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  • The Source:an interview with Henri Hiro
  • Rai a Mai (bio)
    Translated by Jean Toyama (bio)

The following interview, conducted by Rai a Mai (Michou Chaze) for Nouvelles de Tahiti (News of Tahiti), was published on 12 March 1990, one day after the death of Henri Hiro. Later that year, it was republished by Tupuna Productions in a memorial volume of Hiro's poetry, Pehepehe i ta'u nūna'a/Message poétique.

Rai a Mai You've expressed your ideas in a variety of ways: through politics, through the evangelical church, as head of the Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture [Youth Club and Arts Center], by wearing a pāreu, and most certainly through your poetry.

Henri Hiro That's the way it turned out, but I didn't plan it that way. Everything's been a result of the fact that I've always loved the Tahitian language; after all, it's my mother tongue. When I wrote the poem 'Oihanu e [God of Culture], it was because writing the poem was the most direct way to express what I was feeling. The poem just came to me as it is—all at once.

'Oihanu e is about creating a continuity between our traditional civilization and the way we live today. I would like today's culture to look back to its roots, to its source, which is Polynesian culture. From this encounter between the past and the present, something new will be born.

The poem Aitau [Devour Ravaged Time] is a companion to 'Oihanu e. It too expresses, to some extent, the desire to return to the source of our culture, no matter what it takes, to create a new way of being: a renaissance for a new humanity.

I want to add that the races here now—and this is a very important point—can be part of this renewal, based on a Polynesian foundation, which will evolve naturally in its own way. For me, the foundation for this evolution must be the Polynesian culture. So what I'm saying is that you who are French, you who are Chinese, and you who are Tahitian—each one of us must possess the same respect for this Polynesian cultural foundation. All of us must look to these beginnings as the source from which to build a new society. Everyone having mutual and equal respect, everyone wanting to preserve the integrity of the culture—that's the starting point.

The moment we allow ourselves to disparage this principle, it will be impossible to succeed.

RM You are the forerunner of the cultural renewal movement. Do you think that it has borne any fruit? [End Page 72] [Begin Page 74]

HH One thing is certain: Polynesian people are standing up and looking around at what's happening to them.

RM And what do they see?

HH The disappearance of what is distinctly Polynesian—and this has frightened them. They are terrified because they see that the path we are on will only bring more and more loss. That's why they recognize that their only chance to prevent such a future is to return to their roots, and renew their cultural foundation. Today, I think that Polynesians are looking at themselves and asking, "What's happening to us? We are in the process of being completely annihilated!"

RM What do you think is going to happen? What's the next step?

HH For this renewal to continue, Polynesians must write. However, that's actually the second step. They've already taken the first step by building and living in Polynesian-style homes. Having done this, they now must write and express themselves. It doesn't matter what language they use, whether it's reo mā'ohi, French, or English. The important thing is that they write, that they do it! And I think that in a short while we will have Tahitian authors—authors free of insecurities and able to express who we are!

RM It is surprising that so many people are choosing poetry as their preferred form of expression. Look at you, for instance, as well as Turo a Raapoto, Chantal Raiheni, Charles Manutahi...