La Polynésie française est un Eden végétal tant les variétés de fleurs, d’arbres fruitiers et de plantes y abondent. Pour s'en convaincre, il suffit de regarder les nombreux jardins aux abords des routes. En arrivant en Polynésie française par l’aéroport de Tahiti Faa’a et, ensuite, en voyageant dans nos îles, résidents ou voyageurs se voient offrir, quasi immanquablement, une fleur de Tiare Tahiti à porter sur l’oreille et un collier de fleurs, la marque

traditionnelle de bienvenue. Le passager, fraîchement arrivé de lointaines contrées, pourra légitimement s’étonner que l’on s’apprête aussi couramment de fleurs, en de nombreuses occasions et de diverses manières. Parmi les nombreux ornements floraux polynésiens, les plus saisissants sont sans aucun doute ces couronnes de fleurs qui illustrent de manière merveilleuse et colorée l’une des multiples facettes de l’art de vivre polynésien.

French Polynesia is literally a garden of eden hosting an incredible variety of flowers, fruit trees and other plants. Just take a look at any one of the numerous gardens along the road and you’ll see the diversity that exists here. As soon as you arrive in French Polynesia at the airport in Faa’a on the island of Tahiti, you are welcomed with a Tiare Tahiti flower, and as you travel to the other islands you will be met by this custom again and again. It is a Polynesian tradition to welcome guests by giving them a Tiare flower, and this fragrant flower is often worn behind the ear or in flower lei. For visitors arriving from afar and who have just set foot on the island, it might be surprising to discover that flowers are used so widely here in French Polynesia, and for so many different occasions in so many different ways. The most striking Polynesian floral ornament is without a doubt the flower head wreath which illustrates —with its lavishness and beautiful colors—one of the many aspects of the Polynesian art de vivre (“art of living”)

A Long Tradition It is difficult to say exactly when and where this ancient Polynesian tradition began. It is certain that it existed well before the first contact and settlements of european colonizers at the beginning of the 19th century. Ancient Polynesian society was an oral culture, passing along knowledge from one generation to the next orally, however, there are surprisingly few precise accounts regarding the making of wreaths. Nevertheless, if we ask the elders—matahiapo in Tahitian—they tell us the story of a time when the only way to access the Polynesian islands was by boat, and of how their grandparents wore beautiful fern wreaths called hei’aihere when they welcomed visitors arriving on these shores. In the Tahitian language “hei” means wreath and “aihere” refers to greenery. on black and white photos from times past one can see people wearing another type of head wreath, the hei pae’ore, which can be as much as 10 to 25cm high and is made out of pandanus. This type of wreath earned much fame at the beginning of the 1960s when they were used during the first miss Tahiti beauty pageants. as the winner of the pageant was named, she received her sash and instead of a tiara she wore a magnificent Polynesian head wreath with flowers and greenery, making her stand out among the other candidates. The natural beauty of the hei pae’ore is impressive and elegant and accentuates the beauty of its wearer. With time other species of flowers, such as French Polynesia’s emblematic flower, the renowned tiare Tahiti, began being used to add to the colors and fragrances of these ancestral decorative crowns. The wreaths which are made with a mix of flowers, ferns and leaves are known as the “wild flower wreaths,” or hei taviri in Tahitian, and are made to measure, just like the pandanus wreaths are.

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©catherine guilloux