Pitcairn and its Women

The Bounty destined to safely deliver breadfruit trees from Tahiti to the English West Indian Plantations ended up at the bottom of an inhabited island we now call Pitcairn Island. This led to the development of many famous movies such as Mutiny on the Bounty. It all started on 28 April 1789, with the rebellion of 25 crewmen led by Fletcher Christian, against Bligh, Captain of the Bounty, due to his inhuman treatments against them. They took hold of the ship, setting Bligh and his loyal crew afloat in a small boat landing on Timor. The Bounty landed on Tahiti with 16 of its crewmen deciding to stay while the other 8 mutineers followed Christian in their quest to find a safe haven, taking with them 12 Tahitian women, 6 Tahitian men and a child. In 1790, after months of searching the seas, they finally found the perfect island. Pitcairn Island was uninhabited; hard to find geographically and possess a tiny and dangerous landing location to minimise any encounter from the outside. They set The Bounty ablaze removing any traces of their presence. The ship wreckage can be seen under the waters of Pitcairn Island till this day.
Life on the island became tensed as conflict and violence started to brew between the mutineers, Tahitian men and women due to racism and the stealing of women. To survive, the women intervened by establishing for themselves the power to voice their opinion and make relevant choices that will best suit their self-interest. The women played their cards carefully in plotting the killings or being an informant for the mutineers. A Tahitian woman continually disobeyed the orders of Young, a mutineer, to bury the skulls of the dead, which was traditionally seen to hold the title deeds of the land. She readily made a choice to defy and express her belief openly to a European male and authoritative figure of the island so as to retain her own cultural traditions and position as the founding figures of Pitcairn Island.
Beyond the treacherous violence outside the female dominated huts, an activity brought over by the Tahitian women bonded them together and reminding them of their Polynesian culture and tradition. The knowledge of Tapa cloth making that the Tahitian women learnt as young girls were being transferred onto their children. Meralda Warren, the 7th generation descendant of The Bounty mutineers, who still practices tapa cloth making today is a good example that demonstrates tapa knowledge transference between the generations. More information: http://norfolkislandmuseum.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/pitcairn-tapa.html
Tapa making carried with it a form of socialising, forming relationships or even a place to hatch murderous plans without the men knowing. The gifting of tapa was used to establish and strengthen social relationships and by gifting cloth to visitors (after Pitcairn was discovered), it made the women visible to others but also to uphold their traditions. Thus, the tapa cloth became an active agent in connecting and presenting to the women a voice rarely heard and recorded by the outside world.

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