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Bora Orero – Keeping Culture Alive

The Orero is an ancient artistic form of oral declaration most often taking into account Polynesian genealogy, history & geography delivered as fact if even through legends &, at times, the most amusing of interpretations. As Polynesian is an oral culture the Orero played a fundamental role in Polynesian life over the centuries.

Once reserved for the few initiated into the art or for those for whom the art was considered an hereditary right, the Orero has seen a resurgence in recent years driven by public enthusiasm, by a people proud of their ancestry, cultural identity & background:


Bora Bora Orero Championships – 2016

In a Sport’s Arena filled with the beautiful melodies of school children singing most enthusiastically, 13 of the most courageous amongst them competed in this year’s Bora Bora Orero Championships – at stake, 4 places in next week’s Raromati (Society Island) Championships to be held on the soon to be UNESCO listed Marae Taputaputaea in Raiatea visited only last month by the President of France, Francois Hollande. The winners of that event will compete in the Polynesian Orero Championships in Tahiti later in the year.

There is already an abundance of information concerning the historical & cultural significance of the Orero in this report, so I’ll let the photos do the talking:




One of the lucky four who are heading to Raiatea for next week’s Raromatai finals:


The youngest competitor in this year’s event, yet at only 8 years of age possessed of a maturity to communicate & an understanding of intonation & of pause worthy of someone far older:


The costumes, hand-fashioned essentially from vegetal materials are simply marvellous:




Fabulous costume fashioned from the beautifully perfumed tiare Tahiti, the Tahitian symbol of love, harmony & sharing:


Many competitors have fellow students accompanying them in a band – guitar, ukulele, toere, pu (conch shell)…..:



Another strong performance saw this girl advance to the finals in Raiatea:



This fellow was ‘stoked’ to find himself selected amongst those heading to Raiatea next month:


The oreros performed are often written by other highly gifted members of the family. They are well researched often giving listeners an historical or cultural insight not found elsewhere in written texts as Polynesian is essentially an oral culture.

Bora Bora Orero Championships – 2015


Once more there was a large gathering under Bora Bora’s great marquee the site of so many of the island’s great spectacles confirming the boom in the practice of Orero. Today marked the Orero Championships of Bora Bora, the day on which those to represent Bora Bora in the Raromatai Orero Championships to be held in Tahaa at the end of Aril would be selected. From these championships those to represent the Leeward Islands in the 2015 Orero Championships of French Polynesia, to be held later in the year in Tahiti, would be chosen – all competitions conducted under the auspices of the Ministry for Education.

Some supporters of those performing:


The skills required are many & varied including understanding the different types of Orero & their place in Polynesian culture, the planning & construction of an Orero, body language, acting, breathing & pitch, costume design, mental preparation, & the use of associated traditional musical instruments. Long hours of study & training are required. Thirteen very skilled orators faced the judges & the boisterous mass of supporters flowing from each of Bora Bora’s schools.

Check out the craftsmanship & imagination that goes into hand-making the costumes:





The intensity of the orero performances was from time to time supported by the singing & dancing of performers of another talent like those photographed below:


Four of those competing would be selected to represent Bora Bora in the Raromatai Orero Championships in Tahaa at the end of next month. The girl in the following photos was one of those selected as was the girl appearing in the first photo above:




Another who deservedly won her way to Tahaa:



The fourth & final contestant selected for Tahaa following a most confident performance:


A close-up of some of the musicians playing in the above performance – these adept at ‘playing the shells’:


The standard of all those who competed was exceptionally high. I noticed once more tourists strolling about the extremities of the marquee – I hope they have read Bora Bora Insider & understand they are more than welcome to attend & even though they may not understand Tahitian at least realise what is taking place & benefit from this magnificent cultural experience.

Raromatai Orero Championships – 2014


A BIG crowd was on hand in the week leading up to Easter for the Orero Championships of Raromati (the Leeward Islands) held on this ocassion on Bora Bora & highlighting the leading exponents of the art to determine the best amongst them, to determine who would represent these islands in the upcoming National Championships to be held in Tahiti.

Fifteen proven performers, including the girl above who represented Maupiti lined up for only 2 places to go to Tahiti:


The greatest boom in the popularity of the Orero has been seen amongst those in their early teens, amongst those with linguistic skills in Reo Mahoi (Polynesian language) & who possess the art of speech & gesture, the fundamental elements of the Orero. Although French is widely spoken on the island of Tahiti, elsewhere in French Polynesia conversations are most often conducted in Tahitian, a fact which has assisted in the rapid spread of interest in the Orero in the islands.

Here are a selection of shots of those that competed. The first photo shows the competitor from Raiatea who won the prize for the best costume; the runner-up is in the following photo (& just check out how much work goes into those costumes!!!):





Tahaa was the outstanding performer on the day. The crowd favourite was without doubt the gregarious & energetic performer from Tahaa appearing in the following photos:



He would finish 2nd overall & secure a place for the finals in Tahiti.

It was another competitor from Tahaa who would win overall:


The jury found it extremely difficult to separate the first 3 placegetters ultimately offering to provide a 3rd place to compete in Tahiti which was filled by an entrant from Bora Bora:


Winning smiles:


Tahaa almost had a ‘clean sweep’ of the podium with the performance of their 3rd candidate:


The hand-made costumes are creations of art, those that wear them orators of the highest rank. Understanding what is taking place before you should you just be ‘passing by’, holidaying in paradise, has hopefully added a little more to your experience.