Monday, November 1, 2010

Around the World in 6 weeks - the first 2 weeks ...


Article written for the Norfolk Island Museums: http://norfolkislandmuseum.blogspot.com

and the Norfolk Islander - Norfolk's local paper.

News from Pauline

We’ve had a lovely email from Pauline Reynolds-Barff who left Norfolk a few weeks ago on her Churchill Scholarship trip. Pauline is visiting over twelve museums and collections around the world that hold pieces of tapa and other material relating to the Polynesian women who became the wives of the Bounty mutineers and are the foremothers of many Pitcairn and Norfolk Islanders. Pauline is the author of “Pitcairn Tapa: ‘Ahu no Hitiaurevareva”, (Ahu is Polynesian for tapa, and Hitiaurevareva is Polynesian for Pitcairn) which looks at some of the surviving bark cloths made on Pitcairn by the Polynesian women. She will be viewing some of these at the museums she visits as well as new pieces held in Hawaii, the UK and Norway. At the same time Pauline will be collecting other pieces of information on the women and their lives on Pitcairn. Through this she hopes to learn more about the vital role those women played in establishing the new community on Pitcairn. It is fascinating research that she is undertaking. Here is Pauline’s first report back to us…

Around The World In 6 Weeks – the fist 2 weeks …

Well how often have I silently given thanks to Mr Churchill for this marvellous opportunity to travel the world and search out material culture relating to our Bounty heritage.

I touched down in Auckland, then Wellington in early September … what a great town it is! Accompanied by Jean Clarkson and Sue Pearson, we declared ourselves on ‘Mother’s Annual Leave’ and enjoyed visiting the Turnbull Library and Te Papa Museum. Together we were greeted by curators and shown museum archives of tapa and beaters.

A few days later I flew out to Honolulu and stayed at my friend Lovina LePendu’s house … many of you may remember her coming to Norfolk to teach Tahitian tamure some years ago. She owns land near ours on Huahine. Honolulu of course was just coming out of summer so it was hot like Huahine … sigh! Off to the museum I went on my own this time. The Bishop Museum archives are old and a stark contrast to the new and lavish Wellington archive space. But what a great museum the Bishop is. So rich in history, and interesting to those of us who are drawn to all things Polynesian. I met up with a friend who is an expert barkcloth maker and we compared notes (actually I was the one mostly note taking!). We have a plan to meet as a group in Huahine in a couple of years to further our knowledge.

Then came the time for me to leave familiar places and faces and for the first time in my life leave the Pacific. After two long days of travel, I landed here in London. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I am … though I have to say thank goodness for Skype, email and mobile phones. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to talk with my family every day since arriving and that has helped a lot with the homesickness I was dealing with earlier on in Hawai’i.

I’m blown away by London’s art, sculpture, museums and ease of getting around. By sheer luck I ended up in Camden Markets on my first day – what a trip! I have of course made ‘official’ visits to the British Museum – the days go so fast I know I wont end up doing a heap of sightseeing … but even just a little is marvellous. Things are different yet strangely familiar here – all those Monopoly games and history lessons must have sunk in. I have an idea ... our Norfolk Island kids come to England and go to Tahiti for a complete history round up - probably next to impossible but wow, wouldn't that be educational.

I’ve taken zillions of photos of course and notes on every scrap of paper I have … by the time you read this I will have headed off again to visit more museums around the UK… I’ll catch up with you next week … thank you to all those who have been so supportive – there’s no place like home.

PAULINE

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.