a force in the dance world and are predominantly known for their immaculate costume making. This year they decided to portray the legend of ‘Taaitini’ and the affection he had for his people. The opening scene was particularly powerful with the men coming out with traditional batons in a warrior like way. Other highlights included solo dancers Tommy Tihoni and Loanah Wong Riveta who are tipped to be the favourites thus far. With such a high quality standard the question becomes, will they progress to the top with their performance and stifle the larger better-known groups?
During the third Heiva night we turned our eye towards the Hura Ava Tau amateur section with a gutsy performance from debut group Hei Rurutu. Composed of experienced and new dancers, this group has even embraced international components from Japan for their first Heiva experience. The theme they chose was the portrayal of the legend of ‘Ta’ema’ from the village of Avera on the island of Rurutu in his quest to perfect the art of oratory with an aim to become the spokesman of his island. Whilst the Hura Ava Tau section lacks the prestige of their Hura Tau elders most would agree that Hei Rurutu put on an amazing show that potentially rivals that of their higher counterparts.
Now that the standard has been set by the opening groups we look forward to the performances scheduled for next week where we will be keeping a close eye on juggernaut Hura Tau groups Hei Tahiti, Temaeva and Hitireva but also newbies ‘Tahiti ia Ruru-tu noa’ in the Hura Ava Tau section established by well known Heiva orator Olivier Lenoir, who are set to be the favourites in their category.
An exciting time for Tahitian culture at its best. Over and out.