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Reviewed by:
  • Tahiti: Regards intérieurs, and: Images et pouvoirs dans le Pacifique, and: Tahiti Beloved and Forbidden:Tahiti Herehia, Tahiti Rahuia
  • Alexander Mawyer
Tahiti: Regards intérieurs, edited by Elise Huffer and Bruno Saura. Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 2006. ISBN 978-982-02-0381-5, ix + 235 pages, notes, bibliography. US$30.00.
Images et pouvoirs dans le Pacifique, edited by Viviane Fayaud and Jean-Marc Regnault. Paris: Publications de la Société Française d'Histoire d'Outre-Mer, 2011. ISBN 978-2-859700-48-5, 188 pages, resumes, biographies. €18.
Tahiti Beloved and Forbidden: Tahiti Herehia, Tahiti Rahuia, by Marie Claude Teissier-Landgraf. Translated by Neil Carruthers. Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 2004. ISBN 978-982-02-0369-3, 372 pages, illustrations, glossary. US$20.00.

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Aroha, Aloha, Alofa, by Andy Leleisi'uao. 2011. Acrylic on canvas, 25 cm x 25 cm

I wanted to convey the idea of exchange and blessing, as a crossed lei becomes a full circle when placed around a neck.

[End Page 209]

It is almost two decades since Epeli Hau'ofa inspired an astonished community of insular voices with his luminous vision of Oceania as a tissue of immemorial and emergent pathways linking distant lands in unbroken bonds. Despite the connective spirit of many Pacific conversations in subsequent years, some voices still travel across the broader sea as echoes over water, dimly heard. French Polynesia, storied Tahiti, the verdant Societies, the bejeweled Tuamotus, the oft-overlooked Australs and Gambiers, and the romanticized Marquesas remain—for metropolitan France and for non-French-speaking persons across the region—truly a pays d'outre mer, a country over the sea. That this is the case is all the more lamentable considering the recent efflorescence of literary and academic works in French Polynesia, from exquisitely intimate memoirs to penetrating analyses of the structural transformations of cultural systems both scintillatingly minute and foundationally vast; from heart-wrenching novels to playful, improvisational poetry to subtle recherché debates about the role of the academy, especially linguistics, in national politics. If all of the authors reviewed here resonate with Hau'ofa's vision of Oceania as a fabric of connections, liaisons, and rapprochements, they also remind us that anglophone Pacific scholars and writers need to work to meet their francophone colleagues halfway.

Two exemplary edited volumes and a new English translation of Marie Claude Teissier-Landgraf's celebrated novel offer a glimpse of the vitality of recent scholarship and literary craft in the French Pacific and of some themes and trends in regional conversations. For those who have a fair reading comprehension of French, Elise Huffer and Bruno Saura's very fine volume is an excellent place to start. Showcasing current writing about French Polynesia by Mā'ohi writers from within the region's cultural milieu, this work is notable for the manner in which it brings academic as well as high-caliber public scholarship into conversation with evocative literary and critical reflections. After a clear-sighted editors' note discussing this burgeoning, productive period for Tahitian and other Mā'ohi writers and the problem of address with respect to a broad Oceanic audience, the volume opens with a robust study of childhood cultures and game play on the Tuamotu atoll of Nāpuka, [End Page 210] one of several contributions drawing attention to modest cultural endurances. In this piece, Jean Kape shows how spatial strategies, normative conventional rule-bound interaction frames, and such ephemeral moments as cheers and taunts can mediate some of the cultural disturbances of historical change. Together with Corinne McKittrick's very fine essay on Tahitian dance and Frédéric Reva's Tahitian-language discussion of the surprising depths of contemporary songwriting by popular artists, these ruminations on the role of intergenerational transmission of microcultural beliefs and values suggest that the profoundly significant cohesion of community rests to some degree in modest moments in the everyday cultures of childhood and adult performances.

This concern with the micro is well complemented in the volume by Danielle Helme and Tamatoa Bambridge, who contribute pieces investigating sweeping structural transformations in...


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