Aphrodite’s Island: The European Discovery of Tahiti

by Anne Salmond
University of California Press, 2009.

Aphrodite’s Island is a new account of the European discovery of Tahiti, the Pacific island of mythic status that has figured so powerfully in European imaginings about sexuality, the exotic, and the nobility or bestiality of “savages.” In this book, Anne Salmond takes readers to the center of the shared history to furnish insights into Tahitian perceptions of the visitors while illuminating the full extent of European fascination with Tahiti. As she discerns the impact and meaning of the European effect on the islands, she demonstrates how, during the early contact period, the mythologies of Europe and Tahiti intersected and became entwined. Drawing on Tahitian oral histories, European manuscripts and artworks, collections of Tahitian artifacts, and illustrated with contemporary sketches, paintings, and engravings from the voyages, Aphrodite’s Island provides an account of the Europeans’ Tahitian adventures. (Publisher’s description)

Anne Salmond is a historian, writer and academic. She worked closely with Eruera and Amiria Stirling, noted elders of Te Whaanau-a-Apanui and Ngati Porou, a collaboration which led to the publication of several books. Salmond has been the recipient of numerous literary awards, scholarships and academic prizes. In 1995 she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire for services to New Zealand history, in 2004 she received a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for non-fiction, and in 2007 she became an inaugural Fellow of the New Zealand Academy of the Humanities.