Emmanuel Macron announced, Monday, July 26, his support for the candidature of the Marquesas for Unesco World Heritage, to mark the first visit of a President of the Republic to this archipelago of French Polynesia.
For this occasion, the Marquesans offered Sunday evening (Monday morning in Paris) a rare show to the Head of State with a traditional ceremony of 600 dancers and musicians from the six Marquesan islands, dressed in vegetable outfits made from auti, tapered leaves. The only man in a suit in the middle of the Atuona stadium, the main town of Hiva Oa, Emmanuel Macron was greeted by riders in combat gear and by a vibrant Mave Mai, a song recited by a soloist.
“Our part of French identity is wanted and assumed: we are Marquesans, Polynesians, French, and we are proud of it, Mr. President”, declared the mayor of Hiva Oa, Joëlle Frébault. She then baptized the head of state with a Marquesan name: «Te Hakaiki Taha’oa», “The great leader who walks and goes far”.
Initiative launched several years ago
Emmanuel Macron was then acclaimed for having started his speech by greeting, with a few words in Marquesan, each island of the archipelago. “Our treasure is this nature and this culture”, “Then I will fight by your side so that we can classify the Marquesas Islands at Unesco”, he announced.
It thus supports the initiative of the local authorities who have embarked for several years in the long procedure to obtain the Unesco label. They defend the outstanding universal value of “Bien Marquesas Islands”, which includes nine sites on the main islands of the archipelago, with an inscription “Mixed” combining “Nature and culture”.
“Be proud to be Marquesans, to be Polynesians, to be French”, launched Emmanuel Macron by concluding the speech he gave standing on a traditional double wooden canoe.
In terms of nature, the Marquesas Islands present for example “An exceptional verticality of cliffs”, in particular the island of Ua Pou, with its peaks and peaks, but also many species of fish and dolphins. In terms of culture, the islands present “An unprecedented monumental ceremonial architecture and habitat”, and have many « tiki » (statues) and «Threshold», high stone platforms that were the old dwellings of the Marquesans. Mme Frébault also wanted Matatiki, Marquesan graphic art, to be part of the heritage of humanity.
President Macron then visited the archaeological site of Upeke, made up of several stone platforms in the middle of the forest, to the sound of singers’ drums and conch shells. He was invited to preside over a traditional ceremony, armed with a scepter, in the company of the mayor and the president of French Polynesia, the autonomist Edouard Fritch, who assured that the head of state would return to celebrate the ranking by Unesco in 2025.
The Marquesas Islands are “A people, a language, a culture, a land, a pride”, proclaims the mayor of Ua Pou, Joseph Kaiha, adding to the address of the head of state: “Thank you for touching with your eyes the pebbles of Upeke, the soul of the Marquesans. “
Meeting dedicated to the Covid-19 crisis
He then had to attend several workshops testifying to the Marquesan intangible heritage, in particular tattooing, an art forbidden to Marquesans by a governor in the 19th century.e century, which the Patutiki association, chaired by Teiki Huukena, undertakes to revive.
Arriving in the Marquesas Islands, the president visited the graves, under the frangipani trees, of the painter Paul Gauguin, who died in 1903, and of the singer Jacques Brel, who died in 1978.
Before continuing his trip to Manihi, in the Tuamotu archipelago, the head of state visited the first professional training company of the adapted military service regiment (RSMA), where he thanked the military. “To allow our young people to learn to behave and sometimes to repair what life has made them unjustly undergo, and then to acquire know-how in order to be able to be free citizens”.
“The RSMA is 60 years old this year and it is a model that we want to develop and strengthen”, Mr Macron said, thanking Overseas Minister Sébastien Lecornu of “Give even more ambition by supporting the development of this unique model”. Mr Lecornu told Agence France-Presse that his ministry would add resources to the RSMA in Mayotte next year to increase its staff.
The Head of State had previously started the day with a ceremony at the Papeete war memorial then by a meeting with Mr. Fritch and members of the government devoted in particular to the Covid-19 crisis.