Just after nine in the morning. In Mapuru a Paraita, the Papeete market, the frenzy is absolute.
We see a folkloric crowd settling between the fruit stands and making it difficult for customers to circulate. Inside, the sound installation echoes its terrible quality.
Even so, an improvised DJ plays the Polynesian hits of the moment as background sound for the voiceover.
The Mahus-filled Misses Contest from the Mapuru to Paraita Market
A local miss contest takes place. Competitors emerge surrounded by older representatives from their parts of the city and the rest of Tahiti.
They wear typical dresses full of color, frills and other flashy accessories. They are also adorned with wreaths, wreaths and tiaras of plumerias, gardenias, hibiscus or orchids.
Depending on the position of some of these flowers in the ears, they communicate their marital status and their availability in love. At first glance, they all look like women. Appearances deceive. They cover up the presence of some mahu. The men-women of Tahiti.
The European Discovery of the Polynesian Social Phenomenon Mahu
William Bligh, the master of the famous “Bounty” and the even more reputed captain James Cook were among the first Europeans to come across them and report them in amazement.
They then described their social reality, in part, similar to the current one: “They are different boys who receive, from childhood, an education that is different from that of young people. warriors … For them, there is no war or hunting.
They shave and cross dress. When they become adults, they eat apart from the men, sing and dance with the women and often become domestic servants of the nobility…”
During their Tahitian retreat, Paul Gauguin was enchanted by their gentle eccentricity and painted them with renewed pleasure.
Still in the historical field, two explanations for the existence and acceptance of the mahu coexist.
One says that parents began to regard and treat them as girls as soon as they noticed some unexpected hint of femininity.
The other theory is that when families had too many boys, they started treating one of the youngest as a girl. Thus, they guarantee the necessary help in the read. from home. The third-born was, by habit, the target of the experiment.
Nowadays, the first practice is still current.
Unsurprisingly, the Mahu prefer to be approached in the feminine, something the Tahitian nation has long come to respect and even admire.
The Crucial Role of the Mahu in Polynesian Reality
As in so many other cases, Danu Heuea's existence was subject to her father's implicit disapproval.
Today, despite the suffering of her youth, this well-preserved fifty-year-old woman, with skin gilded by the tropical sun, disdains and fights discrimination. Danu plays a starring role in the miss contest and introduces and describes the contestants.
Once, she hosted a TV show called “We Women”. On normal days, she is responsible for communication with the city council of Papeete.
So many others occupy essential places in companies or organizations. They are waiters, cooks or receptionists. Or they have gained positions of responsibility in public relations at hotels and travel agencies.
They are also musicians and choreographers, some highly regarded as Coco HotaHota and Tonio who lead Polynesian dance groups idolized on the islands.
In the image of Danu, most mahu are fully aware of being "effeminate" in male physiques.
They are proud of their intermediary role between male brutality and the fragrant sweetness of women, whom they seek to imitate in everything.
The Mahu's Disdain for the Parallel Noun Rae Rae
Older people do not particularly like to be confused with the Rae-Rae, the sexually “predatory” transvestites who resort to prostitution in the red district of Papeete to finance their marginal stocks.
To his chagrin, since 1960 – when the new word came up – the two terms have intersected. Across French Polynesia, the term rae-rae became popular. Now, it defines transvestites in general, whether or not they are operated on.
The medical “retouches” and the surgery proved to be real steps towards a dream that almost all the mahu share: that of becoming real women. It is common to opt for hormonal treatments that give them the much-desired breasts, no matter how small.
The last operation, this one, is almost always too expensive. It is not done in Tahiti, which makes a ruinous trip to the United States.
In addition to the physical sex change, your anxiety is also about a relationship. The ordinary mahu finds himself aspiring to life with a man.
This, even though, in French Polynesia, the missionaries of the Old World have written and sealed the natural order of things. Marriage between mahu and men is considered a Catholic (the word is originally Polynesian) taboo against which the mahu rarely rebel.
The End of the Misses Contest and Elvis Rockos' Romanticism
At the Mapuru a Paraita market, the misses contest continues, animated to drum and jambé rhythms played by muscular and tattooed Polynesian males that make both maidens and mahu sigh.
They are inexhaustible sources of testosterone, perfect tan sculptures shaped by protein nutrition, many hours of training on canoes and other toning exercises. Everything that nature forgot to grant to the mahu, or chose not to.
At the end of the event, the market soothes. Part of the organizers take refuge in a bar on the top floor where a charming singer named Rockos has been singing Elvis hits for some time.
Sitting near the stage, several mahu share a light snack of raw fish with coconut milk as they follow the melodies.
It follows "Love Me Tender","Suspicious Minds"and "Heartbreak hotel” that arouse admiration and more sighs.
When romanticism gives way to the frenetic Rock 'n' Roll of “All Shook Up” the three friends, all dressed in blue and white (two of their identical outfits), take refuge on the adjoining veranda.
There they are to contemplate the last movements of the Papeete market. After a few minutes, two of them return to the show.
The third, mahu, prefers isolation and reflection, as if re-examining whether her life as a woman in a quasi-woman body continues to make sense to her.