Heiva is the same to the South Pacific as Carnival is to Brazil. It’s one big month long celebration of South Pacific culture, with music and dance and sports competitions and glorious feats of great strength–and yes, these people have great strength!
Heiva started in Tahiti in the 1881 after the English Protestant missionaries left. Luckily, the new French colonists understood Polynesian dress and dance wasn’t lewd and supported local customs. In Tahitian, hei is “to assemble” and va is “community,” and they gather and enjoy each other’s company for the entire month. Of course, Papette being the capital of French Polynesia, on Tahiti, the largest island, is going to host the biggest productions. But, know that the other archipelagoes: Society Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago, Gambier Islands, Marquesas Islands, and Tubuai Islands have their own more modest but wonderful celebrations.
First know, that there is tension here. Polynesians are a beautiful, talented, strong and proud people and there is tension over independence or de-colonization from France. I was told that many Marquesans would rather keep their relationship with France rather than be independant with Tahiti. Sigh, it’s like when I hear that someone is “not our kind of Jewish” from others. Anyhow, we got to see and hear amazing Heiva dance performances in Nuku Hiva (Marquesan island) and I, alone, enjoyed performances and feats of great strength in Tahiti as well.
Not only did I stay in an amazing Airbnb Don found 1 block from the main events, I was able to enjoy some celebrations with my good friend and solo sailor Kayo Mae! Sailors manage to find each other everywhere in the world!
Racing with weighted fruit
There was women’s 10 kg, and men’s 15, 30, and 50 kg weight races with fruit (bananas, coconuts, taro), Exhausting!
Team competition to get the most javelins into the coconut.
Stone lifting and coconut husking
We weren’t able to photograph the big Heiva dance competitions but they’re available on line here. I was able to see the top three winning Professional and Amateur team and individual performances over two nights; it was a marathon for sure.
Running into friends
Cruisers all go in one big circle around the globe, so I was able to hang with Kayo Mae (SV Nausikaa), Hans and Andrea (SV Wasabi), Daisy and Mike (SV Traveler) among others!
Marquesan Heiva on Niku Hiva
Folks came to perform from different villages each weekend, and Don said I missed a wonderful parade and performances on Bastille Day.