Marquesan Word of the Day



[pronunciation: ah FAH-now]

Historically, Marquesans didn’t celebrate birthdays. A number of people I interviewed last year did not know how old they were, but could tell me the day and year of their birth right away. The Marquesan for birthday translates literally as “day of birth.”

Piki Vehine

Piki Vehine, a ceremonial site, or me’ae, in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva. Me’ae are large paepae or complexes of paepae once used for ritual activities and sacrifices. Piki Vehine means, literally, “mount woman”…so you can guess what this place was used for. The site was intensively restored for use in cultural festivals in the 1990s, and today it is one of the few tourist attractions in the village.

Te me’ae Piki Vehine i Taiohae, Nuku Hiva. ‘Omua, ua kanea te me’ae me te paepae ke’i, me tau paepae, no te “ceremonies”. Ua ha’aporopa, ua kanea hakaua tenei taha i te ehua 1990. Ua tihe te tau torisi tenei’a no te tiohitina.

Marquesan Quote of the Week

Young Marquesan woman in her 20s, May 2013 in Vaitahu: “For me, personally, paepae* are important–you must respect them. Especially when you hear that your ancestors built them, there’s a story there. And it must last until the end of time–that story must continue; even in the future, paepae must still exist. Because if not, if culture disappears, then everyone will go with their French side, and there won’t be any more Marquesan side; no more legends, no more history, everyone will just be French.”

*Paepae are historic stone structures, the monumental architecture of the ancient Marquesan civilization.

Jeune femme marquisienne dans ses vingtaines, mois de mai 2013 à Vaitahu: “Pour moi, personnellement, un paepae* c’est important–il faut le respecter. Surtout quand tu entends que c’est tes ancetres qui l’ont fait, c’est qu’il y a une histoire a ça. Et il faut que ca dur jusqu’au la fin du temps, que l’histoire continue toujours, meme si c’est dans le futur, il faut que les paepae existent toujours. Parce que si non, si la culture part, bain tout le monde va devenir ce côté français, il n’y a plus du côté marquisien, plus d’histoire, plus de légende, c’est tout le monde côté français.”

*Les paepae sont des structures historiques en pierre, les monuments de l’ancienne civilisation marquisienne.


One of my favorite Marquesan dishes: ko’ehi! Fresh breadfruit paste with coconut milk…mmmm.

Kai o’o au tenei kaikai: te ko’ehi! Te ka’aku me te vai’u e’ehi…myammm.

Ko’ehi is eaten with your fingers. In the Marquesas, it’s polite to eat with your hands!