Mysterious tribute to a Hawaiian Princess

While checking over the galleries at National Museum of Scotland this morning we were intrigued and excited to find two anthirium flowers and a photograph placed on the plinth beside the large Cook Islands feast bowl on display.

Feast bowl from the Cook Islands in the Grand Gallery of National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Feast bowl from the Cook Islands in the Grand Gallery of National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh


They were accompanied by a message in red ink reading:
‘In memory of Dear Friend of Titaua Whom spent family gatherings in Anstruther – Princess Victoria Kaiulani Cleghorn – (16.10.1875 – 6.3.1899) For the deep kinship between the Pacific Princesses’
Tribute to Princess Kaiulani placed beside the feast bowl on the day of her birthday in 1875 - the16th October

Tribute to Princess Kaiulani placed beside the feast bowl on the day of her birthday in 1875 – the16th October


Princess Kaiulani was part of the Hawaiian royal family and daughter of a Scottish man Archibald Cleghorn and Princess Likelike of Hawaii. During the 1890s she spent time in Scotland with the Tahitian Princess Titaua who at that time lived in the Scottish fishing town of Anstruther. The feast bowl next to which the tribute was placed is part of a larger collection at the museum which belonged to Princess Titaua. This particular piece was originally gifted to her in 1871 by Parua, the high chief of Atiu in the Cook Islands.
Princess Titaua was the daughter of an English man and the sister of Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti. Queen Pomare IV adopted Titaua in accordance with a Tahitian custom and gave her the royal name of Tetuanui-reia-ite-raiatea. At fourteen Titaua married Scottish trader John Brander. Following his death, she married Brander’s business associate, a Scottish businessman named George Darsie. In 1892 they retired to Darsie’s hometown of Anstruther.

National Museums Scotland recently acquired a Jour Apres Jour Book (Birthday Book) which belonged to Princess Titaua Darsie. It contains a number of signatures, as was the practice of registering a signature on the appropriate birthday. The book reveals further people within Titaua’s network and adding to her important collection.

Jour apres Jour book whihc previously belonged to Princess Titaua of Tahiti

Jour apres Jour book which previously belonged to Princess Titaua of Tahiti

Gauguin and the Pacific

This week, Pat Allan (World Cultures Curator, Glasgow Museums) and I took some time out from reviewing Pacific collections to meet with Pippa Stephenson who is Curator of European Art at Glasgow Museums. Pippa has been researching some woodcuts in the Glasgow collection by French artist Paul Gauguin which she is interested in displaying one day in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Pippa and Pat discuss the imagery used by Gauguin in his Tahiti woodcuts

Pippa and Pat discuss the imagery used by Gauguin in his Tahiti woodcuts


The woodcuts were created by Gauguin in the early 1890s inspired by his time living in Tahiti in 1891-3. He produced them to illustrate his book ‘Noa noa’ which was a document of his time there. ‘Noa noa’ was in fact largely fictionalised and there are multiple articles and publications available which show Gauguin’s exotic island idyll was fabricated by him, an unattainable reality that did not exist. After returning to Paris, Gauguin travelled back to French Polynesia in 1901 to Hiva Oa on the Marquesas Islands. He had by this point become disillusioned with Tahiti and it was on this island that he died in 1903. The artworks reveal this overtly exotic view Gauguin created of French Polynesia.
One of the woodcuts by Gauguin in his Tahiti series

One of the woodcuts by Gauguin in his Tahiti series

Raising project awareness across the globe

Post by Chantal Knowles:

I recently attended the Pacific Arts Symposium at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. The symposium provided an amazing opportunity to hear from Pacific islanders, academics, curators and artists working in the field of Pacific arts. I was able to present a paper on the collections of Tahitian Titaua Darsie-Brander held in the National Museums Scotland (more about her to come in a future blog) and encourage colleagues and friends to begin contributing to, and visiting this project website.

Musqueam elder Larry Grant greets Eruara Nia representing the Pacific Arts Association and Pacific Island community at the opening of the symposium and exhibition Paradise Lost? Contemporary Works from the Pacific at the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver.

Musqueam elder Larry Grant greets Eruara Nia representing the Pacific Arts Association and Pacific Island community at the opening of the symposium and exhibition Paradise Lost? Contemporary Works from the Pacific at the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver.

The symposium attended by over one hundred delegates was the most international forum yet that we have used to bring this exciting project to the attention of a wider audience. But our first three months of the project have been far from laid back, with project partners delivering talks across the country.

Artists Rosanna Raymond and Katrina Talei Igglesden perform at the opening of the conference, 5 August 2013.

Artists Rosanna Raymond and Katrina Talei Igglesden perform at the opening of the conference, 5 August 2013.

Presentations elsewhere have included Neil Curtis and Chantal Knowles’s paper ‘Pacific collections in Scotland – a review’ presented at the Museum Ethnographers Group annual conference in Brighton in April this year (see http://www.museumethnographersgroup.org.uk/en/conference/331-2013-conference.html); Jilly Burns discussed the role of the project in knowledge transfer at a Museums Galleries Scotland event in April; and both Neil Curtis and Chantal Knowles presented individual papers on Fijian collections at the Fiji Art Project Symposium at the University of Cambridge in June.

Looking forward we have several presentations coming up in the near future. Eve Haddow will be highlighting the work done so far at the University Museums in Scotland conference at St Andrews in October and Chantal Knowles will be at the Museums Galleries Scotland conference this week.

The project is rapidly making progress with new information coming to light daily. If you or your organisation want to hear more about the project or its outcomes as they develop please do get in touch. We are keen to involve as many people as possible in order to make the most of this opportunity to get Pacific Collections in Scotland known to a wider audience and connected to the people who care most about their future.