School and family life, island style: Competing at Tapa Tapa

A dance group prepares to perform at the Tapa Tapa competition. Marquesan children from different islands come together to be judged on how well they sing, dance, and recite legends.

A Marquesan boy performs a traditional dance.

The Tapa Tapa Competition brings together different island families to see their children compete in the art of ancient storytelling.  The kids dress up in their own island's traditional ceremonial attire, sing, dance, and recite legends in Marquesan.  

Forget fumbling around onstage dressed as George Washington, a vegetable, or the ugly duckling in a typically painful school play.  We managed to memorize all 50 States in the Union in alphabetical order for our fourth grade production (which I still win bar bets on to this day by the way), but try memorizing an entire 10 minute monologue that was to be projected at top volume by an ancient warrior, princess, or chief in your culture's native tongue, while dancing around covered in real bird feathers, fruit seeds, and animal bones.  Then add the pressure of representing your island in a competition with many other islands, before you've even reached the stage in life when you do not utter, "Ewwww," at the mention of the opposite sex.

Of course some of the kids were adorably awkward up there on stage, but there were a great few who absolutely blew our minds.  I get goosebumps just talking about it.  

A Marquesan girl performs a traditional dance.

The Tapa Tapa Competition was held in the park along the Taiohae Bay beach.  People set up food stalls, a stage, sound system, and lighting, for this unique and surprisingly-intense evening of entertainment. 

Marquesan children practice their drumming.

Judges score the performances at the Tapa Tapa.

Posted on May 2, 2015 .