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Tahiti: Did you know…?

The Mariner Creative Team's avatar By The Mariner Creative Team | 01 May 2017
Tahitian fire dancer with tatoos

The word ‘tattoo’ originated here.
In Polynesian culture, tattoos are considered a sign of beauty and it was once common for tattoos to be applied when a young person reached adolescence. The connection between tattoos and beauty is perhaps linked to an ancient Polynesian legend in which two gods, in competing for the attention of a goddess, tattooed their bodies with beautiful blue symbols – after which Polynesians decided to copy them. Another legend says the Polynesian god of tattoo, Tohu, painted all the ocean’s fish in beautiful colours and patterns. The English word ‘tattoo’ comes from the Tahitian word ‘tatau’.

Polynesian dance was once forbidden.
While dancing is at the heart of Polynesian culture, there was a time when it was banned in Tahiti. When missionaries came to the islands, dancing was forbidden as it was seen to be associated with immodesty. However, in the 1950s this beautiful cultural tradition found its way back into Polynesian custom. Traditionally, dancing is accompanied by only a limited number of musical instruments, such as a pahu (drum) and a vivo (flute). Today, the most well-known Tahitian dance is the Otea – which is characterised by rapid hip-shaking, not unlike the Hawaiian hula.

It’s famous for its unique vanilla.
When the vanilla plant was introduced to Polynesia by a French admiral in 1858, the imported varieties adapted to their new environment by taking on new, unique characteristics. This gave rise to a new sub-species which is known for its unique, rich aroma. By the 1950s, vanilla was one of the largest exports from the islands, and today Tahitian vanilla is known around the world for its unusual aniseed-flavoured compounds. This rare spice is particularly sought after by top Parisian chefs who travel to Tahiti personally to source their supply.

Tahiti’s black pearls are highly valuable.
The warm lagoon waters of Tahiti create a black pearl unlike any other in the world. These pearls are unique in that they are the only black pearl in the world which comes by its colour naturally – rather than through irradiation or dyeing. Tahiti’s ‘black’ pearls actually come in a large range of colours, from creamy white through to green, peacock blue, aubergine and black – which means creating a single strand of matching beads can require a process of examining thousands of pearls. These are some of the most sought-after, expensive pearls in the world and a visit to a local pearl farm while in Tahiti is well worth adding to your itinerary.