Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Length: 29.000 cm
AOA Ethno 1937,3-8.1
Barkcloth made by Fletcher Christian's widow
Pitcairn Islands, probably late 18th/early 19th century AD
The people of the Society Islands, in common with most other Polynesian islanders, made a form of felted cloth known as barkcloth (tapa) by beating out the inner bark of a tree - mostly that of the paper mulberry. The cloth was used for garments and bedding.
This barkcloth is said to have been made by Mauatua, the daughter of a Society Islands chief and the partner of Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutiny on HMS Bounty in 1789.
Lieutenant William Bligh, who had recently served as sailing master
to Captain James Cook on his voyages to the South Pacific, was
They were accompanied by twelve new 'wives' and a few men from the Society Islands. Mauatua was given the nickname 'Mainmast' in recognition of her tall stature, but Christian called her Isabella. She bore him three children. It is thought that Christian was murdered on Pitcairn Island.
The British people, on learning of the mutiny, were greatly interested. Bligh was regarded as a hero and a great navigator, and his account of the mutiny was published in July 1790.
T. Lummis, Pitcairn Island: life and deat (Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 1997)
S. Kooijman, Tapa in Polynesia (Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Bulletin 234, 1972)