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Polynesian Wood Carving

The wood carving of the Marquisians has long been held to be the best in all of Polynesia. Regarded by their peers as being the finest artisans amongst them, these talented craftsmen, or Tuhuna as they were/are known, have over the centuries, often applied those same exceptional skills to the art of tattooing.

Woman wood carving

The symbolism of much of what today is recognized as the basis of Polynesian tattoos flows from the hands of these legendary individuals.


Over the years at the Heiva Rima’i , a historical annual gathering of the best in Polynesian culture, I have long admired the art of a certain Varii who emanates from Ua Pou in the Marquisas Islands to the north of French Polynesia.

Varii is a man as gifted in applying a unique and exceptional tattoo as he is in carving masterpieces from precious woods. Those visiting Bora Bora may well have admired Varii’s huge Pahu standing almost 2m tall.


It graces the walkway of Restaurant Matira Beach and players mount a special stand before playing the drum by hand.

Drum wood carving

Now living in Bora Bora, I found Varii this morning carving yet another masterpiece alongside the legendary lagoon of Bora Bora.


Those who marry in paradise are accompanied in another of Verii’s works — Turtle/Lady. It’s situated in Bora Bora’s Marriage Hall at the Town Hall. It may interest readers to follow the actual making of such marvelous pieces.

The huge log, note a second such piece in the background which was subsequently transformed into a turtle (see below) – is initially transformed by saw.

Using saw on wood carving

Various techniques & tools are subsequently used for the finer details seen here in this two-sided figure.

Finishing up

In the photo above, you can see Teiki, a fellow Marquisian, giving some assistance to Varii. This takes me back to the additional log in an earlier photo above, a log which, in turn Teiki transformed into a Turtle Bowl.

What travelers to Bora Bora may not realize is that Verii can sculpture works of art to order. Imagine commissioning a massive Tiki with their readily identifiable huge oval eyes, a Pahu, a Va’a (traditional outrigger), or other smaller gems like a ukelele or the historical war clubs of Marquisian warriors.

Similarly Varii works from home in applying his legendary tattoos.

Turtle wood carving

Although currently working out towards Bloody Mary’s, next door to Pension Rosina) Varii is about to re-situate his place of work somewhat closer to town at the base of Poavai Bay in the laneway sign-posted for the pearl shop of Meherio situated only a couple of kilometers out of town.

He can be contacted on + (689) 87 73 34 15. (As his English is not as strong as that of the writer, I would be happy to assist anyone wishing to contact him –  contact me via this web-site.