Back - List of Pavilions

French Oceania - Expo Paris 1931

French Oceania at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1931
© Waroline
Architect(s) : Billecoq

Visitors entering the Exhibition through the Porte de Reuilly will see, as soon as they enter, on the right, a construction made of exotic wood, coconut trunks, bamboo, reeds, pandanus leaves and woven racks, it is the Pavilion of the French Establishments of Oceania. The materials come directly from the Pacific islands; it was in May of last year that the liner Antinous brought the coconut trunks, and the City of Verdin, in August, the racks, reeds and bamboos. In October the rest arrived, that is to say more than 6,000 mats woven from pandanus leaves.

In order to preserve the original exotic character of the pavilion, the Commissioner of the participation, Mr. Ducet, insisted that the materials used in the pavilion come from Tahiti itself and be made by the local workforce. And it is a pleasant evocation of the hut of the sweet Rarahu, sung by Pierre Loti, that the architects, Messrs Billecocq father and son, are presenting to us in Vincennes.

The pavilion measures approximately 270 square metres in area, and is almost 10 metres high with a 26-metre lateral façade.

It contains a special exhibition of the products and official and private collections of the French establishments of Oceania, whose government houses 121 islands or islets under our tricolour flag.

The friezes that run along its side galleries and decorate its interior pediments are reproductions of ancient Tahitian tattoos, whose strange and curious designs have fortunately been found.

Two large canvases, painted by the excellent artist Mme Thoinot, decorate the oven bottoms at both ends and represent respectively a marine view of the Tuamotus and a landscape of the interior of Tahiti with indigenous figures.

The entrance staircase is decorated with two Oceanian tikis reproduced from the originals in the Trocadero Museum in Paris.

The main hall features busts or effigies of Bougainville, Admiral Dupetit-Thouars, Dumont d'Urville and other great navigators whose explorations led to the discovery of our Polynesian islands.

In the centre of the pavilion, a small lounge of honour is installed, entirely composed and decorated with the richest French colonial woods by the care of Messrs Sadier and his Sons.

Four luminous dioramas attract the attention of the visitors.

Two of them are installed at the two lateral ends of the pavilion. They represent respectively :
- a view of the port of Papeete,
- a corner of Papetoaï bay, in Mooroa.

A third animated diorama with changing luminosity is due to a brand new conception of the ingenious artist, Mrs. Marguerite Géraud, wife of a former governor of the colony, who collected on site during her long stays in Tahiti, the elements of the "Tuamotu sea bed" at various times of the day, imagined by her, where we see fish, attolls, of such rich and varied colours, moving slowly in the middle of corals, marine plants, and with the help of an invisible electric mechanism, developed by M. Lallement. Thanks to this clever mechanism, Mrs. Géraud was able to restore life to these extraordinary creatures that inhabit the southern seas. It is a marvel to see these colourful fish pass through the luminous waves.

The fourth diorama, composed and installed in its stand by the French Company of Phosphates of Oceania, reproduces the view of its exploitation on the island of Makatea.
The Museum of Papeete has lent the organisers some of the most curious collections from an ethnic and historical point of view. There are also collections of ancient and modern objects and local costumes.

A little further on, six large showcases present pearls and shells at different stages of their evolution?

Finally, a very interesting collection of Marquesan tattoos has been loaned by Dr. Sasportas.

There is also a tourist and hotel section which will make many people want to go on a trip to Thaïti, this land of happiness and dreams.

©Livre D'Or - Exposition Coloniale Internationale - Paris 1931