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Video clip synopsis – Traditional Polynesian dancing was suppressed by missionaries. It is now an important part of tourism and a means of cultural power.
Year of production - 1983
Duration - 3min 8sec
Tags - beliefs, change and continuity, colonisation, French Polynesia, identity, indigenous cultures, modernisation, self-determination, see all tags


Culture Reborn

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About the Video Clip


Culture Reborn is an excerpt from the documentary A Place of Power in French Polynesia, an episode of the six-part series The Human Face of the Pacific, made in 1983.

A Place of Power in French Polynesia
Tahiti is a rugged, forest-clad South Pacific island, surrounded by coral reefs. Its traditional Polynesian way of life has been swamped over the years by foreign influences, particularly that of France. However, the long-awaited re-emergence of traditional culture is the focus of this documentary.

The Human Face of the Pacific
This series is composed of six documentaries covering six Pacific nations and territories, giving a wide-ranging view of contemporary Pacific society. It shows the variety of ways of life from subsistence to urbanisation and the challenges from outside to what has been called ‘the Pacific way’.

A Film Australia production in association with Cinema Enterprises.

Curriculum Focus


This Digital Resource can be used to achieve the following Outcomes:

H1 explains the interaction between persons, societies, cultures and environments across time
H3 accounts for cultural diversity and commonality within societies and cultures
H4 evaluates continuity and change and assesses social futures and strategies for change and the implications for societies and cultures
H10 communicates information, ideas and issues using appropriate written, oral and graphic forms

This Digital Resource gives students the opportunity to learn about the fundamental concepts of the course and about key concepts such as continuity, change, values, tradition, westernisation, beliefs, identity, modernisation and empowerment.

Students can explore continuity and change through examination of the following questions in respect to Tahiti:

  • is all change necessarily progress in Tahiti?
  • are westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation inevitable in Tahiti?

Students can also come to an understanding of continuity and change through:

  • identifying the nature of social and cultural continuity and change
  • examining the impact of continuity and change upon the lives of people in the micro and macro worlds
  • examining the role of power and authority in social and cultural continuity
This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


In 1843, France established a protectorate over Tahiti and the neighbouring island of Moorea and in 1880 it extended its rule to the remaining island groups. In 1957 the area became known as the overseas territory of French Polynesia. Today the Territory of French Polynesia is a self-governing overseas county of France. It consists of 118 islands in five main groups in the South Pacific. The capital is Papeete on the island of Tahiti. Tahiti is still heavily reliant economically on France and heavily influenced by French language and culture.

Many aspects of Tahitian traditional culture were lost under French colonial rule. European missionaries discouraged or banned traditional music and dance, the writing of Ma’ohi language was limited and the language of government was French. Generally many aspects of Tahiti’s Polynesian way of life were suppressed under French Colonial rule.

From the 1980s there has been a re-emergence of dancing and other traditional practices in Tahiti as part of a strengthening of Polynesian identity. The revival of customs is always complex and certain aspects of culture were favoured over others. This cultural revival was influenced by other independence movements in the Pacific as well as local disaffection with the French nuclear industry.

In this video clip Oliver Howes, the producer and director of the documentary A Place of Power in French Polynesia, talks about his belief that the call for political independence in Tahiti is linked to the re-emergence and strengthening of its cultural identity.

Classroom Activities

  1. Identify forces for both continuity and change in Tahiti.
    1. In what ways were/are a strengthening of Polynesian cultural identity and notions of political independence linked?
    2. What functions do Polynesian dance and festivals like the Turiai festival play for individuals like the dancer Moivea, as well as for the wider Tahitian society?
  2. What evidence of acculturation of French culture by Tahitians is in the clip?
    1. In the video clip – strong pressures of westernisation are mentioned. How has westernisation impacted on life in Tahiti?
  3. How important are individuals like Henri Hiro in the process of cultural change or continuity?

Further Resources


Go to Pacific Stories Learning for Interactive Compass Map with facts about the Pacific region.

For interview transcripts, books and references for this Digital Resource go to Pacific Stories, choose A Place of Power in French Polynesia, select INDEX, and go to MORE INFORMATION.