Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vernissage - launch - Toofaiti

The launch of the exhibition and book had us stand before those present to share thoughts on our works.  In the photo from left are Jean Clarkson, Sue Pearson, Pauline Reynolds Faara, Tihoti Faara, the Mayor of Arue Philip Schylle, Meralda Warren, Nancy Hall (sitting - daughter of James Norman Hall), Turere Mataoa.  Much gratitude goes out to the deputy mayor Turere Mataoa who gave so much of her time to help organise this event, the Mayor for his many kind words and generous support, and Nancy Hall - her presence for my book launch was an honour beyond words.   
At Sue's feet you can see a sculpture.  This 'ti'i' is called Toofaiti, sculpted by my husband Tihoti.  Toofaiti represents those 12 Polynesian women who left Tahiti's shores in 1789 aboard Bounty.  We donated her to Philip Schyle and his town hall in thanks, and also in memory of Toofaiti.  She was a Huahine girl (where Tihoti and I live) and raised her children on Pitcairn until 1831 when the entire population was moved to Tahiti in an attempt at resettlement.  Spanish fever was sweeping through Tahiti at the time, and tragically, Toofaiti and 16 others died and were buried at Pare (not far from the Arue Town Hall).  We felt it important to remember those who died here in 1831.  
On Wednesday 29 October a 'rahiri' ceremony was performed: the entire Norfolk/Pitcairn delegation and others present for the festival gathered around Toofaiti in the gardens and were linked by a platted rope symbolising our ties.   Tihoti gave the following speech:
I would like to introduce myself: my name is Tihoti and I live on the island of Huahine. I am from Taha’a  on my father’s side, and from the Cook Islands on my mother’s side.  My wife is one of the descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers and their Polynesian wives.  We have two children, which means that my children are descendants too. I have come here today with the Norfolk and Pitcairn delegations to give them my support.

Before us is a stone sculpture.  Before I explain its meaning, I must remind you that for the ancient Tahitians, stone represented many things.  Stone is the means for the tupuna to keep the knowledge of their ancestors alive.  Everything they did back then was kept in memory through stone because it is the material that lasts forever.

The sculpture standing before us represents Toofaiti.  She was one of hte women who left Tahiti's shores with HMS Bounty in 1789.  She was from Huahine.  She died in Tahiti in 1831 when the Pitcairn population was moved en masse back to Tahiti.

She and hte 16 others who died here were buried not far from where we stand today in Arue.  From 1831 until now, we have heard no more about her in Tahiti.

The sculpture you see before you comes from our home in Huahine.  I sculpted her there and today I am so pleased to donate her to the Town Hall of Arue.  With this gesture I wish to bring the memory of Toofaiti alive.  The sculpture will stay here at the Town Hall a tau e a hiti noa atu - forever and ever.  That means that in the future her descendants and those of all the women who left Tahiti's shores aboard HMS Bounty in 1789 can come here to honour them, because Toofaiti is here.  With this gesture, I hope that the link will strengthen between Tahiti, Norfolk, Pitcairn and descendants of those women around the world.


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.