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Ancient Raiatea Marae was regional religious center

PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Oct. 15, 2009) – French Polynesia Cultural Heritage Minister Joseph Kaiha is in Paris to promote two French Polynesian sites. The Marquesas Islands and the Taputapuatea marae on the Leeward island of Raiatea could be on UNESCO's World Heritage list by 2013.

Kaiha told reporters the project for the Marquesas Islands shoud be ready by December 2011.

That is when inhabitants from this archipelago located 1,500 km in the North East of Tahiti will organize the Marquesas Festival, a major cultural event.

Kaiha is himself mayor of Ua Pou, one of the main islands in the Marquesas.

The French Polynesian Cultural Heritage Minister and Tahitian Senator Richard Tuheiava met UNESCO officials to discuss this issue.

"This meeting was very important because we managed to gather all the persons necessary to help support our projects", Kaiha said.

He stressed the fact that the Marquesan project is presented by French Polynesia and France while the Taputapuatea project is a regional project including Hawaii, New Zealand and the Cook Islands.

Marae Taputapuatea is a large marae complex on the south eastern coast of Raiatea. The site features in fact a number of marae and many stone structures.

It was once considered to be the religious center of Eastern Polynesia. The marae was already established by 1000 AD with significant expansion after this time.

Tuheiava worked on the Taputapuatea project for several years before he was elected Senator in September 2008.

Sixteen Pacific countries are expected to take part in a workshop organized by UNESCO from November 2 to November 7 on the Leeward island of Maupiti.

Cultural issues should be discussed during the workshop, Tuheiava said.

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