Saturday, January 19, 2008

When anyone suggests that living on a remote island like Norfolk would make you feel isolated and cut off, I like to tell them that the world comes to us here.
We have visitors from near and far, people with enormous talents and interesting stories to tell. Some are famous, many are great achievers, most have wonderful things to impart.
And when they come, because this is a small island, we often have the opportunity to come close and listen and see for ourselves first hand what they are willing to share with us.
May I introduce just two of our visitors from the Christmas period.
This is Gabriel Cortez. Gabriel, who is from Brazil, came to spend a year in this part of the world as a Rotary Exchange student. For the first time, our local Rotary club has been able to host an international exchange student. Gabriel spent the first three months of his year here at Norfolk Island, and the remaining nine months in New Zealand. He stayed with the Kiernans out at Steele's Point, and attended our local school. Gabriel endeared himself to his peers, and to the community as a whole. And he became such an important part of the Kiernan family that they invited him to return and spend Christmas with them before he returned to Brazil.

Now Gabriel comes from a well-educated family - both his parents are doctors - and although they have servants at home, Gabriel was always there ready to pitch in with anything that needed to be done, including the cooking and washing up! His English improved tremendously during the year, but his initial lack of vocabulary did not deter him from being willing to ask questions and talk to us about his country both on a one-to-one basis, or up in front of a large group.

When we asked Gabriel what career he would like to pursue, he said his greatest passion was to become a chef. However, he knows he has a far more academic career mapped out for him, and he feels he owes it to his family to pursue this path. We are sure this fine confident young man, who is a wonderful ambassador for his country, will find a way to fulfil all his dreams, and make the world a better place in the process.

Gabriel with Jasmine and Ian Kiernan and his little "host sister" Jamie


On Boxing Day, we held a party for Pauline Barff- Reynolds and her husband George. Now Pauline is a Norfolk Islander, who went to live in Tahiti, and married George. They have two children - Oihanu, who is about 10, and Mauatua who is just on 3. Mauatua is named for her famous Tahitian ancestor, who became Fletcher Christian's wife.

Our Boxing Day Get-together to welcome Pauline and George

While our Norfolk visitors were in Tahiti in October 2006, Pauline was an absolute gem. Not only did she taking a leading role in organising the Bounty celebrations, but she made sure the visitors were properly welcomed and looked after, ably assisted by other Tahitian Bounty descendants. On many occasions Pauline was called on to act as an interpreter, and found herself switching between Tahitian, French, English and Norfolk!!! After the celebrations, Pauline opened her home on Huahine to several of the Norfolk visitors who had decided to stay on for a few days.

Pauline, flanked by two Tahitian friends, also "Bounty" descendants

George, meanwhile, is immensely proud of his Tahitian blood and heritage. He is a Tattooist, and his "product" is displayed on one whole half of his body, and is gradually starting to cover the other half!

George Barff, Mauatua with Pauline, and Bernie

Whenever George visits Norfolk Island with Pauline, he is kept very busy carrying out his profession. A number of people add to their tattoos each time he visits. Last time, Peter got two tattoos - a band around his ankle and another round his upper arm, both with a historical significance. This time he had George do a large Ti'i (similar to a Maori Tiki) on his right arm. I was going to ask if I could photograph them for this blog, but I did not like my chances!

When I was a young person, my mother would probably have warned me about associating with anyone who dared sport a tattoo! When Charles got one some years ago, his father was horrified, until he explained he had it done in the form of the Christian family crest! Now our daughter Miriam is even thinking about it, and would have got one on this last visit, but George's bookings were full!

Now we are strongly aware that Tattoos have important Polynesian cultural origins, and the word comes from the Tahitian word "tatau". Captain Cook introduced this word into the English language, and tattoos have long been associated with sailors!Fletcher Christian and his shipmates had tattoos placed on their buttocks while they soaked up the atmosphere and charms of Tahiti on that fateful Breadfruit expedition in 1788-9. The early missionaries actively discouraged the practice, but fortunately there were some more broadminded and culturally sensitive westerners who took the trouble to record many of the traditional designs.

A most interesting fact is that the traditional Polynesian tattoo designs give the strongest indication of the origins of the Polynesians. They bear a marked similarity to the designs of ancient pottery found in South-east Asia.


Anonymous said...


Who is Pauline Barff-Reynolds? How long did she live in Norfolk and who is she related to? I am curious.


Yvon Douran

Anonymous said...

I would also like to know this. As well as who George Barff might be related to.

My great,great,great grandfather was Rev.Barff who was based in Huahine for 50 years.

John Barff

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