Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ua Huka Mini-Festival 2013

Every four years, the Marquesas Arts Festival takes place on one of the six islands in the archipelago. This is the “real thing”, attracting troupes from all over French Polynesia and the rest of the Pacific and visitors from all over the world. The next Arts Festival is in Hiva Oa in 2015. Because four years is a long time (or for other reasons), a mini-festival is organized in between, so every two years there is a big event everybody talks about. We lucked out with our timing - 2013 was the year of a mini-festival – but not with the location. This year’s festival, attended only by Marquesan groups, took place in Ua Huka, the most eastern island of the Marquesas with the worst anchorages.

Mark and I joined about 24 other sailboats in the bay of Hane, a local record the locals were very proud of, until it meant that the pirogue races were cancelled: too many obstacles for the rowing contest. As happens a lot in these islands, the wind was fluky and couldn’t behave for four days in a row, so chaos ensued in the harbor, when almost everyone was on the festival grounds, located between Hane and Vaipaee. Unmanned boats ventured in different directions. There were a few near misses (we were lucky to be on board and be able to start the engines to avoid hitting another boat) and a couple of collisions. We moved Irie to a safer spot in the afternoon of day 1, before hitching a ride away from the waterfront.

The festival itself was unbelievable, impressive, awesome, touching and spectacular. The costumes, the dancing, the singing, the drumming… Neither words nor pictures can do it justice. Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to post a few videos in the future. But, I know I have promised this before. The internet situation in the Pacific is just excruciating and useless for “heavy” stuff.

The first evening, the groups of Ua Huka, Fatu Hiva and Nuku Hiva performed. The second evening, it was time for the delegations of Ua Pou, Tahuata and Hiva Oa to dance, sing and drum. On the third and last day, all the six troupes showcased a dance following the theme “the challenge”. We were mostly impressed by the convincing show of the Cannibal group of Ua Pou. For lunch that day, there was a communal and free kai kai with traditionally prepared food provided by the different islands. In between, artisans created stone and wooden tikis and stands made sure nobody went hungry or thirsty. Alcohol was prohibited on the grounds and unavailable on the island during the duration of the festival. Not only was the event very cultural, but it was as social as we have encountered in French Polynesia so far, with fellow cruisers we met weeks, months and years ago! There was a lot of catching up to do…

Here is a selection of pictures:

Wood sculptor from Nuku Hiva

One of the modern tikis decorating the grounds

Two artisans from Nuku Hiva (the one on the right a regular at "our" Snack Vaeake) creating a stone tiki

Taro ice cream with Marie: colorful and flavorful!

Afternoon at the beach with friends - hammock time!

Covering the umus (traditional underground ovens for cooking)  after filling them with pigs and root vegetables

The first step to the cooking process in an umu - hot coals


Day 3 of the festival: the pirogue (canoe) is almost finished

And so is this tiki - filing the important parts...

Preparation of the kai kai - the food fest for all

Every group has their own drums and drummers

The "Cannibals" Ua Pou performance (next six pictures):

One of the gifts brought to and for Ua Huka: the tallest drum ever!

After about 24 hours, the goodies come out of the six umus - time for kai kai! (which is when my camera battery died)

Last evening's beach BBQ with fellow cruisers

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