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BSA Images Of The Week: 06.10.18  X ONO’U Tahiti Festival Special

BSA Images Of The Week: 06.10.18 X ONO’U Tahiti Festival Special


Hello from French Polynesia! All week we have been hopping around the islands from Papeete to Raiatea and now in Bora Bora. Celebrating its 5th anniversary/birthday last night at the huge community street party with founders Sarah Roopina and Jean Ozonder and with this years ONO’U festival artists slamming walls like crazy here  – you can see that hard work pays off sometimes.

Grassroots, not overly commercial, inclusive, responsive to the neighbors, high quality artworks – its a solid, even golden mix. Also Sarah’s parents are always happy to pitch in, whether it is pushing a broom or making lunch for everyone at home in their kitchen and bringing it to the work site to make sure that everyone eats. It is touches of warmth like this which reminds you that in many ways this scene that started in the street is as much about community as it is self expression.

For BSA readers who are just catching up with ONO’U we thought we’d use Images of the Week as an ONO’U Greatest Hits collection today. Most of these have never before published on BSA from the four previous editions. We took winding streets, back alleys, roundabouts, promenades, rooftops, abandoned lots and just about any place we could enter alongside Martha Cooper and had a blast for three days finding these walls again. Enjoy and Māuruuru roa!

DalEast. ONO’U Tahiti 2015 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Seth . HJT. ONO’U Tahiti 2015. Papeete. In 2016 this particular wall was chosen by the French Polynesia Postal Service as a stamp. We wrote about it HERE. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Suiko. ONO’U Tahiti 2014 / Papeete. Roosters, hens and chicks run wild on the streets of many towns in French Polynesia. We haven’t figured out who feeds them, or how they survive, but they seem to roam free of owners and masters. One can hear the roosters making their distinctive call (here is what they sound like) every morning – sometimes before you are fully aware that the new day has begun. It is also not unusual to see a mother hen with her chicks crossing the roads at their leisure, sometimes stopping traffic. We of course stop for them. Always. Lore has it that there are big mean centipedes in the archipelagos and that the chickens eat them. See they earn their keep balancing the natural population of insects, besides being very effective alarms clocks. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Leon Keer’s anamorphic Street Art, literally on the street, creates a mind-bending illusion with perspective. ONO’U Tahiti 2016 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

DalEast. ONO’U Tahiti 2015 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mast’s tribute to the NYC Subway creates a new faux subway stop that is roughly 6,300 miles (10,103 km) from New York. ONO’U Tahiti 2016 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

INTI. ONO’U Tahiti 2014 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

MadC. ONO’U Tahiti 2014 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

FinDac. ONO’U Tahiti 2017 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

KOBRA. ONO’U Tahiti 2017 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

PEETA. ONO’U Tahiti 2016 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Marko93. ONO’U Tahiti 2017 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Besok. ONO’U Tahiti 2014 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Charles & Janine Williams. The Ōma’o is a bird from the island of Hawaii is placed at the highest risk of extinction thus the “Critically Endangerd” or CR designation.  ONO’U Tahiti 2016 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Abuz . HTJ . JUPS. ONO’U Tahiti 2016 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA. ONO’U Tahiti 2015 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Askew . Sofles. ONO’U Tahiti 2015 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Inspired by the Polynesian legend of “The Coconut Tree” the mural has to do with an eel’s head, a forgetful young girl and the birth of the coconut tree:  

“The coconut tree is one of the most common trees in The Islands Of Tahiti. The Polynesians always tell a legend about its creation… The coconut tree legend…

A long time ago, a young girl called Hina was of real beauty due to her sun kissed skin and silky hair. She was meant to marry the prince of eels. Frightened by the physique of her suitor, who had a gigantic body and an enormous head, Hina ran away and took refuge in the house of the fishing God – Hiro.

The latter was dazzled by the beauty of Hina and touched by her history, so he took one of the young woman’s hairs and with it fished the approaching eel. Hiro cut up the prince of eels and wrapped his head in leaves. Before dying, the eel said to Hina: “of all the Men who hate me, including you Hina, you will one day kiss me to thank me. I will die, but my prediction is eternal.”.

Hiro entrusted the head of the eel to Hina and then advised her:

Hina, girl of beauty, you can return to your family and there, you will destroy this head. But throughout your journey do not put it on the ground because then the curse of the eel will come true.’

On her way back, the beautiful young woman and her followers who accompanied her, became tired and decided to take a bath in the river, forgetting the warning of the God Hiro. The eel’s head which had been put on the ground penetrated the earth, and from it a large tree was born, with a long trunk just like an immense eel, and with foliage similar to hair; the coconut tree had just been born.

Hina was then condemned by the Gods to remain close to this river because the tree had become taboo… Life went on until the day when a terrible dryness struck the lands and during which only the coconut resisted the sun. Thus, in spite of the God’s prohibition to touch this tree, men picked its fruit full of clear and nutritive water. Each fruit was marked with 3 dark spots laid out like two eyes and a mouth on which the men put their lips in order to drink the coconut water…. Hina did the same thing ….. And the prophecy of the prince of eels had just come true.”

Askew . Sofles. ONO’U Tahiti 2015 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faith XLVII. ONO’U Tahiti 2015 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Dabs & Myla . Kems. ONO’U Tahiti 2014 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Dabs & Myla . Pose. ONO’U Tahiti 2015 / Papeete. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Street Art and Murals Get a Tahitian Post Office Stamp of Approval

Street Art and Murals Get a Tahitian Post Office Stamp of Approval

A new postal stamp in French Polynesia highlights a mural at the “ONO’U” festival in Tahiti, a first for the multi-island country as well as the French Street Artist SETH and his local Tahitian collaborator, HTJ.

Introduced in New York last week at the decennial World Stamp Show, an eight-day stamp extravaganza visited by a quarter million people, the new 140 CFP stamp depicts his mural at the 2015 “ONO’U” festival, as shot by photographer Martha Cooper.


French Street Artist SETH mural for ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival in Tahiti, French Polynesia in 2015 was selected by the country’s Postal Service for their new Philatelic Stamp issued in time to represent French Polynesia at the World Stamp Show in New York City this year. SETH was assited on this mural by HTJ. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The 6-story painting depicts a sleeping French Polynesian girl wrapped in a traditional pareo dress that also morphs into the traditional bed covering called a tifaifai. “To design the patterns he collaborated with a local artist, HTJ, “ says ONO’U co-founder Sarah Roopinia,“and Seth conceptualized the girl sleeping, protected under the traditional patterns. It’s like a guardian protecting her with her culture and also she’s also representing dreaming about the future of French Polynesia.”

The white cut-out forms on the intense rouge background have propelled the design to stardom among ONO’U’s social media followers and when the postal service approached organizers to make a commemorative stamp of the 2-year old mural festival in downtown Papeete, Roopinia and her co-founder Jean Ozonder jumped at the chance. “what we liked with this production was having the opportunity to broaden the impact of street art and to have more people be aware of it,” she says. “To us the idea of a postal stamp was an original initiative and a way to bring this art into an area where you would not expect to find it.”


SETH. ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival. Tahiti, French Polynesia. 2015. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Looking at the patterns in the bedspread you may also see more than the folklore forms of typical plant leaves and the Tiaré flower that many wear tucked behind an ear in archetypical portraits however. You also may recognize a symbol for radiation near the girls back and the form of a an atomic mushroom cloud near her bended knees, both referencing the approximately 175 nuclear tests that France did on the island of Moruroa from roughly 1966 to 1996, tests which The Gaurdian now says ‘showered vast area(s) of Polynesia with radioactivity‘.

By inclusion of these symbols with more traditional symbols in the new piece one is reminded of the inclusion of historical disasters traditionally in folk art ranging from pottery to quilting. Since we began making art we have been storytelling about natural disasters, man-made disasters, wars, political upheavals, societal shifts, milestone events and religious practices.


HTJ assists SETH with the mural’s background motif. ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival. Tahiti, French Polynesia. 2015. (photo © Martha Cooper)

As Street Art influenced murals have gained a wider audience across the world and certain works and artists are highly celebrated, there have been other issues of official stamps in recent years including works from Invader, Shepard Fairey, C215, Rero, Vhils, Ludo, and Mis Tic. The presidents of France and Singapore released a dual “Street Art” stamp a year ago and a recent Polish stamp depicts a 4 story wall by Polish painter Natalia Rak in Białystok, Poland of a young girl in traditional Polish dress who is watering a tree.

The “ONO’U” festival is now readying for its third edition and Ms. Roopinia was in New York with Mr. Ozonder to check out the current Street Art scene, the Coney Art Walls, the Governors Ball concerts and to share their new stamp with the thousands of people trekking by at the stamp exhibition. Roopinia tells us that the hugely successful festival draws top names for exhibition and competition from both the Street Art and graffiti world, but initially the mayor of Papeete, landlords, and the local businesses were rather hesitant, as were Street Artists who had not considered going to a place where there was not a large graffiti or Street Art scene to speak of.



SETH. ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival. Tahiti, French Polynesia. 2015. (photo © Martha Cooper)

“The challenge that we had was convincing the best street artists in the world to come to a ‘lost paradise’ to paint gigantic walls right in the center of the city. For a whole year we were working on finding walls, convincing the owners. Basically for the first six months no one was willing to give us their walls because they thought that it was all going to be horrible – so convincing the population was difficult,” she says.

“I could feel that some of the politicians were not very happy that we were going to do this in the beginning because they didn’t understand exactly that a small team could do such great things with artists,” she says, but the response of locals and businesses was overwhelmingly good, and word of the festival spread among artists, not least because most of their costs are covered and, by the way, they are painting in Tahiti after all.



SETH. ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival. Tahiti, French Polynesia. 2015. (photo © Martha Cooper)

“The second year the volume was really incredible,” says Jean of the interest that was piqued and the good reviews that went out among artists. “So many guys wanted to be invited to be a guest or to make a wall and we said ‘We can’t invite everybody because there is a budget.’

And quite a substantial budget it is. The partners say they have to raise over €300,000 a year and “80% of the festival is funded by private partners and sponsors,” including brand names like Nissan, Perrier, and Montana paints. The remaining 20% is funded by the city and the Ministry of Tourism.


SETH. ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival. Tahiti, French Polynesia. 2015. (photo © Martha Cooper)

“The festival is always about two things,” says Roopinia, “There are “the main walls” which are by larger names like Seth or Kobra that are right in the center of the city you can walk from one wall to the other, making a very beautiful art  promenade or city walk. At the same time that this is happening there’s a contest that invites mostly graffiti artists – in the rules it’s only aerosol and there are no stencils – we really try to keep it strictly graffiti.”

Considering they already have a stamp and cruises are now dropping off visitors to walk through the streets and discover murals, it looks like ONO’U is putting Tahiti on the map for international street mural fans. “There is a general enthusiasm,” says Roopinia of people not just in Tahiti but across many of the 118 islands of French Polynesia. “So the festival is taking place on Tahiti and in Pepeete (the capital) where most people live but the impact is also through the TV, the Internet, and on the social media. But also in the outer islands they were flying to come in to see the walls and talk to the artists during the festival. Everybody is out walking in the streets talking with the artists, taking pictures.”


HTJ assists SETH with the mural’s background motif. ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival. Tahiti, French Polynesia. 2015. (photo © Martha Cooper)


SETH . HTJ. ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival. Tahiti, French Polynesia. 2015. (photo © Martha Cooper)


SETH. ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival. Tahiti, French Polynesia. 2015. (photo © Martha Cooper)


SETH and HTJ’s mural for ONO’U Street Art and Graffiti Festival in Tahiti, French Polynesia and the Philatelic Stamp on a post marked envelope. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


The full sheet of stamps. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Click HERE to learn more about ONO’U Tahiti Festival. Graffiti and Street Art. Tahiti, French Polynesia.

Our very special thanks to photographer Martha Cooper for sharing her photos with BSA readers.



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This article is also published on The Huffington Post




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