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The Bounty Monument at Point Venus, Tahiti

 

A recent article in Cook’s Log included photographs and a brief description of the Bounty Monument recently erected at Point Venus.1 I am indebted to Barbara Kuchau, Secretary of the Pitcairn Island Study Group (USA), for initially pointing out inaccuracies in the description and to Pauline Reynolds-Barff of the Bounty Descendants (l’Association des Descendants du Bounty) for supplying me with detailed information about the monument and the week of celebrations during which it was erected.

Pauline is an eighth generation descendant of Fletcher Christian and his Tahitian wife Mauatua. Today she lives on the island of Huahine where she is working on a book that will tell some of the life stories of the Polynesian women ("the heroines") who left Tahiti aboard HMS Bounty after the mutiny. It will be a feminine Polynesian take on the Bounty story, which up to now has only been told from a masculine European perspective.

It was the latter perspective that led me into the trap of assuming that the portraits on the monument were depictions of Bligh and Christian and, failing to recognise either from historic pictures or Hollywood portrayals, to disparage the monument. I apologise for the error and am pleased to put the record straight. The portraits are in fact of John Adams and a woman, believed to be Martha Young, a second generation Pitcairn Islander. The likeness to John Adams may be clearly recognised from the engraving "John Adams aetat 65" by E. Finden after a drawing by R. Beechey.2 The Bounty Monument immediately assumes much greater interest, meaning and relevance, particularly to Polynesian history.

The monument was created by the notable local sculptor, Tuinui Salmon, from rock found in the valley of Tipaerui. It was financed by the Ministry of Culture. The plaques were made in Chile. It is intended to add more plaques at a later date.

The Bounty arrived at Tahiti on 26 October 1788, but was guided to Matavai Bay by a chief named Poino and dropped anchor there on 27 October. Hence the choice of 27 October as the date on which the arrival of the Bounty is celebrated.

Bounty Week 2005 extended from Saturday 22nd October to Sunday 30th October. It was a huge celebration organised and financed by the Bounty Descendants and attended by delegates from Norfolk Island, Pitcairn and Rarotonga and visiting dignitaries representing French Polynesia and other Pacific island communities. The visitors were welcomed on arrival with flowers, tears, laughter and happiness and there followed a round of traditional feasts, oratory, music, dancing, song, visits to the Assembly of French Polynesia and the Presidential Palace and the presentation of gifts, including that of an ancient stone penu (a tool used for preparing medicines and food) to the Bounty/Pitcairn descendants at a traditional ceremony held on a marae in the valley of Hamuta. The entire delegation assisted sculptor Tuinui Salmon in raising the 21/2 metre commemorative stone monument to an upright position.

There are plans to restructure the area of Point Venus and erect memorials to all the famous navigators who called there and made an historic impact on Tahiti and the outside world. It is hoped that it will be possible to implement these proposals before 2008 when there is to be a celebration of the 220th anniversary of the arrival of the Bounty. Plans are afoot to bring the American replica of HMS Bounty to Tahiti for the occasion. I will endeavour to keep track of the progress of these projects.

Jeffrey Stokes

References

 

  1. Stokes, Jeffrey. "Point Venus Revisited". Cook’s Log, page 34, vol.29, no. 3 (2006).
  2. Barrow, Sir John. The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of HMS Bounty, its Causes and Consequencies. First published, John Murray 1831. Folio Society edition 1976, reprinted 1998, page 209.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 24, volume 30, number 2 (2007).

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