Tahitian Black Pearl
Teva Sylvain, a life dedicated to beauty.
|The baby born in Tahiti in 1954 seemed unable to be cured of eczema and the asthma that choked him. In the field of allergies, the doctors of that period knew very little, and it appeared that the little boy's days were truly numbered. Teva's mother, in an effort to save her infant, finally agreed to entrust him to a Tahitian woman who begged to be allowed to treat the ailing child. The woman claimed to have an extensive knowledge of "raau Tahiti", the traditional Tahitian medicine, and that it would bring the boy back to perfect health. It was thus that the Vaitoare family, originally of Arahoho and Tiarei, thanks to the ancestral Polynesian medicines and the use of certain medicinal plants (particularly the nono) managed to bring life and health to the baby. At the age of five years, he was in good physical condition and was returned to his parents at their home in Pirae. The blonde little boy was something of a curiosity, as he spoke only Tahitian, a delight to his parents and the other children in the neighborhood.|
|At Pirae, he learned to swim and developed an intimate acquaintance with the sea. In spite of his young age, he enjoyed a certain emancipation in that his mother never forbade him to absent himself from the family home, even for a matter of several days. It was thus that he was adopted for a second time, on this occasion by the family of Hiro Tefaarere. This family's house was located just across the lane that led to the broad black sand beach of Taaone.|
His education at the parochial school of the Brothers of Ploermel was interrupted in 1967, at the age of 13 years. In effect, Teva played a major role in the serial produced by his father for French television. This serial of 13 episodes, each of 26 minutes' duration, was filmed for French juvenile audiences. The story line of the film, entitled "Teva in Operation Gauguin", was about a Gauguin painting, an inheritance that the son of a French naval commander who had done a tour of duty in Tahiti was to recover. Teva and his pals intervene in a face-off with Damocles, the villain of the piece, who did all possible to put a hand on the last painting of the famous artist of the tropics, finally found again. It was on this occasion that Teva made his first steps into the world of photography. All the family participated in the many tasks necessary to the realization of the serial. Principal actor in the film, Teva also took care of the electricity and lighting. No less than two years were necessary to finish the shooting of this serial. Finally, it was broadcast, inaugurating at the same time the advent of color to the screens of French television. It was in 1970.
In 1972, already a champion water skier, he developed a passion, like Icarus, for anything that flew. After having recovered the remains of a flying wing, and, surrounded by a collection of slightly crazy pals -- Willy, Teiki, Michel, Patrick, he devoted himself to all the high risk activities of this new sport. He founded the "Manureva Club", currently presided by Patrick Ancel.
In 1973, back in the islands after having performed a portion of his military service in France, he abandoned his father's darkroom to engage in the business of organizing inter island voyages and trading. He leased a 60 foot sailing vessel (the "Terautahi") for the occasion. These voyages were self financed through a commerce in coconut crabs and lobsters, bought in Rangiroa and Makatea and sold in Tahiti. The vessel made monthly rotations through the islands, Teva found the business fabulous, of course, but too much of a grind. Naturally, he came back to photography.
In 1974, he set himself up as a photographer in Papeete, specializing in the difficult art of portraiture, and began to crisscross through the schools of Tahiti. He photographed endlessly the children of the island. Two years later, he created the company "Pacific Promotion Tahiti" in which his father became a shareholder, along with the Martin brothers. From this time, it was Teva's ambition to conquer the region, photographically. His first series of post cards, all of his own creation, was distributed in the New Hebrides, now known as Vanuatu. From there, he ventured farther afield: to New Caledonia, American Samoa, Hawaii, Cooper Mountain, to the Caribbean islands (Bahamas, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy...) and, a little later, Paris. In all these many destinations can be found the post cards of Pacific Promotion Tahiti.
But Teva is not at work 24 hours out of 24 hours. He is also the head of a happy family. His spouse, Marie-Jo, born in Corsica, another island so rightfully known as the "isle of beauty", has presented him with three delightful children, Moana in 1988, Vatea in 1989 and Vaima in 1997. They have joined Revalani, Kito and Taea, the eldest of these three married to Benji Mihimana. She is the mother of Teva's first "mootua", little Manutea, thus making Teva a very young grandfather, indeed.