These two 110 XPF stamps feature watercolours by New Caledonian artist Eric Valet and show two examples of the built heritage of the North Province: the Great Chief’s huts in Poindimié and the Albaret mansion in Canala.
Eric Valet used the Great Hut of the Tiéti Tribe as his inspiration for the first stamp. Traditionally constructed at the highest point of a pathway lined by trees and shrubs, a Kanak Great Hut is not the residence of the chief but serves as the setting for debates between the elders of clans belonging to the same tribe.
Built using natural materials, Great Huts are marked out from ordinary dwelling huts by being of more imposing size and having an entrance flanked by carved doorposts and a rooftop finial or totem pointing to the sky. Rooftop totems, generally carved to represent a human head and torso and topped by a spike on which conch shells are threaded, are an expression of community identity and differ in style from region to region.
The Albaret mansion, also known as the Mayet mansion after the family name of the current owners, is a venerable residence built 150 years ago by François Albaret and Louis Pion, two settlers from France who set up home in Napoléonville (Canala) and earned a living as farmers before going into trade. The mansion, built in 1868 just outside the village, features a raised porch, a veranda with a cross-brace railing, a red corrugated iron roof and windows with coloured glass panes; the ground floor was used as a shop area with living quarters on the upper floors.
François Albaret became the sole owner in 1871, and in 1887 left the mansion to his daughter, the child born of his affair with a young Kanak woman from the Emma Tribe. His daughter married a colonial service official named Paul Millet and left the mansion to their son Adrien Millet, who sold it in 1940 to the Canala Post Office Manager Henri Mayet, who also had a Kanak mother.
The Albaret Mansion is not only a fine example of colonial architecture but also the tangible witness to a shared destiny.