I've always been fascinated by the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, the most remote islands on Earth, 5,434 km from the nearest continent. Then the pandemic. The medical journalist in me woke up. How did Paradise fare? When French Polynesia re-opened after lockdown, with the help of the cheapest flights this century I went to find out.
The people I met didn't want to talk about the pandemic. C'est fini. It's done. Instead, I realised my hosts were themselves the story. The "Faces of Paradise" exhibition paid tribute to the resilience of the French Polynesians, the most remote people on Earth, once more coping with a disease inflicted on them by the wider world.
"Faces of Paradise" ran in Toronto for the month of February, 2023.
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Arrival of the Aranui 5 at Nuku Hiva. This combo freighter and cruise ship is the only commercial sailing between Tahiti and the Marquesas, the remotest islands on Earth. Need a washing machine? The Aranui 5, two weeks.
On Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, the most remote islands on Earth, there is a military training academy. Expecting Putin anytime soon? I asked. Non, ces bébés soldat partent en France. These 'baby soldiers' are headed for France. I walked past this group drilling one morning singing a Marquesan welcome song. I was waved on. Pas de photo, pas de vidéo! No-one said anything about a tape recorder.
Marquesan artists performing a traditional war dance in a resort in Tahiti. After losing 98% of their population after Europeans arrived, the Marquesans have meticulously reconstructed traditional tattoos, dances, music and stories using the only records available – ironically those of the European explorers.