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Posts Tagged ‘South Pacific’

When we looked at them, they just stared at us with those big eyes. And the stare was constant and unrelenting like they were looking right through us. DSC_0397It was like they wanted to talk to us but they couldn’t because their lips were sealed. Some were tall and some were short and some had their hair piled on top of their head and some did not.DSC_0632
These famous UNESCO World Heritage humanlike moais statues were everywhere on Easter Island as we went on a private tour from the Crystal Symphony cruise of the South Pacific. DSC_0393Moais number more than 900 on the island and some stood alone and some were in groups of five or seven. Ahu Tongariki is the famous one with 15 standing in a row. The moais range from 33 inches tall to 40 feet tall and weigh up to hundreds of tons.DSC_0558
And they were all hand carved from volcanic tuff and became the iconic Moai statues of Easter Island. Using hand chisels of basalt, the Rapa Nui people chipped the monolithic statues out of blackened cliffs of the Rano Raraku volcanic crater between 1250 and 1600. DSC_0479The moais were placed on rectangular stone platforms called ahu, which are tombs for the people that the statues represented. The moais were intentionally made with different characteristics since they were supposed to look like the person in the tomb.DSC_0525DSC_0529
As were toured the crater, we saw many Moais still standing on the crater slope and they stared at us as we stared at them. Once the moais were carved, they were rolled down the crater and lifted into a standing position so the back could be completed. When they were finished, they would be moved to an ahu platform of someone’s property.

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The red circle indicates where the moai were carved out of the mountain and where the famous 15-moai statue is located, called Ahu Tongariki. And the little black statues around the island indicate moais.

Before our tour began, we were told not to touch the statues, climb them or chip a stone or take any stones from them for a souvenir. But if was ok for the roaming horses and cattle to rub against them or use them to scratch on or lick. DSC_0391
After many of the moais were carved, they were placed on rectangular stone platforms called ahu, which are tombs for the people that the statues represented. The moais were intentionally made with different characteristics since they were supposed to look like the person in the tomb.DSC_0387
How the extremely heavy moais were moved from the volcano several miles to their ahu platform is a mystery with several theories. The most popular explanation seems to be that the statues “walked” to the ahu platform. Three ropes were used to move the moai: one on each side and one around the neck and pulled from the back. So, it was twisted from side to side and the rope from the back helped keep it standing. DSC_0627

The base of the moai was slightly rounded and so were the roads so it could be moved from side to side. Other theories are rolling the statue on tree trunks and moving it with a sled on round tree trunks as “wheels.”DSC_0448
All Moais we visited were placed looking inland so they could look over the ceremonial area, except Ahu Akivi. which are 7 moai facing the sea to help sailors find the island. It is also thought that they were waiting for their King. When the moai statue was placed on the ahu platform, the eyes were the last to be carved. White coral and black or red scoria stone made the pupils and the moai then begin that cold, hard stare. DSC_0414Many moais were left without the white coral eyes as it is believed the white eyes were reserved for -the prominent people.
And years later, the top knot made of red scoria stone would be added. Called pukao, the top knot added further status to the moai.DSC_0580

It is believed the Moai were traditions of religion and status and were built to honor the chieftain and ancestors. And it is believed the moais are symbols of authority and power, both political and religious and they have mana, which is charged by a magical spirit essence. And it is believed the moais were representative of ancient Polynesian ancestors. And another belief is the moais was considered one “up-man-ship” among the Rapa Nui people. With a moai, they were saying, “mine is bigger than yours.”DSC_0422DSC_0436
Then around 1550-1600, the Rapa Nui people stopped making the moais and Easter Island began declining. The Rapa Nui people began turning against each other. They fought among themselves for the fertile land that was left as their ancestors had destroyed most of it as crops failed one after the other. Some began to turn to their god Make Make or the Birdman cult. DSC_0449Competition began among them to become a member of the cult for if succeeded, food was the reward. To become a member of the birdman cult, a person had to find the first Sooty Turn egg. If a person did not succeed, the person killed himself. DSC_0649
The Birdman Cult then began rebuilding the population and sweet potatoes and other crops were now doing good. But, newcomers started coming and brought diseases, rats and cockroaches and by the turn of the century only 110 people were left.

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As the Crystal Symphony dropped anchor in the ocean, this was the view we had of Easter Island and those moais. We hurried to board a small boat to the shore so we could see those world famous UNESCO World Heritage statues up close and personal.

Then missionaries arrived and brought Christianity with them and the Rapa Nui people began ridding themselves of tattoos and many moais were toppled. And it wasn’t until recently that most were restored to their position atop ahu platforms all over Easter island.DSC_0632
The moais now stare with that unrelenting stare like they were looking right through us. It was like they wanted to talk to us but they couldn’t because their lips were sealed.IMG_2795 Some were tall and some were short and some had their hair piled on top of their head and some did not. And hopefully they will stand and stare at many people for many years to come and be enjoyed by all at this UNESCO World Heritage site.

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This moai was discovered to be really tall because most of it was below ground.

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Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com

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 All the furniture in the room had to be moved and stacked to get enough room to lay out this tapa


All the furniture in the room had to be moved and stacked to get enough room to lay out this tapa

The pounding and cracking noise was relentless as we waited at a money exchange on the Main West Highway in Nukunuku, Kingdom of Tonga, in the South Pacific, north of New Zealand. Inquiring to Esther our guide about the noise, she replied, “that is tapa making.” Immediately I requested to watch the process.

Somewhat surprised at my request, Esther agreed to search the Tongan village for the noise. And the driver said the noise was coming from the right of us.

Ofa  and Esther, right.

Ofa and Esther, right.

So, off we went, not knowing where we were headed. Tanga, our driver, had never been on a “spur of the moment” search for tapa in the making and was nervously talking and laughing all at the same time. ‘There is a couple walking on the road,” I said to Tanga. “Stop and ask them who is doing it.”

Here is where the non-stop noise was coming from.

Here is where the non-stop noise was coming from.

Tanga talked to the couple and the look on their face was one of “are you crazy.” But, he kept talking and explaining the noise in Tongan language and finally the lady pointed to the next street and the house.

Off we went again, turning right on the next street and stopping at the first house on the left. Ofa answered the knock at the door and was surprised at the request as it is unusual for strangers to ask to come in and watch them work. “But I have 2 tourists who would like to watch the tapa making process since they heard the noise.” Esther told her. Ofa welcomed us with open arms. “Come in” she said.DSC_0568

Half of her large living room displayed one 12×12 foot (3 meters) tapa that she and 4 other ladies were making from the beginning. “It is going to my niece for her 16th birthday,” Ofa said, “and we have been working on it for 8 days.”

Ofa explained, when finished, she will fold it up and give it to her with a big bouquet of flowers on top. Family in Tonga is number one importance, Ofa explained, and most tapa is given as gifts and not for sale. “My niece will then keep it under her bed and give it as a gift to her future husband’s family”

The Paper Mulberry Tree that is used to make the handmade Tapas.

The Paper Mulberry Tree that is used to make the handmade Tapas.

But, we still had not found where the noise was coming from and in the kitchen in the back of the house we found it. Next to a wall, Ofa sat  cross legged on the floor making that noise that we heard 3 blocks (3 KM approx.) away on the main West Highway. Ofa was pounding out a 6 ft(2 meters) long piece of paper mulberry tree into a flat piece of “paper” about 12 inches(1/3 meter) wide by 6 feet long (2 meters long).

Old work shoes are used to lift the Toa Hardwood log off f the floor.

Old work shoes are used to lift the Toa Hardwood log off the floor.

One after the other, the 38-year-old pounded her 3×3 inch square Ike wood mallet club onto a Toa hardwood log that was flat on one side. When the 3 pound flat mallet hit the flat log, the ¼ inch mulberry bark that was 3-7 inches wide became paper thin and 12 inches wide. The noise was so super loud and so deafening we could barely hear anything.

Hammering flat another piece of paper mulberry wood and removing the bark.

Hammering flat another piece of paper mulberry wood and removing the bark.

Before Ofa flattened the off-white inner part of the mulberry tree bark strip, she removed the hard outer layer by pulling and cutting it off in strips. The inner bark was soaked in water to make it soft and pliable for Ofa’s mallet to flatten.DSC_0583

For 7 days, Ofa and her friends flattened mulberry bark strips to paper thin and then they were glued together to make the 12×12 foot tapa.DSC_0602

A fabric backing from New Zealand was used to glue the strips together so the tapa can easily be repaired if damaged or torn.

Ofa explained that these handmade tapa are used for weddings, funerals, birthdays, celebrations, room dividers and  wall decorations.

The "paint brush,"  the trunk of the pandanus plant, is very absorbent of dye.

The “paint brush,” the trunk of the pandanus plant, is very absorbent of dye.

“Painting” traditional designs onto the tapa represent happiness, giving, peace, friendly and sharing that the 5 ladies painted using a round 3 inch long piece of the pandanus stalk because it absorbs the nautral dye.DSC_0604DSC_0603

After sun drying thoroughly, it was then time to rub a thick coating of boiled flour, water and taro seeds for sealing and making the tapa shine. The masterpiece is then sprayed for bugs to prevent damage. After another thorough drying in the sun, the tapa is finished and ready to give for that birthday.

It is obvious this long hard process to make this work of art is a work of love for Ofa, which means LOVE in the Tongan language. And she shows her love for her family with every mallet sound she makes in tapa traditional Tonga. Photo Copy ©  2015 carolyntravels.com 

Ofa cutting and scraping the bark off the paper mulberry wood to make ready for pounding it flat.

Ofa cutting and scraping the bark off the paper mulberry wood to make ready for pounding it flat.

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