Touring some of the French Polynesian Islands provided insight into the geography of the place and its culture, but as always, I am more interested in the people from foreign lands. In our previous three articles in this series, part 1; Part 2; Part 3, I focused on the exotic Polynesian women.
But what about the men? With tanned, smooth clear skin, they are every much as exotic as the women. You can’t help noticing their skin because similar to the women, some wear the pareu—a wraparound rectangular cloth—worn mainly around the waist, thus exposing their upper bodies and parts of their legs. More flesh is exposed when some step out in loin cloths only (I will cover this in another article).
Pareu or pareo is the French Polynesian word for a wraparound skirt worn by many women in the South Pacific Islands. It is related to the sarong. Originally, women wore the pareu, men wore loincloths. Today pareu applies to any piece of cloth worm by either male or female. Pareus are made from some of the most beautify, and colourful materials.
Tie-dye materials are popular in the Polynesian Islands, and I had the pleasure of watching a native woman transform a plain piece of cloth into a colourful one before my eyes. Many pareus are made from tie-dye materials.
The pareu is very versatile and can be worn in several different ways. One of the exotic ladies of Moorea created several outfits when she demonstrated some of the ways this simple rectangular piece of cloth can be worn. The fascinating thing about the creations is that needle and thread and pins were not required.
Christopher Columbus is said to have described Jamaica (the place where I grew up) as the “Land of wood and water,” suggesting it is lush and green with refreshing rivers and blue seas. It certainly is. But putting all biases aside, there are some other islands that I have visited which are more beautiful with the bluest, clearest seas—the French Polynesian Islands. Looking at the ocean in Boro Boro and Moorea, the beauty took by breath away.
Still, while I basked in the sun and soaked up the crystal clear turquoise seas of many shades, the people attracted me the most. As I continued my exploration of these islands, I attended a show at the Tiki Village Theatre in Moorea. In one of the performances, two virile-looking Polynesian men entered the theatre carrying a large, closed oyster shell. The audience held its breath. What on earth is in that thing? Maybe some prehistoric creature we have never heard about! The men placed the shell on the ground in the centre of the theatre. They tapped it. The shell slowly opened. Out stepped—not a prehistoric creature—a most exotic French Polynesian woman. Applause.
The word exotic conjures up vivid images of aura, beauty, culture, and colour; we were witnessing these feelings as we looked on. I asked myself, is it any wonder that Gauguin did not want to leave this paradise?
As mentioned in our part 1 of this series of articles, the Polynesian women do not require makeup—eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, base, and anything false are unnecessary; they are simply, naturally beautiful, simply exotic.
Anthony Bourdain would probably say that the most interesting thing about roving all over the world is the exotic food—and maybe he should, after all he is a chef; for me it is the people.
The word exotic conjures up vivid images of aura, beauty, culture, colour, and different perspectives. One can employ many adjectives to describe the native people of the Polynesian Islands, but no word is quite fitting as exotic. I found these Islands populated with interesting, exotic women and men.
French Polynesia is composed of 118-130 islands (according to World Atlas and Encyclopedia Britannica) and stretches over more than 2,000 kilometres in the South Pacific Ocean. Divided into five groups of islands, The Society Islands are the most populous, and best known. They include Boro Boro, Moorea, and Tahiti. These islands are part of an overseas territory of France, originally claimed in 1843.
For the women of these islands makeup is unnecessary—eye shadow, lipstick, mascara, base or powder is not required; they are simply, naturally beautiful. But exoticism can pull you in, and we see this with the famous artist, Paul Gauguin. He travelled to Tahiti to discover the primitive and purity in Polynesian life and to get away from modern France.
Spellbound by both the beauty of the islands and the exoticism of the women, Gauguin spent several years there living with and among the Polynesians. Several of his paintings depict partially nude Polynesian women.
Below: This exotic woman of Moorea welcomes us to the Tiki Village Theatre.
Sorry, lady readers, you’ll have to wait for my next Theme Day series to see some equally exotic men! It will be well worth waiting for.