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Traditional artisanat (arts & crafts), known for its extreme delicacy, keeps developing throughout the islands. Thousands of talented artists make items made of woven material, coconut, pandanus, shells and feather, including stone,

 

 

     • Sculpture
     • Shells
     • Pareu
     • Tifaifai
     • Tattoo
     • Monoï
     • Local specialties    

 

wood or mother of pearl carvings, not to mention hats and the amazing tifaifai (patchwork).

The items in tapa are part of the most sought after items. Tapa is made from the skillfully worked bark of purau, or other local trees, which in the old days was used for clothing and as support for the many tattoo patterns.

All year round, there are exhibitions-sale to help the promotion of the polynesian handcraft which has managed to «modernize» itself by combining the ancestral art with exceptional creativity of the artist. There you will find a wide choice of original souvenirs.

  Tapa
© GIE Tahiti Tourisme -
P. Bacchet

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Tiki
© GIE Tahiti Tourisme -
R. Sahuquet

 

Carved artifacts, often from the Marquesas Islands, are very much appreciated. Miro or rosewood (among others) are used to carve pots, trays, hair pins or pestles, all finely carved with traditional patterns.
The best-known carved item today is the « Tiki », which highlights Marquesan artistic creation. Polynesians also carve mother-of-pearl shells. You will be amazed by their delicate work. Carved mother-of-pearl takes various forms, it can become a lamp, traditional costumes ornaments or jewelry. Polynesian artists also use volcanic stones, coral and bones. 

From the Marquesas to the Australs, not to mention the other archipelagos, sculpture cannot be separated from tattoos. The many motifs found in the art of tattooing are indeed invariably used in sculptures on wood, stone and many other materials (bone, mother of pearl, shark teeth, etc). This more than one thousand year old art finds its inspiration in ancient hist.

Petroglyphs (stones decorated with carved motifs), that can be seen in many valleys, show the treasures of this ancestral art.
Still today, tiki, drums, ceremonial accessories, war clubs or chiefs sticks, rich in geometrical motifs, decorate the Polynesians’ daily environment. Woodcarving is the most diversified discipline, but while stone carving is more delicate, it is also very much in demand.
In the area of jewelry, finely chiseled mother of pearl or bone has been developed to respond to new demand.

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The lagoons of Tahiti contain an extraordinary variety of shells. While it is certainly exciting to find them by yourself, do not forget that many species are today protected. You will also find a large choice of carved shells in many shops.    
  Sea-shell necklaces
© GIE Tahiti Tourisme -
L. Correia

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Vahine tying up her pareu
© GIE Tahiti Tourisme -
G. Le Bacon
 

Pareo or pareu: in the old days, the pareo was made of tapa, tree bark pounded until a more or less thick layer was obtained. It is decorated with local patterns: hibiscus or tiare flowers. The pareo is an important part of the Polynesians’ daily life, as much for men who wear it as a skirt or as shorts, as for women who can tie it in a thousand and one ways.



Hand sewn bedspreads displaying mostly vegetal patterns. The tifaifai is a traditional wedding present.

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This traditional form of expression in our islands, is experiencing a strong revival as an art represented nowadays by talented young artists whose designs are greatly appreciated by both residents and visitors.
Hygiene is no problem as all tattoo artists are regularly checked by the local Health Department.   

You will be able to find many books in book shops or boutiques about Polynesian tattoo’s history and the many original designs.
Some of them are still practising the traditional tattoo.

  Tattooed Polynesian
© GIE Tahiti Tourisme -
L. Pesquié

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Coconuts sundried
© GIE Tahiti Tourisme -
C. Flipo
 

«Monoi de Tahiti is the product obtained by macerating Tiare blossoms in refined coconut oil. This oil should be extracted from mature coconuts gathered from Cocos Nucifera trees growing in the coral soil in French Polynesia exclusively. Only «Tiare» flower buds from the Gardenia Tahitensis species are used.»
Coconuts from the Polynesian coral soil, produce a refined first pressed oil which is appreciated by

cosmetic laboratories for its unique silky and light feel.cosmetic laboratories for its unique silky and light feel.
The Tiare flower is an endemic flower from French Polynesia.Symbol of beauty and purity, it has become the emblem of Tahiti. Beyond its symbolic and sensual dimensions, the Tiare flower is one of the most important plants of the Raau Tahiti, the traditional pharmacopoeia of Tahiti. In the preparation of Monoi de Tahiti AO, the flower is used fresh, gathered in the morning, at the bud stage and macerated within a maximum of 24 hours.  The maceration in refined coprah oil lasts for a minimum of 10 days during which the beneficial compounds of the flower are extracted.  The active oil is then carefully filtered. Beauty care  as well as body & mind care, the Monoï is also a sacred oil used in many rituals and ceremonies.Tahitian monoi is now famous all over the world for its universally recognized qualities.

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A large choice of local specialties is available in the many restaurants of the island.

Fish and shells are the most appreciated. Raw fish is delicious prepared with lemon and coconut milk, with a sashimi sauce or thinly sliced as a carpaccio.

The Maa Tahiti (Tahitian meal) is a culinary tradition, cooked in a ground oven: the food is wrapped in banana leaves and put on very hot stones.

Italian and Chinese specialties are widely found. Local products gave birth to a very refined and original gastronomic cuisine.

  Raw fish marinated in coconut milk
© GIE Tahiti Tourisme -
T. McKenna
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