Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Article in the Cologne daily newspaper celebrating the 225th Anniversary of Bounty Mutiny

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A new Bounty film in the making ...

Another bonus to my trip to Cologne was meeting Madzia Bryll, Simon Quintal and Levi Carthew.
Madzia, Pauline, Simon
Madzia and Simon are working on a very interesting project. A new Bounty film with the working title of 'Huzzah for Otaheite' will be the first documentary to be made about the women of the Bounty.  They asked me to work as a consultant on their film, and after spending 5 days together, I have to say their dedication to this story is exemplary.  If I can help them present a picture of those women is based on fact and help remove the 'dusky damsel' status these women have attained in the Bounty narrative, then I will be very happy.

I was tickled pink that they came to meet me and conduct interviews.  What's more, it's much more fun to discover a new city in the company of new friends than discovering it alone.

Simon is a talented young Danish-Australian filmmaker, and Madzia is a Polish animator, teacher, and artist extraordinaire. She has long had a fascination with the Bounty story and tall ships - which led her to work for six months as a deckhand on that wonderful replica before it was lost.  Simon and Levi are both descendants - Levi is Rowan Metcalfe's nephew - who wrote the historical novel 'The Transit of Venus', about Mauatua.  Rowan's 'Transit of Venus'

by Madzia Bryll

If you read the German press then you will find my interview with a young journalist taken amongst the exhibition. Simon then began filming and Madzia and Levi began the interviews.  This was a long day for me, as afterwards I presented my paper to a sitting audience, and continued with a walk through the gallery and a talk about the tapa in the exhibition.  However, it was exciting to share the work I have done so far, piecing together the lives of the Bounty women and their daughters through the material heritage they left behind.

by Madzia Bryll

by Levi Carthew

'Made in Oceania' exhibition at the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne, Germany

Last week, I was in Germany.  I had been invited to present a paper at the 'Made in Oceania' exhibition at the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne. 

This exhibition finishes on the 27th of April 2014 ... so if you are in Europe, and are interested in all things Pacific - this is a magnificent exhibition: www.made-in-oceania.com

My presentation was scheduled straight after the symposium 'Made in Oceania, Social and Cultural Meaning, Conservation and Presentation of Oceanic Tapa'.  I was delighted to reconnect with curators and collectors that I had been in contact with over the years. Mark Nesbitt from Kew Gardens, Julie Adams who is now at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, Adrienne Kaeppler of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the collector Mark Blackburn.  By coincidence, we have even been able to identify another Pitcairn tapa in Germany ...

The previous post shows a YouTube video filmed by Simon Quintal of my presentation which was followed by a gallery talk at the area reserved for the Pitcairn tapa which was accompanied by the  lovely video made by Arthur and James Baysting, which was continually showed during the day.

The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum exhibited the Pitcairn tapa cloths in a Pacific context - where the Bounty narrative is usually placed in a European context.  Reworking this narrative in this way is an important step forward ...

Tapa, and the women of Bounty

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meralda Warren - tapa artworks exhibition on Norfolk Island

At Norfolk Island Museum - Royal Engineers Office, Kingston 28 June 2011

Meralda Warren has become Pitcairn Island’s most original artist. In 2007 Meralda decided to learn and revive the art of tapa making there and exhibited for the first time in 2008 in Tahiti during the Tahiti Bounty Day festivities and here on Norfolk Island in 2009 with the ‘Ahu Sistas Jean Clarkson, Sue Pearson and Pauline Reynolds. Since then she has developed her practice even further and her tapa paintings are now held in collections all over the world.

Her latest tapa paintings were recently on display at the Te Papa Museum Maori and Pacific Textiles Symposium where she was the keynote speaker along with Pauline Reynolds. They were also exhibited at the British High Commissioner’s Residence during a Showcase Event built around Meralda’s presence in Wellington. This event focused on a ‘Positive Pitcairn’ and many of New Zealand’s important tourism movers and shakers were present. Norfolk Island Museum is delighted to host Meralda’s new works with an opening this Tuesday.

Mauatua and Pauline making tapa

Making tapa is one of the most difficult things I have ever done ... it requires strength, skill, patience ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Te Papa Museum Wellington, New Zealand

Meralda Warren, Keynote Speaker for the Pacific
Te Papa Museum’s Maori and Pacific Textile Symposium
as published in Norfolk on Line Friday 17 June, 2011

Sunday 5 June, three days before Bounty Day, I flew out of Norfolk for Auckland with Margaret Adams to meet up with my ‘Ahu Sistas Jean Clarkson and Meralda Warren who had just arrived from Pitcairn.  It’s hard for us to comprehend the commitment a Pitcairner must have to a project to travel at any time.  As Meralda says with a wink, ‘it only takes a quad ride, a 2 day boat ride aboard a cargo vessel to Mangareva (Gambier Islands), a plane trip from Mangareva to Tahiti and finally another plane from Tahiti to Auckland. 

When Meralda and I were asked to present papers at New Zealand’s national Te Papa Museum for the first Maori and Pacific Textiles Symposium, she had to think long and hard about the travel and the time she would be away from family and her business Maimiti Haven.  She applied for a Commonwealth Connections International Art Residency and received word of her success just hours before her departure from Pitcairn.  Meralda is Pitcairn Island’s first recipient of this coveted award.

It all began last year when I was on my way around the world for my Churchill Scholarship to study barkcloths made by our foremothers, (the Polynesian women of the Bounty) today held in museums.  Te Papa was my first port of call along with New Zealand’s national Turnbull Library.  With Jean Clarkson and Sue Pearson I was lucky to visit the museum’s Pacific curators and their collections.  In passing I mentioned whalebone beaters, and surprise surprise, there was one in their stores, vaguely associated with Fiji.  We have since identified the beater to be from Pitcairn and it is now on public display and attributed to Pitcairn Island.  It is the only Pitcairn whalebone beater on exhibit in the world.

Since then, and with this wonderful discovery under my belt, I continued on my trip and kept in contact with the Te Papa curators.  Unbeknownst to me, they had begun planning a textiles symposium and some months later asked if Meralda and I would like to present a paper.  It was decided Meralda would be the Pacific’s Keynote Speaker and I would follow her up.  How exciting to showcase our history in this context.

Back in Auckland this past week, we were joined by Sue Pearson and celebrated Bounty Day by having a feast at a nearby Foodcourt filled to the brim with exciting and colourful international food stalls and even bumped into Lizzy Tagg’s sister.

Early the next morning we left Auckland and arrived in Wellington just before a ruby sun rose over the horizon.  In the airports and along the road people stopped us exclaiming ‘nice hats!’ as we had been told to bring our national costume, and dressed in our Bounty Day gear we met the other delegates at Te Papa Museum.  The official opening of the Symposium - a beautiful ceremonial ‘Powhiri’ on the museum’s interior marae had us spellbound.  We were then led to the Maori and Pacific stores where we were shown the treasures of the museum. In the Maori section, feather capes hundreds of years old are held in large draws which we were able to view at our leisure, and in the Pacific section huge rolls of enormous bales of tapa, spears and modern  collections of tivaevae were on display.

Pauline Reynolds - speaker for the Pacific
The following day was our big day.  Meralda, as the Keynote speaker for the Pacific, was first up and delivered a wonderful presentation split in two sections – the first devoted to her mum’s weaving practice and the second to Meralda’s speciality – the making of tapa cloth.  She detailed her knowledge of Pitcairn’s unique weaving and gathering of materials, and her hands-on approach to making tapa.  Meralda completely taught herself  and this brought her resounding respect from those knowledgeable people attending the conference.  Next I delivered my own paper called the Forgotten Women of the Bounty and their Material Heritage.  It was a humbling experience to tell these Pacific peoples about our foremothers and the legacy they left for us.  I was absolutely honoured by the appreciation shown to us by the attendees.

Attending events centred on the areas of one’s passion is never a waste of time.  It’s a special opportunity to make contacts with others with similar interests and can often lead to new prospects and projects.

Pauline - speaker for the Pacific
The rest of the symposium was so interesting that one of the speakers sitting next to me later said, ‘It’s like going to university’.  We were treated with talks about the Cook collections of tapa from the Southern Hemisphere, the origins of tapa cloth, the identification of feathers and plant materials in Maori textiles, Micronesian textile traditions, the bilum bags of Papua New Guinea and research and artistic methods. 

That night the Governor of the Pitcairn Islands, her Excellency Vicki Treadell held an event to showcase Pitcairn Island’s art and culture, trade and tourism at Homewood, the British High Commissioner’s Residence.  The occasion was built around Meralda’s presence in Wellington for the.  Long tables lined the rooms of the beautiful building and were loaded with tapa cloth, weaving, beautifully made carvings of longboats, dolphins, turtles, platters and bowls accompanied by coin collections, jewellery and the iconic Pitcairn honey.  Pitcairn dishes such as bread sticks, green plun fritters, coconut bread with pineapple were offered throughout the night.  Many tour operators, interested parties and Pitcairn Islanders living locally came and enjoyed the marvellous hospitality of the new Governor, who in her opening address totally won us all over with her gracious and passionate speech about building a new ‘positive Pitcairn’ and supporting the fragile economy.  There is no doubt that Vicki Treadell appears firmly committed to making this happen, and highlighted the importance of Meralda’s presence.

Saturday was the last day of the Symposium and we were treated to presentations by Maori, Samoan, Fijian and Microneasian weavers, artists, and academics, and papers such as, ‘Textiles as Tellers of Tales’, the ‘Patu of the Pacific and Maori’, wonderful presentations by Te Papa staff on Cook Island Tivaevae and conservation of Maori and Pacific textiles. 

The Symposium was actually part of a bigger festival celebrating the Maori new year called Matariki after the rising of the Pleiades.  We were lucky to witness fashion shows, special exhibitions and Signs of a Nation with a Maori and Pacific Arts and Crafts Market where Leona Hermans had a beautiful display of her superb woven baskets.

The next day I took a plane out of Wellington long before the crack of dawn to Auckland and back home to Norfolk.  After all this, I have realised how important it is to follow our dreams, our passions, no matter how isolated we might find ourselves (or how eccentric others might find us).  Especially so if it is a positive journey not only for ourselves but one which might benefit those around us, especially the younger generation.  I also firmly believe the importance of remembering that we are a Pacific community, and no matter where our future may lead, it is up to each of us as individuals to remember our history and culture.  Each one of us represents our island everytime we travel and are asked, ‘where are you from?’ We can all make a difference  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Bounty Dance (article written for Norfolk on Line)


Last week Wally interviewed Vaea and Alain from French Polynesia, a charming and elegant couple that came to Norfolk Island for a week’s holiday recently. They had only planned to come here for a week, but after enjoying themselves so much, decided to stay an extra week.

On their arrival, Tihoti and Oihanu went to meet them and a friendship was sealed – Vaea and Alain could hardly believe their eyes when a couple of Tahitians rolled up on their doorstep on this little Pacific island … hardly what they had expected.

And the surprises kept coming, both ways! It turned out that Vaea had had a role in the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando. She was given the role of Teraura, Ed Young’s first wife. Vaea was only 16 years old at the time, about the same age as Teraura was when she joined the Bounty. For Vaea and her friends, playing in the movie was an eye-opening experience – she had been raised in a strict Adventist home.

But Vaea’s favourite memory isn’t of movie stars or their antics, but of the shooting of the arrival of Bounty at Matavai Bay as hundreds of cast paddled out in traditional va’a outriggers to greet the especially made vessel. A grand part of the population was employed for making this movie, and gave considerable income to many families during the filming in Tahiti. Later, some of the filming was moved to Hollywood studios where Vaea and several other women travelled to complete the film. Certainly, despite what the film critics might say, the film put Tahiti firmly on the American holiday map.

Later in her carrier she became runner up to Miss Tahiti, and actually represented Tahiti carrying the crown to international events during the year. She later pursued a career as a model working for the top agencies in France.

But before anything else, Vaea is a dancer. She had learned to dance with Madeleine Moua - the woman who resurrected Tahitian dance in 1956 with her group Heiva Tahiti. In times of old, dance depicted many sacred events, but the voyaging Europeans of the 1700s popularised a half-truth of bare-breasted women with little understanding of the dance or its meaning. What was once the rhapsody of Joseph Banks’ journals with his misunderstandings of so many events during his Tahiti days (and which would perhaps lead to the HMS Bounty to being manned by 46 volunteers - something unheard of in the times of conscription), would later become the despair of the first English missionaries who arrived in 1797, only eight years after Bounty’s departure.

By 1819, the missionaries had such a hold over Tahiti that they had outlawed what they described as the ‘lascivious’ dancing. Dancers still performed, but clothed head-to-toe in white garments so as not to ‘offend’ visitors.

Tahiti owes a great deal to the legendary Madeleine Moua who brought back a sense of nobility to the dance reminding us of its sacred and noble beginnings rather than merely an act of seduction – an untruth that goes back to those first contact days with the Europeans.

Vaea remembers with happiness her days of dancing with the legendary ‘Madame Moua’. She vividly remembers her strict teaching style which brought out the best in the girls. Vaea was one of her front-row dancers.

So what is it that makes the love of dance greater than having walked the high fashion catwalks of Paris, or acting alongside the likes of Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard and Tarita Teriipaia? Vaea says that within Ori Tahiti or Tahitian dance, you can lose yourself. Lose your worries and leave everything behind, and that dance is symbolic of liberation, emancipation, of being free.

During her holiday, she spent some time with the young Baunti Beauties who have been working hard on their technique with a view to going to Tahiti in April next year for a 2 week dance intensive with Heipua Lehartel.

On Pitcairn, our foremothers would occasionally dance for sailors of passing ships in the early 1800s, and had a fabulous percussion technique. Over time however, dance was practiced less and less … but revivals would happen in pockets. There were the girls in Sydney who would dance at the Polynesian Club, and then Maeve Hitch and Karlene Christian taught us girls for the Pacific Arts Festival. When I lived in Tahiti, Tihoti and I would line up professional dance teachers to travel to Norfolk Island to teach for the Community Arts Society. So far, Heipua Lehartel, Lovina Lependu, Marietta and Atea Tefaataumarama have travelled from Tahiti and Huahine for stints of dancing. Each teacher has brought with them a different teaching method, each one unique and enriching our understanding of this artform. It was heart-warming see this master of dance, one who had learned with the greatest of all Tahitian dance teachers, giving pointers to our young girls.

We look forward to Vaea and Alain’s return sometime early next year for another round of fun, laughter, and of course, dance!

written by Pauline Reynolds all photos copyright

Norfolk Island Wa'a Club (article written for Norfolk On Line)

Sunday the 7th of November. The day started off cloudy and grey, showers and wind whipping the island. Typically for this time of year and the changing seasons, the skies had cleared by the early afterno

on, just as it had done the previous weekend. A heavenly blessing for the launch of Norfolk Island’s new outrigger canoe (in our language called wa’a).

The members of the Wa’a Club had gathered and set up gazebos, a BBQ for the snags, drinks, caps, and raffle tickets for an art prize. The wa’a was carried from where it had been kept in the grassy coverage of the middle of Emily Bay’s sand dunes to the area opposite the ancient Polynesian marae. Flowers were spread around the peripheries of the wa’a in tribute.

The ceremony began with Tihoti and John Christian, the founders of the club. John addressed the 200 strong crowd of locals and tourists in English, explaining the significance of the ceremony, the short history of the club and thanking those who have been so kind with their donations (of special note was the Norfolk Island Government and the Minister for Sports) and the builder, Jason Chubb. The club is also thankful to Slick and Joel for their generous donations for the BBQ.

Tihoti then began the Fa’ainura’a Ceremony. This ancient ceremony is conducted for every new canoe of importance in Tahiti to show respect for the ocean, the elements and to ask the gods for protection - for the wa’a and the people paddling her.

With the sounding of the conch shell and his children Oihanu and Mauatua standing sentry, he began his oratory,

O great Ocean! Welcome! O divinities of the ocean – welcome! O great sun! Welcome! O divinities of the sun – welcome! O wind of all directions! Welcome! O divinities of the winds – welcome! To the sky, the land, welcome!

Taaroa, founder of the world, of the thousand skies! Welcome to you! You are the lord of the sky and the land. You are the ancestor of all the divinities, You are the great creator. O Taaroa – welcome!

-Second sounding of the conch-

O Tane! Welcome! Tane the patron saint of all master canoe builders – divine Tane! Here is our wa’a, here is TEFAUROA! Here is our wa’a! Here is TEFAUROA! O divine Tane! Come and cast your spell on Tefauroa! Make Tefauroa auspicious! Oh Tane – welcome!

-Tihoti sprinkles water from the bamboo held by Oihanu-

O Tefauroa! Here is the ocean water, here is the water of the great ocean. Here is the water from the greatest marae of all! Tefauroa, here is the seawater to baptise and bless you, to make you propitious.

-Mauatua ‘faahei’ the wa’a by placing the flowers on the front and the back-

O Tefauroa, here is a necklace of flowers from this land! Here is the beauty that decorates this island! The beauty of this island! O Tefauroa! We crown you today with these flowers. O Tefauroa, you are our pride and joy today.

O Tefauroa! Welcome!

-Then came the Baunti Beauties (thank you Claudia, Kaitlin, Emily, Ashley, Mikiela, Tiffany) who danced so beautifully to the Norfolk Island ballads played by the Bumboras Band led by Don Reynolds.

During the ceremony, Kath King heard the call of a single red-tailed tropic bird, flying over the ceremony, watching from above. For Tahitians, this is significative of the presence of the gods, that they have heard the impassioned prayers.

Once the ceremony closed, members of the club carried the newly baptised vessel to Emily Bay and she was launched into the calm waters paddled by Tihoti, Tarn, Phil and Matt. There she stayed, paddled around and around the bay with many young and old having a go! What a wonderful day it was!

So why does a wa’a need to be blessed with this thousand year old ceremony? As Tihoti explains, the wa’a is a symbol for all Polynesian people - a symbol of transport and communication between islands, of nourishment, the link between populations, sport, voyage and migration; and then there is the metaphysical symbolism …

All Tahitians know this allegory - it is used in sport, in schools, and by politicians and by everyone in their day-to-day lives. If you have seen the Tahitian flag, you will know that it is dominated by a great voyaging wa’a (or va’a in Tahitian).

In life, there is the past, the present, and the future. You are alone on your wa’a - the future ahead and the past behind. There are three seats. When you sit at the front (in the future) the wa’a is difficult to paddle. You can hardly move forward. You change to the second seat, the present. Although it’s better, it’s still hard to manoeuvre the wa’a. So you sit at the back, looking forward from the past. From there you are better able to find your direction, the wa’a is easy to paddle and you are able to advance.

So it is in life, when we are in the present, look behind; study your history so that you might find the lessons and guidance to know how to go ahead at this moment and into the future. Today many people are in the first chair. Look to the past to understand the present and navigate through the future.

It is the club’s aim to purchase more canoes and that more Norfolk Island women and men will join, and that the junior ranks will swell. What a wonderful opportunity for our youth to learn this sport of their ancestors and perhaps one day participate in international competitions against our Pacific cousins - affirmation of our undeniable connection to other Pacific Island communities.

Good luck Tefauroa!

photos copyright Pauline Reynolds

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Druids and stone circles ...


Friday, November 5, 2010

Moorland Close Part One - Castlerigg

Article written for Norfolk on Line: www.norfolkonlinenews.com


During my recent trip to the UK on my quest to visit museums holding barkcloths made by the Polynesian women of HMS Bounty (see earlier editions of Norfolk on Line), I found myself drawn to exploring the places some of the mutineers lived. I was surprised because I have always resonated to the untold women’s story, having lived in Polynesia for so long. What a rounding experience this was for me.

I have some good friends in England, Chris Gaskell and Bernadette Kilroy, who are confirmed Bounty buffs. We met during their cruise years ago which included stops at Tahiti and Huahine, and we’ve been in contact ever since. They were kind enough to take me to my appointment with the curator at Liverpool World Museum. The next day we went on a discovery tour of The Lake District and to the town of Cockermouth where Fletcher Christian lived in his youth. Unbeknownst to me, this would end up being the highlight of my stay in England.

We left Chris and Bernadette’s house at the crack of dawn and drove north for a couple of hours on the M6 highway toward Penrith. We skirted the south west area of The Lake District and turned onto the A66 where the landscape folds gently into rounded fluorescent green and rust coloured fells (hills) dissected by ancient stone walls.

Heading toward Keswick, I saw a small and discreet road sign ‘Castlerigg Stone Circle’. I was blown away. I’ve always been fascinated by these structures, and had hoped one day to see this particular one. I excitedly asked Chris if it was too far out of his way. He chuckled, ‘you should have told me you wanted to see it’ in his broad accent. We turned down an empty narrow road and not five minutes further along, arrived at the Circle. Given the many tours a tourist can take to the impressive Stonehenge, (which one can hardly approach, let alone touch or photograph alone), Castlerigg Stone Circle is amazingly accessible. We were the only car to pull up on the side of the quiet road, alone apart from some young campers in the next paddock strumming guitars.

For such an inconspicuously marked area, the circle is vastly impressive. Positioned on the plateau of Chestnut Hill it is cradled in an amphitheatre of surrounding fells and the highest peaks of the area of Cumbria. The circle itself is made up of 40 principal stones, probably erected around 3200 BC. Much like the marae of Polynesia, the stones are aligned to the sunrise during different times of the year and lunar positions.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge visited Castlerigg with William Wordsworth in 1799 and he wrote,

… a Druidical circle [where] the mountains stand one behind the other, in orderly array as if evoked by and attentive to the assembly of white-vested wizards …

And who are we to know exactly what took place over the years in this fabulously mystical place?

The reason I write about it here, is its proximity to Moorland Close, the birthplace and childhood home of Fletcher Christian. Breathing in the extraordinary beauty of the place, I began to think about him. He would certainly have visited this place, in all its glory long before the swinging gate and laminated explanation board were erected.

In this ancient place time seemed to stop for a moment … if this stone circle was built in 3200 BC, then the 246 years since Fletcher was born at Moorland Close are infinitesimal speck in the grand expanse of time …

The story continues making our way to Moorland Close next week …

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A wonderful visit with Mark Nesbitt at Kew ... quoted from the Kew blog:


Economic Botany Collection

Tapa cloth and the forgotten women of the Bounty mutiny

By: Mark Nesbitt - 30/09/2010

A visitor to Kew sheds light on tapa cloth made 170 years ago by her Polynesian forebears.

One of the most colourful elements of Kew’s Economic Botany Collection is the tapa cloth. We care for at least 60 pieces from across the Pacific, made by pounding inner bark from the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) and other trees.


Tapa cloth in Kew's Economic Botany Collection

These plain, off-white fragments from Pitcairn Island appear subdued by comparison. However, I’ve long been aware of their historical link to the Bounty mutiny, one of the best-known and most controversial episodes in British history. In 1789 Captain William Bligh left Tahiti with more than 1000 breadfruit plants, bound for the Caribbean as a new food source for the slave plantations. Three weeks later Fletcher Christian, George Stewart, Peter Heywood and other crew mutinied, setting Bligh and eighteen men adrift in the ship's launch. Today many descendants of the mutineers live on Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island.

Many of the mutineers had Tahitian partners, often the daughters of Tahitian Chiefs. The Polynesian heritage of the Bounty descendants can be traced directly to these women, but has been little explored. Pauline Reynolds, a descendant of Fletcher Christian and resident of Norfolk Island, is tracing the material culture of the Bounty women in European museums on a Churchill Fellowship. She kindly spent a day at Kew sharing her insights into the collections. Pauline’s visit shows how reconnecting with source communities can deepen understanding of the human stories behind our specimens.


Pauline Reynolds is researching tapa cloth in Kew's Economic Botany Collection

The largest piece, seen in the middle of the table, was of special significance to Pauline as it was made by Mauatua (wife of Christian Fletcher) her 5x great grandmother. She pointed out its extraordinarily thin and even texture, typical of the finest tapa cloth from very experienced makers. The piece seen on the left of the table was made by Peggy, daughter of George Stewart and is a little thicker; that on the right was made by Mauatua, and Teraura, wife of Ned Young. Pauline explained that the very plainness of these pieces is an indication of their quality: decoration would take away from appreciation of the work.

One odd feature of the tapa is that it has been cut into small pieces. In Polynesian cultures it would be very unusual to cut a large sheet into small pieces. Pauline immediately recognised that the donor’s name might be a clue. The tapa cloths were given to Kew in 1858 by Frances Heywood, who turns out to be the widow of Peter Heywood, a mutineer who was pardoned and went on to have a successful naval career.

A quick trip to Kew’s rare books room produced the Rev. Thos. Murray’s Pitcairn: The Island, the People, and the Pastor (1860), which tells us:

“The women also manufacture tappa or native cloth, from the bark of the "Anti" or paper-mulberry, which is rolled up, and soaked in water, and then beaten out with wooden mallets, and spread forth to dry. The author has in his possession a piece of beautifully wrought white tappa, given him by Mrs. Heywood… it was made by the wife of Fletcher Christian [Mauatua], from the bark of the paper-mulberry-tree. The piece from which this portion was taken, was entrusted by her, when at a very advanced age, to Captain Jenkin Jones, when he visited the island, in her Majesty's ship Curacoa, in 1841; he having been desired to give it to Peter’s wife.”

I find it extraordinary - and moving - that the bonds of friendship between Mauatua and Frances Heywood, connected only by their love of two Bounty mutineers, should hold so strong over 50 years and 9000 miles.

Three years before her death in 1861, Frances Heywood evidently cut up and distributed pieces of the tapa cloths among her friends – and Kew. Perhaps more pieces are to be found elsewhere?

- Mark -

Monday, November 1, 2010



For a woman who has spent all of her life in the Pacific, it has been a

revelation to travel to the UK … I'm glad for the itinerary that led me

gently out of the Pacific from Norfolk Island via New Zealand and

Hawai'i before flying into Los Angeles and Heathrow.

I am presently in the UK studying the material culture left by our

Polynesian foremothers who boarded the HMS Bounty in 1789 bound

for Pitcairn. These women gifted many barkcloths to passing captains

that eventually made their way into European museums. Now I find

myself making my way to them – something like joining the dots on a

vast museum map working my way from London to Scotland and

across to Norway.

I‟m surprised and frankly disappointed at the lack of Pacific

representation in British museum displays in general. In that light, it is

a sweet thing indeed to have seen two particular barkcloths on display

in public galleries: one in the British Museum (in the Enlightenment

Gallery - a tiny piece by Mauatua, Fletcher Christian's sweetheart)

and the other at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford (a lovely patterned

poncho). I‟ve received a resoundingly kind and enthusiastic reception

at each of the museums I‟ve visited by the hard-working curators of

huge out-of-sight collections.

Behind archive doors there have been more, so many more, pieces of

beautiful barkcloth to study. Some white and finely made - others a

patchwork of colours.

It's important to highlight the significance of the barkcloths (and

Pacific culture in general) within the institutions I'm visiting.

Recently I spent a day with Dr Mark Nesbitt at Kew Gardens who has

since written a blog post about the day we spent talking about the

pieces in their collections. Dr Nesbitt generously shared his time

looking through museum notes and archives and we were able to

piece together the history of the barkcloths and how they came to

Kew. It was great fun and a valuable exercise.

Holding these pieces of cloth has been a deeply moving experience

for me. As a people we are in a unique position, because often times

we can name the maker of many of these pieces. What this means is

that those of us of Bounty descent can trace our heritage back to a

particular piece and say, "my great great great great great grandmother

made this‟. With this knowledge comes the responsibility of

protecting the pieces and assuring museums do too.

Over the years I have been pleased to communicate with the curators,

and now meeting them face-to-face perhaps opens a window of

understanding for them too, which is more than I might have hoped

for. They understand the importance of representing material culture

in a way that guards its historical integrity, and working together, we

can come to an understanding of these valuable pieces that are an

important part of our Bounty history.

Pauline recently received a

scholarship to travel to NZ,

Hawai’i, the UK and Norway

to study the material culture

left by the Bounty women

who settled on Pitcairn Island

in 1790. Pauline lived for 15 years

on Huahine, Tahiti, and presently

lives on Norfolk Island with her

Tahitian husband, Tihoti, and their

children Oihanu and Mauatua.

Around the World in 6 weeks - 3rd update


By the time this article is published, my 6 week Round-the-World scholarship will have come to an end … I’ll be home and wondering, ‘did it all happen to me?’.

Firstly, I wish to encourage anyone who has a worthwhile project of benefit to our island and/or our culture, to apply for a Churchill Fellowship. What a wonderful opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and on return give back to the community.

Sir Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” His life is awe inspiring, and what better way to assure his memory lives on than these Memorial Fellowships?

The fellowship has allowed me to see around 40 pieces of Pitcairn barkcloth and some of the beaters that were used to make them. This data will provide valuable information about the makers - the Bounty women and their daughters.

Whilst the studying of barkcloth in itself is fascinating, the stories related to each piece make the Pitcairn barkcloths even more interesting. The curators have been equally eager to know more about them, so it really has been a two way street.

It has been a moving experience touching these pieces, knowing they were made by my foremothers (and the foremothers of many of you reading this article now). Whilst they were creating this fibre to clothe themselves and their children, they were also creating the fabric of the new society on Pitcairn. They truly were pioneering women, and deserve much more than the historical fiction that has been written about them to date and that I am sure will continue to be written. It is my mission to find as much historical factual data as possible about them - it just requires digging and an open mind. The mythic, sometimes sensational, movie drama story has seen its day: our history is fascinating, but only half told as far as I am concerned.

At the time of writing I am in Norway waiting for my appointment with the Kon-Tiki Museum’s curator whom I met during an archaeological dig near our house on Huahine, Tahiti many years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing the lovely finely made barkcloth and beaters they have in their collection. By looking at the fabric itself, and the collection data, I might be able to determine the maker of the piece and the tree it was made from. The beaters are also extremely interesting – in the Norfolk Island Museum there is a beater that has always been associated with the Melanesian Mission, however, I believe it came from Pitcairn to Norfolk on the Morayshire in 1856, and so I’ll be doing some comparisons.

Some museums have asked me to contribute thoughts and some writing for future exhibitions including Pitcairn tapa-cloths. I hope now that our material heritage might continue to be featured, even if in small ways, in exhibitions around the world. I broached the idea of the possible loan of some of these items to our own museum on Norfolk and have received some positive responses.

There is another guideline highlighted by the Churchill Trust - and that is to make the most of one’s travel, to watch local news and really breathe in the local culture. With my appointments attended, I’ve tried to pack in quick visits to meaningful areas and cities surrounding the museums.

The most memorable visit was after my appointment at the Liverpool World Museum. I had met up with friends who took me to Moorland Close (Fletcher Christian’s birthplace and childhood home), Cockermouth (the nearby village) and St Bridget’s Church (where the Christian family is buried and where they sought solace during their lives). This area forms part of The Lake District and a place I feel we all need to visit! I felt a real resonance with this beautiful area, which is much like the Gloucester district of NSW Australia.

So the Fellowship has taken me to the following cities: Wellington in New Zealand; Honolulu in Hawai’i; London, Kew, Cambridge, Oxford and Liverpool in England; Edinburgh and Aberdeen in Scotland; and finally Oslo in Norway. This has been one of the most empowering, lonely, inspiring and enriching experiences of my life and I know that this will benefit our culture and people.

I’d like to give thanks to the Churchill Trust, those who had a hand in my selection, to Lisa Richards and Rhonda Griffiths, to those of you who have sent me messages of encouragement, my wonderful family who let me go, and all the museum curators and friends met along the way. It’s been an amazing trip and I look forward to putting pen to paper to continue writing about the forgotten women of the Bounty.

Pauline in the archives at the Royal Scottish Museum

Moorland Close Homestead


You may wonder why we called this blog 'Tattoo and Tapa'. Tihoti's passion is design using the ancient symbols used by his tupuna or ancestors. Mine is the same, but applied on a different surface.

The designs used by Tahitians in 'tatau' (tattoo) often crossed over into the designs used in 'ahu (tapa) decoration. Some of the deep symbolism used in tatau today in Tahiti is lost, although Tihoti feels that by using nature as our inspiration we can come to understand these designs again, and from there evolve those designs beyond our misunderstandings. But that understanding has to come from a Polynesian perspective.

I am fascinated by the designs and colours used in the ancient 'ahu - everything was symbolic. Much of this knowledge is forgotten today: but not entirely. For me it has become an exhilarating adventure of rediscovery.