Fiction Map of the World – French Polynesia

by Travelbag on 16 April 2015, 11:04AM

The geographically diverse islands of French Polynesia make up an overall land area of 3,521 metres. They are scattered across more than 2,000 kilometres of open ocean, and total 118 islands in all. The highest peak within French Polynesia is the grand and soaring Mount Orohena, on Tahiti. 

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As the most popular, and regularly visited of all the islands Tahiti is its real star. You only have to say the word to conjure up images of soft sandy beaches, sparkling blue waters, and blooming plants and wildflowers. The tropical islands of French Polynesia have been touted as a version of paradise, ever since European explorers first reached their shores, and you could be experiencing them for yourself.

Essential French Polynesian Reading

The charming and ultimately surprising tale of Charles Strickland, a stockbroker and family man who abandons his children for adventure in Tahiti, is a satirical and vivid depiction of genius. It is at times tragic and moving, and darkly comic and vibrant at others. Whilst freedom from domestic life gives Strickland the chance to achieve greatness, the decision leads to an obsession which results in great difficulties for the stockbroker. The Moon and Sixpence, is loosely based on the life of impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, and it great for devouring on the beach, with a cocktail in one hand, and a beach towel in the other. For something that probes a little deeper, pick up The Missing King, from Moetai Brotherson.

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Notable French Polynesian Books

The aforementioned The Missing King might not be one of the most well-known novels to come out of Tahiti, but it is an extremely interesting one, and worthy of a look. It follows the tale of two very different heroes, Vaki and Philippe. Whilst the former is a talented chess loving Marquesan mute, the latter is a French psychologist who is helping him to tell his story. The two characters end up fostering a strong and unique bond, even though they are separated by an ocean. This book was published in 2007, and offers readers a thrilling trip into the psyches of two equally gifted men. With spiritual, moral, and intellectual questions running deep throughout its narrative, The Missing King is a smart thriller for an adventurous reader.  

Notable French Polynesian Authors

As with a lot of the more remote pacific islands, it can be difficult to find native writers who have had their work translated into English. The talented Célestine Hitiura Vaite is fortunately one of them though, and her first three novels (which form the Materena Mahi trilogy) have been well received both inside and outside her Tahitian home. The first, Frangipani, kicks off the saga of Materena Mahi, a champion cleaner and the best listener on the island. She is known for solving problems, but has a few of her own – namely, her rebellious daughter Leilani. This is a story about growing up and about growing old, and it follows Materena as she comes to the realisation that teenage girls just aren’t the same as they used to be when she was one.  

Notable French Polynesian Films

This picturesque location has played host to a range of different film productions, including the 1968 Australian adventure film Sky Pirates. It is a movie inspired by classic adventure epics like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mad Max, Dirty Harry, and The Deer Hunter, so you know that it is going to be exciting. It was shot on Bora Bora, just like the 2009 romantic comedy Couples Retreat, starring Vince Vaughn. The 2002 thriller XXX was also filmed in the South Pacific, and is a great choice for anybody who loves fast paced action films. For something a little more multicultural, pick up The Restless and the Damned, a French-Australian feature, shot in Tahiti and the Tuamotu Islands.  

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Essential Holiday Listening

The earliest Polynesian music is described as ‘chant-song,’ or vocal music chanted over simple to intricate melodies. These chant-songs were a part of daily life and ritual, and they continue to be important to French Polynesians today. In the wake of the arrival of American and European missionaries, Christian music and hymns became popular, and a wealth of different singing styles were developed. The musical icon Napoleon A. Tuiteleleapaga III was a prominent figure of both the Western and American Samoan cultures, and he wrote the national anthem of American Samoa, as well as composing songs for Hollywood films shot and set in the region. For a closer listen, pick up the song Let Me Hear You Whisper, which has been recorded by scores of Samoan artists over the years.

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Notable French Polynesian Musicians

The creator of the national anthem of Tuvalu is a man named Afaese Manoa. The song is titled Tuvalu Mo Te Atua, which loosely translates as Tuvalu for the Almighty. It is written in the Tuvaluan language, and is thought to be one of very few compositions to have ever been constructed in this idiom. In 1878, the song was adopted as the national anthem, and Manoa became the most well-known musician and song writer in a culture which actually has very little literature of any kind. There is a deeply religious message to Tuvalu Mo Te Atua, as there is in lots of French Polynesian music. A modern equivalent is the poet Joanne Gobure, and her piece A Beautiful Prayer.    

Click here to read more about French Polynesia.

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