Late last year French Polynesia had advanced its bid to make the ‘ori tahiti traditional dance part of UNESCO’s world heritage. A government delegation has visited Paris for talks with the French culture ministry, which is to vet and support the application. French Polynesia’s assembly approved a resolution to endorse the campaign, and a decision on what applications France will submit to UNESCO will be made by the French President Emmanuel Macron.
Sadly, this past February the French Polynesia’s bid to make the ‘ori tahiti traditional dance part of UNESCO’s world heritage suffered a setback. Emmanuel Macron had decided against endorsing the bid when Paris next submits its applications to UNESCO.
During a debate about French overseas territories, Mr Macron said in the next round of France’s submissions he would support a project from Martinique, which wants to make its traditional sailing boats part of world heritage.
A little about ‘ori tahiti…
‘Ori Tahiti, which is the literal translation for “Tahitian dance”, is an original artistic expression rooted in ancient traditions, from which we ignore almost everything.
Originally, Ori Tahiti was the art movement of a civilization that depended solely on oral tradition. The only element of this art that has survived centuries of turbulent history is the direct and intimate link between oral language and dance movement.
The dance is an art that is often illustrated under the mythical image of the Polynesian Woman, Vahine, as perceived as one of the most sensual image of femininity and beauty. This rich history is not what the audience remembers and rather they tend to focus on the characteristic movements of the dance, the costumes, the music, the percussions, and the joy of dancing.
Two centuries ago, the Missionaries from the London Missionary Society arrived in Tahiti and described the Tahitian dance Ori Tahiti as satanic and obscene. During that time, Tahitian dance Ori Tahiti was forbidden. In 1819, the Pomare Code (laws code) prohibited all dances, songs and cultural entertainment.
It’s only in 1880 during the French National Day on July 14th that all traditional festivities were finally allowed and named under the festival called, “Tiurai.”
Today, the evolution of steps in Tahitian dance can be associated to the spiritual and cultural colonization of Polynesia, the pursuit of tropical resort tourism in place of cultural tourism, the accelerated development of Polynesian society in 1960s, and the lifestyle changes that came as a direct result of these developmental alterations.