Flora Devatine: the poet who helped save Tahitian

“Below and beyond
On our ways of sharing,
The contribution of each one of his/her strand of consciousness
The thing to transmit,
The spirit of just memory:
To prune, to add, to renew, to renovate,
To flatten, to extend and to reweave the human mat.”
Flora Devatine, Address (Translated from French. Littérama’ohi No. 5, 2004; Anthologies and collection of poetry, Editions Bruno Doucey, 2011, 2015, 2016)
Flora Aurima Devatine, Writer and Poet, French Polynesia

Polynesian culture, women’s rights and women’s role in the transmission of culture loom large in the life and work of 75-year-old French Polynesian writer and poet Flora Aurima Devatine, who has dedicated her decades-long career to the recognition of a “Polynesian consciousness”.

She has long promoted Polynesian language and culture through her writing and poetry as well as her work, teaching Spanish at a high school and the Tahitian language well as Polynesian poetry at University for close to three decades. In 2017, Flora became director of Te Fare Vana’a, the Tahitian Academy, a cultural institution dedicated to normalise, save and enrich Tahitian language, of which she has been a member since it was founded in 1972.

It is within this cultural context that Flora became the first state delegate for women’s affairs from 1979 to 1984. She has also been a member of many women’s and cultural associations including Soroptimist International Club of Tahiti-Papeete, Women’s Council, Pu O Te Hau Women’s Shelter, and Centre for Women’s and Family Rights.

Ms Devatine has received numerous awards including an honorific diploma in 2002 from the Minister of Culture, President of the Assembly of French Polynesia and President of Women’s Council for her decisive role in the awareness, mobilisation and organisation of the promotion of women, Polynesian culture and literature.

She directed Littérama’ohi, the first Polynesian literary magazine she created in 2002 with six Polynesian authors. She has published poetic collections and numerous articles on women, culture, orality, and writing, including some on indigenous literature and Aboriginal performance, in collaboration with academic researcher Estelle Castro-Koshy.

The poet is now an authority. Not only was she elected president of the Académie Tahitienne, but in June 2017 she was recognized as a major writer in all the French speaking world: Flora was awarded the Heredia Prize, a prestigious recognition of a book of poetry written in French, by the Académie Française for a collection of poetry published in 2016, “Au vent de la piroguière – Tīfaifai”.

“Her work is fuelled by her generosity and humble genius, and has sparked the willingness of many to write on Polynesia and to read Polynesian literature beyond Oceania,” says Estelle Castro-Koshy.

“With Flora Aurima Devatine, Polynesian letters and culture have sailed from France to New Caledonia-Kanaky, from London to Hawaii, from Budapest to Brussels, from Cambridge to San Francisco.”

 

Flora Devatine
Fa’atara d’exhortation (1979)

E a fa’ahotu e
A rohi e te mau tamari’i e
E a fa’ahotu i te ihi tupuna e
A paihi i te rito o TA’AROA e
Tei te maheirava roa e
Te mau ‘aepau a huti marie
A titau i te tahuhu o te ra’i e
E ara roa, e ara tuari’i,
Te ara o te anavaharau e

Make your ancestor’s culture grow
Extirpate the quintessence of TA’AROA
Who’s in his last breath?
Depositories of wisdom
Breathe it slowly
Seek to reach the highest peak
It’s a long way,
A very difficult path
The road to knowledge

 

Flora Aurima Devatine reading “Mémoire”, Paris, March 2013:

Featured image: Flora Devatine in front of young students participating in the Book Fair of Papara, in 2013 (Société des Etudes Océaniennes)
(This portrait of Flora Devatine was first published by the Pacific Community for the 70 Inspiring Women campaign, it is reproduced here with their permission.)

The 70 Inspiring Pacific Women campaign has been produced by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with Australian Aid and Pacific Women. The campaign marks the 70th anniversary of SPC, and leads up to the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Ministers for Women in Suva (Fiji) from 2nd to 5th October 2017.

One thought on “Flora Devatine: the poet who helped save Tahitian

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  2. Rotuma and Its people are very proud of “HANGAT Flora A. Devatine” for Her Great Achievements.Hanisiof ma Alalum.BLESSINGS…

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