Repositioning Pitcairn’s Tapa: Detecting the Voices of the Forgotten Women of Bounty




Albert, Donald Patrick
Purifoy, Matthew

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Okinawan Journal of Island Studies


Pitcairn Island tapa inventories, created by Ted Cookson and Pauline Reynolds, were merged, cross-referenced, and verified via online searches for a more comprehensive listing of tapa-holding institutions. Close examination of tapa artifacts created by Pitcairn’s original women settlers and their female descendants (1790 to approximately 1856) allow enthusiasts and scholars the opportunity to hear the voices of their ancestors. The current number of tapa artifacts, which includes garments, cloth fragments, and wooden and whalebone tapa beaters, is low at sixty items. Geographically, these artifacts are housed at institutions located mostly in the United Kingdom. The British Museum has the largest collection Pitcairn tapa, with twenty (33%) of all Pitcairn artifacts in public institutions worldwide. The authors suggest that an electronic atlas of tapa artifacts be developed and updated as possible items from private collections become public. This will allow descendants of this Anglo-Polynesian settlement to learn more about their female ancestors. In 2023, less than fifty people reside on Pitcairn Island, not all descendants. Thousands of descendants, however, dwelling on Norfolk Island, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, trace their ancestry through this isolated oceanic outpost.


Article originally published in Okinawan Journal of Island Studies


Barkcloth, female agency, islanders-empire, tapa, Pitcairn Island


Albert, Donald Patrick, Purifoy, Matthew.(2023) Repositioning Pitcairn’s Tapa: Detecting the Voices of the Forgotten Women of Bounty. Okinawan Journal of Island Studies.4.1, p 18-33.