Radio New Zealand posted an article about Paul Tapsell, a Māori, Pacific and indigenous studies professor at Otago University, who stated that the newest world heritage site in the Pacific links all of Polynesia. UNESCO accepted the bid for Taputapuatea marae at Opoa in Taputapuatea, on the south-eastern coast of the island of Raiatea in French Polynesia to become a world heritage site after nearly two decades of campaigning. A marae is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies.
Here is a little history about the Taputapuatea marae: The sacred area of Cape Matahira-i-te-ra’i is called Te Po, where the gods reside. The original marae was dedicated to Ta’aroa, the supreme god of creation and was also. Later, the worship of ‘Oro (the god of life and death) prevailed. According to legend, ‘Oro’s descendant Hiro built the marae, giving it the name Taputaputea, ‘Sacrifices from afar’. The drum Ta’imoana was used during human sacrifices. The white rock Te Papatea-o-Ru’ea on the nearby beach was used to invest the chiefs of Ra’iatea with the red feather girdle maro ‘ura. The three-foot high image of the god was called ‘Oro-maro-‘ura, ‘Oro of the red feather girdle. Taputapuatea became the center of a voyaging network as the cult of ‘Oro spread.
The marae complex is about 1,000 years old and was a center for Polynesian seafarers from where they explored islands such as Rapa Nui, Hawai’i and New Zealand.
Tapsell said the site had always been significant and connected the people of the Pacific. “We are all part of the same Austronesian family that carries the same language, same cultural background, same belief systems and we have been in the Pacific for somewhere around 3000 years. Taputapuatea is right at the heart of our very soul of being a Pacific people.”
He said UNESCO was coming to understand that heritage is about people, culture and community as well as landscapes. Other Pacific countries with World Heritage sites include Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.