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The Art of Fatu Hiva

July 12, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Fatu Hiva is renowned for its wood carving. The children and I had been given directions by PELIZENO to the home of one craftsman and ended up taking a wrong turn up a track and chased back down by three large, angry dogs. Generally in the Marquesas, guard dogs (nature’s burglar alarm) either strain at the tether, or else they are all bark but stay within the confines of their territory. These were the exception. Heart still racing after shepherding the children along, and shaking off the dogs, a man calling out from the house we were passing, inviting us to come and look at his carvings, was most welcome. I was drawn to a box in the shape of a wooden stingray for Catherine (Moana style!), beautiful in its simplicity. Back along the main road, we bumped into Norwegian boat families KEA and C’EST SI BON, who recommended another wood carver they had just been visiting, whose workshop was up some stairs round the corner. His sculpted torso, covered in intricate tattoos, was another work of art to admire. In his workshop Isabelle gravitated towards a stunning box engraved with Marquesan patterns, and Francis’ eyes lit up when they fell on the statue of a particular Kon Tiki that stood out, for him, among a dozen of similar shape and size. He responded in a way I had never seen him react to an object before, and the artisan’s wife clocked his reaction as well. By chance we had been sitting next to her at the prayer service in the previous post, and she took us under her wing. We left having bought both sculptures, but also laden with fruit and Catherine, Isabelle and I were each presented with a couple of black pearls, and advised to change them into earrings when we got to Tahiti.

There is a beauty to the gentle spirits of Fatu Hiva, a graciousness and a welcome that I think is unique in the Marquesas. Other islands just seem more jaded when it comes to the arrival in harbour of yet another cruiser. It would have been hard for us to spend more than the two nights on the island as by the end we had run out of both cash in hand and any items of interest to hand on, but we left with the satisfaction of knowing we had given everything we had. Even then, we still feel entirely indebted to the people of Fatu Hiva and truly grateful that this was our first port of call in Polynesia.


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