Native Affairs - "Without The Reo, We're Nothing"

By Renee Kahukura-Iosefa

Native Affairs travelled to Tahiti this month to experience the Heiva Cultural Festival which showcases the best performing arts groups the tropical island has to offer.

The annual event began 135 years ago and focuses on the revitalisation of the Tahitian culture and language called Te Reo Ma'ohi.

Festival veteran and the matriarch of Tahitian dance Makau Foster has dedicated more than 50 years to instilling a love of culture through music, song and the traditional dance called Ori Tahiti.

Her group, Tamariki Poerani took out the winning title at this year’s festival.

"Ori Tahiti is a way of belonging. It shows who I am and where I come from. Our reo is also important. Without it, we are nothing.” Foster says.  

Foster has performed at the Heiva Festival for most of her life.  As a staunch advocate of her indigenous language, she believes more work needs to be done to ensure the survival of Te Reo Ma'ohi.

“The younger generation speak anything else but their own Tahitian language. I hope this young generation will decide to go on and learn."

Foster is teaching her children and her students the traditional dance and hopes her legacy will live on through them.

“When I dance I feel like I’m not myself. It feels like I’m in somebody else’s skin.”

Thank you to Tahiti Tourisme & Air Tahiti Nui for sponsoring this story.