Tupa Mascot of Raiatea

Skateboard park mural art in downtown Uturoa, Raiatea honoring the Tupa crab.

In Raiatea, the tupa (land crab) is the island mascot. Its image is featured on all the local island and city insignia. Whenever you walk along the waterfront road, these little crabs scramble for cover, hoping to avoid being someoneโ€™s dinner. In fact, the edible tupa are revered for their prolific nature, quick to reproduce and prepare for dinner. During years of island famine, tupa provided necessary sustenance for its otherwise starving people.

2017 mural painted on a city hall wall during the graffiti Intl art festival, Uturoa.
Located at a turnaround in the middle of the town Uturoa welcoming drivers to town.
City and island map in downtown Uturoa, Raiatea. Note the crab insignia in the upper left corner.

VIDEO: Tupa crab on the move!

We were invited to a fundraising event on the southwest side of Raiatea. Among the typical Polynesian fare of roasted breadfruit, pulled pork, coconut milk taro and banana poi, they offered the below delicacy. The inside was like a cream soup a la tuna flavor. It really was quite delicious.

Tupa crab bodies cooked and served at a huge fundraising event. Delicious!

These little crabs are harmless and sorta charming. After being in Raiatea for some time, they grow on you. Thus inspired, I drew my own reminder of these silly land crawlers that show enormous bravery under stress when caught outside their dugout holes.

Zentangle drawing by Leslie Rigney

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