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“Maohi” (Pacific islander)

When you are a “Maohi” (Pacific islander) and you visit a sister island it’s impossible not to put attention in all the similitudes your island home has with this new land you are on. We share the same plants, landscape, geography, soil, rocks, ocean species, flowers, and spirit of being a Pacific islander, and on a spiritual level I would say we share an ancient energy of being connected from our long and adventured history is something you just feel so strong…I feel so welcomed and at the same time, I keep thinking about how our ancestors mastered this part of the world by sailing their double-hulled canoes, even finding this little island Pitcairn we just landed after 11 days sailing from Rapa Nui.   
Pitcairn Island is known for the arrival of the bounty mutineers in 1798 but archeologists’ research has shown that Polynesians were living here between the 12th and 15th centuries. This could explain maybe how the 9 Bounty mutineers could survive on this island because with them were a few Tahitian consorts: women and men who knew very well this island way of living, how and when to grow and harvest specific food, fishing arts, even traditional “Tapa” clothes.  
Tapa clothes are bark clothes made in the islands of Polynesia; in Rapa Nui, we call it “Mahute”. In ancient times was used for a wide variety of applications from clothing, capes, blankets, and funeral rituals to wrap bodies, etc.  
In the present time, we use it for art activities mostly, and its widely used in traditional dancing and ceremony dresses. It’s precious and highly valuable since it’s labor-intensive to manufacture and in my opinion, is just such beautiful fabric.  

The process involves cutting the plant, then the first task is to strip the bark from the trees. The strips are about hand wide and a person long or smaller. The bark consists of two layers; the outer bark is scraped or split off from the inner bark. The outer bark is discarded; the inner bark is leftover. It is dried in the sun before being soaked. 
After this, the bark is beaten on a wooden anvil (in Rapa Nui we use a soft round rock collected from the shore named “Maea Poro”) using wooden mallets. In the beating, the bark is made thinner and spread out to a width of about 25 cm. The mallets are flat on one side and have coarse and fine grooves on the other sides. First, the coarse sides are used and, towards the end of the work, the flat side. 
On our last day on Pitcairn, I was walking in Adamstown and I saw a considerable plantation of Mahute next to the road that made me think of the similarities again of Rapa Nui with this island, then I met a lady Miralda Warren who makes Tapa painting by manufacturing herself the material, she is a descended of Mauatua one of the two Tahitian women who came with the mutineers and were Tapa Makers, the other one was Teraura. Their tapa art can be found now in the British Museum, Kew Gardens among others. 
The Bark Europa crew voyagers were able to see how Miralda made the processes from cutting the tree from her garden and then using a whale shark bone to beat the bark. 

I’m amazed by these histories and how our ancestors connected these entire islands, creating a culture related to the ocean, incredible nature, and knowledge we share until the present day. 

Written by:
Tavake | Guide

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