Do you know this woman?

A mystery

Unidentified Unidentified young woman dancing, Ba, Fiji, 1949. Ref: WA-22164-F

Are you able to help with a puzzle we're trying to solve? We want to know who this woman is.

Whites Aviation

This photograph is one of many thousands of Whites Aviation images which the Library digitised in the Pictures Online project between 2010-2012. When New Zealand's air routes around the Pacific were being opened up after World War 2, the aerial photography company Whites Aviation Ltd was there to record it.

Last year, three of us on the Library staff began research for the new exhibition Island Style: Dancing the Pacific , opening at the Turnbull Gallery today. One of us found this image online, and we were all struck by its immediacy and appeal. We knew we wanted to include it in the exhibition.

We began to wonder who this 'unidentified young woman' might be. The Whites Aviation negative register and negative sleeve did not record her name.

Searching for clues

The photograph appears in the Turnbull Gallery brochure which advertises the current programme of shows. We were delighted when it was chosen to feature on the gallery poster as well. Seeing the photograph enlarged in this way though made the questions more insistent. Who was she, and what was her name?

I decided to search the National Library's website for the Whites Aviation numbers adjacent to this image, and to see what other photographs the company took while in Fiji in 1949. They show that Whites Aviation Ltd was on a road trip between Nadi and Rakiraki in the north for a few days. They photographed many local scenes and people, and also the amenities available at the hotels en route.

I found that there were four other photographs of her:

Four details of the woman from Ba, 1949.Details, L-R: WA-22053-F | WA-22054-F | WA-22051-F | WA-22052-F

They photographs were taken at Ba in north-west Viti Levu in September 1949. The garden she is in appears similar to other photographs taken in the grounds of the hotel owned by Northern Hotels Ltd at Ba. Did she perhaps work there? Had she arranged the hibiscus blooms in the urn?

Does anyone know this dancer?

We wonder if anyone might recognise this young woman as a family member, even after all these years. It would be wonderful to learn her name. Her family might be surprised to see the photographs too. Sai Lealea has posted the question on his blog on the Matavuvale Fiji Families Network.

Often there is something written on the back of a photograph, or in an album or register, which helps to give it some context. It might say who is in it, the event, or where and when it was taken. Although the Whites Aviation's registers and negative sleeves give the date and location of each of its photographs, they don't usually identify the people in them.

There are many other photographs in the Library's collections of 'unidentified' people (just some of the unidentified people, places, and things). We are always grateful to be given further information to add to the descriptive records on the TAPUHI database. If you think you can help by providing added details, please let us know using the Ask a Librarian form, or emailing

By Diane Woods

Diane is Field Librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library, helping to acquire materials for the library's collections.

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