Jean-Marie Tjibaou

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Jean-Marie Tjibaou (January 30, 1936 – May 4, 1989) was a leader of the Kanak independence movement and a politician in New Caledonia. The son of a tribal chief, Tjibaou was ordained a Catholic priest but abandoned his religious vocation for a life in political activism.

During the 1970s, he undertook a thesis in ethnology at the Sorbonne. While he did not complete his studies, he became engaged in cultural and ethnicity issues on New Caledonia. In 1975 he arranged the Melanesia 2000 festival, which emphasized the Kanak identity.

He was appointed mayor of Hienghène in 1977 and, in 1979, he was made territorial councillor in the newly formed Independence Front, and the head of the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front in 1984.

On 4 May 1989, he was assassinated along with Yeiwene Yeiwene in Ouvéa by another Kanak, Djubelly Wéa. A cultural leader in the promotion of the indigenous Kanak culture, the modern Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is named in his honour.

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