the woman who opened the door

The woman who opened the door

Debora Kimitete showed us how to slam the car door correctly, so it wouldn’t fly open again. We would spend the day in her Land Rover that has had more adventures than I could ever hope for.

The streets of Taiohae are full of memories for Debora, but an important place to begin was at the cemetery.

Debora was married to Lucien Kimitete; this is a statue of him. He was a politician, a co-founder of a Marquesan political party and the mayor of Taiohae.

On May 23rd, 2002, he and a few others climbed into a small airplane in the Tuamotu Islands. They were on a political tour. The flight took off without incident but was never heard from again. Despite official and local searches, plus layers of theory and investigation, no trace of that plane or anybody in it was ever found.

We began our time on Nuku Hiva with Debora and her story of culture, grief, and family. We visited the places where she and Lucien had raised their family, including the home above that she had vacated just a few months prior.

As our days in Taiohae continued, we began to see both the personal and political implications of Debora’s story. Lucien was a key figure in the cultural resurgence in the Marquesas that began in earnest in the late 1980s. He was known to many, many people beyond his role as husband and father.

By the time we arrived, 16 years later, Debora had her children and grandchildren visiting for the summer holidays.

Loss and renewal were still present in her new home, which seemed to echo larger themes for the island and archipelago. It would take a visit to the sacred site named after Lucien to learn more about those parallels.