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The manual dexterity of the craftsmen is extremely prolific, as the many exhibitions that are organised all year in each archipelago show.

The art of plaiting is found in various forms such as hats, bags baskets, mats etc. The women from the Austral Islands are noted as experts of this discipline that uses vegetal fibres from the screw pine, the coconut or the reed or a'eho.

Tout l'artisanat du bois et des tissus en Polynésie française
© Philippe BACCHET

The taste for observing and loving nature is revived in the sumptuous tifaifai or bed covers with hand-sewn vegetal or ethnic motifs. The enthusiasm of the women for this typical element of the decoration of fares or Polynesian homes is evidence of real creativity and has given rise to the organisation of an annual show of tifaifai. Artistic expression also finds an outlet in woodwork, the prerogative of the men.

They sculpt, according to their inspiration, and according to ancestral, diagrammatic or symbolic patterns in precious wood: tou or local palisander, miro or rosewood. The Marquesans excel in this domain and produce superb pieces of work, spears, puzzles and umete which are fruit bowls in which special meals can be served.

Certain craftsmen sometimes resort to volcanic rock, corals and even bones to fashion a thousand decorations and useful items such as penu or pestles. Finally the revival of mother of pearl really shows the iridescent effects of the polished insides of shells. Their ever-changing, fascinating shades have made them choice decorative items to beautify dance costumes or make sparkling jewels.