Article published in The Funambulist 15 (January-February 2018) Clothing Politics #2. Click here to access the rest of the issue.
October holds a lot of political weight for the islands of Tahiti, especially for the Independence Party of Tahiti: Tavini Huira’atira (People’s Servant). Every October, Oscar Temaru and twelve delegates associated with the Independence Party of Tahiti lobby at the UN for decolonization from France. The task of the delegation is to express why we, as Mā’ohi people, have the right of self-determination over our own islands and ocean.
The archipelago is known as Tahiti, or under its colonial name, French Polynesia, and includes roughly 118 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Our geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretch an expanse the equivalent of the geographical area of the European Union. Five island archipelagos are located in this territory, each with its own its own language, culture, and ways of knowing and being. Our history of migration by way of the ocean means that each archipelago has strong cultural links with the others, giving us a sense of solidarity in identity. Tavini Huira’atira gathers this solidarity of islands under the name Tahiti Nui, or Mā’ohi Nui.
As Mā’ohi people, we trace our lineage back thousands of years to these islands and the ocean. Our tupuna (ancestors) developed cultures and ways of living off the environment that have allowed us to thrive in our surroundings, historically and in the present. Today, our culture persists through the ways that we continue to fish, grow our own food, build our own houses, and relate to the land and each other. With such a long history of living on these islands, our Mā’ohi cultures are deeply embedded in who we are as a people.
This history, this lineage, motivates Tavini Huira’atira, Oscar Temaru and delegates, to make the annual trek to the United Nations. They attend a meeting focused on the decolonization of territories around the world called the Fourth Committee meeting (Special Political and Decolonization Committee), which takes place each October. The results of this meeting could potentially contribute to a push from the U.N. in the process of decolonization for Tahiti Nui. Although this meeting holds a lot of weight for Tahiti Nui, Tavini Huira’atira is given only three minutes per person to create a case for the independence of our lands. In just three minutes, Oscar Temaru and the delegates must summarize how over 100 years of French colonialism have impacted and affected our cultures and the lands we inhabit.