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Manoa 17.2 (2006) 168-177

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Mount Temetiu towers above Atuona, one the southern coast of Hiva 'Oa.
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The uninhabited island of Hanakee, between the bays of Ta'a 'Oa and Atuoha (Vevau), Hiva 'Oa.
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On the first day of the Sixth Festival of Arts of the Marquesas, a seasoned dancer gives last-minute instructions to a young dancer on the beach. December 2003.
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The marae at Puamau on Hiva 'Oa, site of the largest tiki found in the Marquesas. December 2003.
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Young dancers from Puamau. December 2003.
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On the second evening of the Sixth Festival of Arts, a dance troupe from Hiva 'Oa performs the bird dance. December 2003.
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Nuku Hiva warriors. December 2003.
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A dance troupe from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). December 2003.
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MARQUESAS: These photos were taken on the island of Hiva 'Oa during the Sixth Festival of Arts of the Marquesas, held in December 2003. While Marquesans share a fundamental Polynesian heritage with Tahitians, their language and cultural practices are markedly distinct. Within the six inhabited islands that are their home, Marquesans recognize even finer shades of identity among themselves; however, they are united in the desire to protect and maintain the distinct integrity of Marquesan culture.

Dance festivals have become one of the most demonstrative ways for Marquesans to assert their cultural autonomy, as their dance and music, in particular, are stylistically distinct from performance practices elsewhere in French Polynesia. The festivals are thus occasions to display the sophistication of Marquesan music and chants—sometimes overshadowed or under-appreciated by the dance community on the more populous and cosmopolitan island of Tahiti. Marquesan presentations of chant, music, and dance are never merely aesthetic entertainments. As is true throughout Polynesia when performance rituals are presented with spiritual integrity, they invoke and strengthen a sense of community, harmony, and well-being.

Michel Chansin is a self-taught photographer and author who was born in Tahiti. His most recent book of photographs is Te ata mau: c'est une terre mā'ohi (Au Vent des Îles, 2001). He is the subject of a 2004 film, Un chinois de Pape'ete, which was selected for the 2006 International Oceania Festival of Documentary Films.