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Heiva tu'aro ma'ohi : un peu d'histoire

The Heiva Tu’aro Mā’ohi, in its current version, is the result of a long process that started on 20 December 2003, when the Amuitahira’a Tu’aro Mā’ohi Federation - ATMF (Traditional Sports and Games Federation) was created. That was the foundation of a structured and ambitious – and this is not a rude word! – grouping of a few associations of Tahiti and the outer islands, which attempted, separately, to sustain some sports and games that had been passed on by the elders: sail canoeing, which played such a paramount role in our pre-European society of great sailors, stone lifting, a discipline from the Tuhaa Pae island group (Australs islands), fruit carrier races, javelin throwing… and many other activities relating to Polynesian know-how in its daily life of yesteryear. The first article of the new federation by-laws, which defines its purpose, is clear about that point:

to gather and support associations that have as their main or secondary purpose the practice of traditional sports and games such as:

  • Javelin throwing
  • Stone lifting
  • Coprah preparation
  • Fruit carrier races
  • Sail canoeing
  • Etc.

to promote the practice of these physical and sports activities and in particular the practice of the above-listed traditional games and sports …

Upon the initiative of a few personalities anxious to preserve some aspects of our endangered cultural heritage, these sports people, sometimes isolated, sometimes already grouped into associations, understood how powerful the union of their energies could be. With a sports purpose in mind, but also with a highly culture-oriented approach, some work involving research, structuring and promotion was initiated.

At the same time, we naturally started to think about the place these activities held in the sports, cultural and festival agenda of French Polynesia. Traditional sports, except Va’a races, which were already perfectly organised in a federation and widely spread, only had limited audience appeal, even though they had a place reserved for them in the “Tiurai” festivities of yesteryear.

It took years, once ATMF was born and consolidated, for the “Tiurai” and then the HEIVA I TAHITI to give due consideration to traditional sports. The HEIVA TU’ARO MA’OHI, the big festival of Polynesian sports, was born.

That event is now part of the Country’s cultural heritage, just like dances, songs, and other cultural activities. It is now expected by a loyal and faithful audience. For all the athletes, it is the pinnacle of their efforts over a whole year, and, for our visitors, this is just an amazing discovery. The ATMF’s objective that was set in the by-laws more than ten years ago will soon be achieved: to make participate the greatest numbers of athletes, in particular those from Tahiti, Moorea and the outer islands of French Polynesia in order to revive, spread and sustain that ancestral cultural heritage for the benefit of our people, our visitors and for the future generations.

Through the Heiva Tu’aro Mā’ohi, our disciplines are enhanced, better known and one of the objectives of ATMF will now be to make them shine forth in the Pacific and in the world.