Memorable Marakei

Just before take of the small airplane cabin looks like a Roman steam bath. The sweat we did not lose in the past ten days, now leaves our body. It does not bother us much. We are focussed on the world outside the stuffy machine of Air Kiribati. We wave one last time at our friends of the island Marakei through the misty windows. Ten days they shared everything with us and we with them. Today we fly back to the main island Tarawa.   Once above Marakei the view has changed for good. We are not, like on the way up, just enchanted by the beauty of nature beneath us. The azure blue lagoon circled by palm trees stays of course a magnificent view. But it is the people who made sure we will never forget Marakei. Although barely visible, we know exactly where the village Raweai is nestled beneath the foliage. Thanks to her residents all kind of places in and around the village have gotten a personal meaning.       We see the ocean and think back to Kaairo the fisherman and Thom together in a rickety single canoe. We see the beach and hear the voice again, of the 80 year old father of Kaairo, Bwanian Taapu, while he sung the old shanty. The palm trees make us long for ‘Coconut Bob’ and his mythical stories about the origins of the island. We see even more green and suspect that it might be the ‘shitty ponds’ of Mrs. Mwaketaake. At many occasions we ate in the maneaba from the bapai roots that she and others had grown. The community house of the Raweai is the only human made structure that is visible from the plane. For us an epic centre of precious memories. We spend many hours while eating, talking, laughing, dancing and singing. While Rawaei slowly disappears in the distance we remember the day before yesterday vividly. The maneaba is literally the beating heart of the village. Rough men hands beat with a thunderous din rhythmic on a hollow wooden box. The rhythm is reinforced with powerful vocals. Ancient folk legends are spit into the maneaba. But that is not all, far from it even. The energetic singing and clapping are no more or less than the accompaniment of three dancers. Completely in trance and full with passion the enchant us with refined movements from head to toe, from wrist to pink. They dance like the frigate bird (the animal in the arms of Kiribati) flies over the ocean. Hours of preparations come to an intense peak. In a awesome book about dance on Kiribati a dancer describes her performance: “There is a kind of ultimate feeling of excitement when the costume touches my skin. It is a kind of exotic feeling that can put any dancer out of control. Sometimes I could hardly control myself when possessed with this kind of inspiration.” (Tony Whincup, Bwai ni Kiribati, 2009).“             Main island Tarawa appears like a green snake on the horizon. Even though Marakei lays now over seventy kilometres behind us, our thoughts lay for the moment there. What will the island look like in thirty years? Life with and in nature is rooted in the DNA of the island residents. Weather fluctuations and possible climate change is compensated by the variety in biodiversity, ancient knowledge and unlimited solidarity. Life looks anno 2012 more than good on Marakei. Before ánd after landing we pray that it will stay this way for future generations. As on Tarawa this life is for many already history. Diederik Veerman  


  1. Kantabu Temanibwebwe

    25 januari 2014

    thanks for da pics and may god bless the people of my sweet lovely island Marakei

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