THEME : « WHERE ARE YOU FROM CHILD OF THE AUSTRALES? «
Immense and dark was that night when Ta’aroa, lonely in his shell, wandered alone in infinite space. Observing around him, he was his own creator, from him springs the mā’ohi world, the mā’ohi land.
And you Amaitera’i, Polynesian child? You who often wondered « who are you? » Or, « where are you going? » Can you answer my question now, « Where are you from? » « Or » why did you settle here in Mahina? »
I was told that I came from the Australes’ islands. But where are the Australes’ islands? I do not even know.
The islands of the Australes form an archipelago of about 152 km2, located in the southern Pacific Ocean, near the Tropic of Capricorn.
The archipelago made up of five main high islands:
• Rurutu 36 km² was discovered by James Cook the first European to pinpoint one of the Australes’ islands on 13 August 1769.
• Raivavae 16 km² was discovered before Tubuai, in 1775, by the Spanish navigator Thomas Gayangos.
• Tubuai 45 km², the administrative center of the Australes, was discovered by James Cook during his third and last trip on August 8, 1777.
• Rapa 40 km², sometimes called Rapa Iti to distinguish it from Rapa Nui, Easter Island discovered by George Vancouver on December 22, 1791. The island is then called Oparo.
• Rimatara 8 km² was discovered belatedly in 1821 by Pastor William Henry. He founded a Protestant mission there. France established a protectorate over Rimatara in 1889 and annexed it in 1900.
The islands in the Australes archipelago maintain strong and ancient ties that are based on a singular perception of the ocean, seen as a social bond. The ocean does not separate peoples: it connects them. The history of Polynesia is intrinsically linked to great sailing voyages. The first Polynesians crossed the Pacific on large canoes, settling on uninhabited lands.
The islands form part of the ocean which, with the sky, creates a vast unity. Originally it was united but the divinities of Ta’aroa, the creative god, split it later. The ocean hosts traffic networks through which are routing symbolic links that fall within the world of gods and ancestors, as well as ensuing kinship ties.
The history of particular maraes, the oral traditions, and toponymy of the islands, motus and passes provide valuable insights on the family ties that exist between the islands.
While the upheavals entailed by colonization have altered the relationship between the islands, the Australians still perceive the other islands as new opportunities to study, marry or work.
The archipelago as a whole represents an area of mobility and exchanges, in line with the practices preceding contact with the Europeans.
So Amaiterai, child of the Australes. What are your thoughts?