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The Moai of Rapa Nui

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Moai at Rano Raraku. Travelling Otter/Wiki Commons.

The monumental anthropomorphic stone sculptures – moai – of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, are in all probability the best-known Polynesian artwork kind. 

There have been round 1,000 moai. Most had been carved in tuff, a yellowy-brown condensed volcanic ash from Rano Raraku, the island’s largest volcano, though a number of had been created from more durable solidified basalt magma. Many wore giant cylindrical ‘hats’ (pukau) carved from pink volcanic scoria. Most had been positioned on raised stone platforms (ahu), typically organized in lengthy rows. The vast majority of the moai had been discovered on the three important coastlines of tricorn formed Rapa Nui with their backs to the ocean, as if forming a protecting guard across the island. Some had been positioned on what could also be historical roads resulting in the crater rim of Rano Raraku. It’s thought that they had been created someday between 1250 and 1500. 

The moai exert a strong presence, with distinctive options that usually embody a deep forehead and eye sockets, outstanding equine nostril, flared nostrils, elongated earlobes, robust jawline and clearly delineated lips. They might have represented ancestors of the islanders and people positioned on the slopes of Rano Raraku could have fashioned a street of remembrance. Their carving is assumed to have been a part of a structured ritual communal exercise, deeply embedded within the cultural lifetime of Rapa Nui’s inhabitants. Top-of-the-line-known moai, now held within the British Museum, is called Hoa Hakananai’a, which interprets as ‘silent or hidden good friend’. 

Round 1600 the delicate ecosystem of Rapa Nui collapsed, with widespread famine and alluvial landslides, maybe resulting from adjustments within the nesting habits of the migratory birds on which the islanders fed and deforestation following widespread development of the exceptional ocean-going catamaran canoes for which the Polynesians are famed. The collapse appears to have resulted in a change to the ritual use of some moai to accommodate a more recent birdman and fertility cult in an try to win again the favour of the gods. Richly painted carvings had been created on the backs of the moai, depicting half-bird, half-human figures with outstanding beaks and what could also be summary representations of feminine genitalia, komari

The primary Western encounter with Rapa Nui was on Easter Day 1722, with the arrival of the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen. Very quickly virtually all present moai on Rapa Nui had been toppled; by 1868, none remained standing. A conservation venture, begun within the Fifties, has since restored many moai across the island. 

Unsurprisingly, they’ve influenced a number of trendy sculptors, together with Elisabeth Frink, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Henry Moore, and in 2010 they entered the web age, turning into the idea for a brand new emoji.

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