Festival Ono'u: A Meeting of Colours
Edouard Pack from our editing team writes about an important festival happening in Tahiti this month and what it means to him.
SETH and HTJ
I didn’t grow up in a particularly cultured household- we didn’t go to museums or exhibitions every weekend nor attend the opera or theatre on Friday nights. But art does exist around us, and learning how to find it and appreciate it under its different forms is enhancing and satisfying to me. Through the tahitian festival Ono’u, I had the chance to discover street art while seeing the face of Papeete being modified progressively year after year.
The name of the festival, "ONO'U", is inspired by the fusion of the two Tahitian words "ONO" (action of joining one thing to another) and "U" (colors) to express the action of connecting a color to another and "the meeting of colors" in Tahiti through the art of graffiti.
The festival was created in 2014 by Sarah Roopinia, a young Tahitian entrepreneur who discovered Street Art while studying in Paris and Berlin. After four editions and dozens of international and local graffiti artists, Ono'u has become an important event in the world of graffiti. It is also a popular festival that has helped change the somewhat sad face of Papeete, turning the city into an open-air art gallery.
Since 2014, the festival has attracted numerous artists each year, but also a charming crowd; gathering workers stopping by during their break, students coming after school, or simple passerbys. During those ten yearly days of reshaping, the festival has often turned into a seeking game for my friends and I, walking through the city to witness the new pieces that pop up around corners, on the shop walls, or near our high school.
At a first glance, we used to gaze these ten meter high walls with artists lifted in front drawing some abstracts forms. But as days went by, the advancing street art started to take shape, the pieces of the puzzle coming together until the final work is completed. The initiative of the festival was very controversial at the beginning, with the local population being afraid of the normalisation of graffitis that would allow small “gangs” and youngsters to draw freely wherever they feel like.
But one of the announced objectives of Ono'u? To bring a form of well-being, joy and poetry into the everyday lives of Polynesians through art- a gentle escape that takes them out of their sometimes dull immediate environment and routine.
The challenge for the 6th edition of Ono’u, specially created for social housing in partnership with the Polynesian Office of the Habitat, is to transform one thousand square meters into works of art in less than 10 days. Four social residences are involved in this operation which takes place from October 15th to 25th 2019 and will allow the transformation of 7 large social housing wall façades with a selection of 9 international and local artists.
Students residence “Paraita”, by OKUDA & RIVAL
Comparing the festival Ono’u to “un été au Havre”, I am thrilled of the ephemerality of both events, attracting people because of their limited presence, but at the same time leaving the remaining works of past editions which continue to adorn the cities, giving a charm to them.
On the occasion of the celebration of Le Havre's 500th anniversary in 2017, Jace, a Le Havre-borned street artist called on Thai artist Alex Face to create this collaborative work. The piquant meeting of two emblematic characters of street art, the gouzou and the famous childish character in the costume of rabbit and the third eye.
During the floods in Tahiti on January 22th 2017, one of the graffitis has been photographed flooded, gaining a mystical yet realistic perspective, giving life to the Va’a (Polynesian canoe, ndlr) and the Vahine who navigates it.
The festival Ono’u is first and foremost a place of sharing colorful international artistic exchanges, and more importantly, a place of opening on contemporary urban art and culture in the heart of the South Pacific. I like to think that street art is crystalizing the essence of art, adding a more accessible aspect to it by mixing them with the architecture of the city.