The main school in Gambier is located right on the water overlooking the bay. There is an elementary school, intermediate school, and a trade school which includes an agriculture and carving school. Students usually attend “high school” in Tahiti. I use quotation marks because the school breakdown is very different than what I am used to in the states. The school is called College St Raphael Rikitea.
We met the carving school teacher, Hefara at our New Years Eve party. He has since become a frequent friend of ours as we visit Rikitea. He invited us to tour the carving school. The first thing I noticed were the beautiful views of the bay from every building! I imagine it is difficult to learn while being surround by such beauty.
The grounds are impeccably maintained with a huge grassy area between all of the buildings. There are a few old relic structures on the grounds as well (see bottom left photo and middle right photo).
Inside the Carving School
Inside the carving school, I was shocked at how many work stations! They had 12 stations for carving oyster shells and another 12 stations for miscellaneous carving (wood or special projects).
They also had about 4 grinding stations with 2 grinders each (top photo), 4 grind/buff stations with 2 stations each, and 4 buffing stations with 2 stations each (bottom photo). They use these machines to clean and buff the oyster shells, wood, pearls, etc…
There were bags and bags of oyster shells, pearls, shells, and wood all over the building. Ready and waiting to be made into the next master piece.
Teaching the Trade
We arrived just before lunch so the students seemed more interested in us than finishing their work. We were able to watch 2 students carve oyster shells, one student carve a pearl, and one student buffing a piece.
One very creative student was carving eye glass frames! Can you imagine how spectacular that would be to own a pair?
Another super creative student was creating a dream catcher! I love this idea! She had already made the large circle with carved oyster shells on the exterior and two small circles with carved oyster shells.
The school had beautiful carved wood everywhere. A giant, life size tiki stood at the door, the Gambier archipelago (lower photo) and of course Christ (it is a Catholic school).
Huge displays held many treasures that were for sale. Everything from jewelry (necklaces, ear rings, bracelets), oyster shells, key chains, and more. Each item is a unique piece of art
It is amazing to see what they can do with the oyster shells. They made these beautiful clocks that were surrounded by carved oyster shells. In addition to the stunning boxes for your most prized possessions. The each sparkled when the light hit them creating a rainbow of colors.
Art or Jewelry?
Of course, they had many carved oyster shells and a few super unique pieces including the swimming dolphin (top left photo), swimming manta rays (bottom left) and a beautiful gold painted headshot of Christ (top right).
Intricately carved sets of jewelry sets.
They had striking necklace and ear ring sets. The photo on the right has hand carved wood and oyster shell!
Hefara wanted me to experience the joy of wearing one of their stunning necklaces! I swear I felt powerful the moment it touched my skin. I felt like a queen and could not stop smiling! It was stunning. Of course, it only cost 80000xpf ($800)!
I know this necklace was featured in the above collage, but I thought it deserved its own photo because it is so incredibly beautiful. The student carved wood into the oyster shell on the left of the necklace and into the drop of the earrings! In addition to the pearls and pearl shells near the top of the necklace! It is 80000xpf or $800.
It was a fabulous opportunity to see the young generation learning the traditions of the island. I feel blessed for having the chance to see all of their beautiful work.
Events from this blog post occurred on 2 February 20201. Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.