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Voyage to the moai of Rapa Nui (Easter Island)

Video transcript

[Music] on the island of Rapa Nui perhaps better known as Easter Island are these extraordinary stone monuments these moai and they can function as a way of understanding the fragility of culture in the 21st century my experience of Amoy seeing them from a walker a double-hull traditional Maori sailing vessel lined up on the shore facing in named some facing out to sea when we did eventually arrive on shore and were introduced through ceremony and ritual to the Moy was an amazing experience so you journeyed on a traditional boat to Rapa Nui and had that opportunity to see the island as it would have been seen for hundreds of years we've voyaged across the sea as part of revisiting our own relationship with traditional verging that our ancestors when gauged and as part of revisiting places that we knew had genealogical rings with us - leaving one completing one League of the Polynesian triangle when I think about the ocean when I think about the open sea I see it as a barrier but what you're saying is that the ocean is a place of connection for us the Pacific Ocean we probably see as a continent with the whole lot of settlements and people and the moai also function as important elements in this reclaiming of culture of this reclaiming of heritage they are standing more there are more still lying down there more partly still submerged and part of the rock structure of the earth and various stages of construction when they are standing they provide the opportunity for ancestors to talk and to engage with those ancestors through ritual through ceremony and that ancestral connection must seem especially precious because of all the the peoples of Rapa Nui have suffered over the years not only the deforestation but colonialization enslavement and so while we were there as part of the ceremony the men created a human leader to reach the eyes of the boy so they could place the coral eyes back into the Moy and by doing that bring them to life for period of time our understanding was that they were not allowed to do that for a number of decades was against the colonial rule that particular site that we went on to had been a restricted area for some centuries so we witnessed something which was quite poignant quite emotional for them as well as us they brought them back to life for a short period of time and then took the eyes out and put them back to sleep if I can put it that way the moai had lost their eyes and some of them had been toppled and in so much of the Pacific traditional systems were toppled and the idea of removing the eyes seems such a potent symbol for that disempowering what we found there from that up Ranieri people was that some years ago decades ago they sought help to support restoring the boy in restoring those more that were still standing in ensuring that those that were not standing were preserved as well Rapa Nui seems to be one of the most remote places I can imagine and yet because of the moai it is an extremely famous place and one that has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and so people do come from all over the world and I know that that tourism functions both to support the economy and to help preserve these objects and this culture but it also comes at a cost it's a fine line and you definitely people are balancing the obligations to their own culture and obligations to the pragmatism of time to feed themselves and moai are embodiments and ancestors the ancestors that would have come to that island initially it were - Maya is incredibly brave reaching out to islands that perhaps they weren't even sure existed taking this extraordinary journey but also a kind of extraordinary risk that's exactly what the people are that Larry told us and we were trying to align and see where the connections we were with us weaponry the colonizers language Spanish manga River French ours English we don't know French we don't know Spanish so we all spoke Marti well you can understand each other quite clearly if we go through the east towards the Cook Islands by heat sea we can still understand but the language is faster and that suggests to me that there was travel that these were not isolated cultures we've always maintained that there was exchanges we certainly know that when Mowrey came to all Theodore Modi also went back to where they came from to tell others so they were 2-way voyages certainly an Aryan sisters time the efforts by the people of Rapa Nui to reassert their culture to re-engage with their culture is microcosm of efforts that are taking place across Polynesia but I'm also thinking about the responsibility of the larger world and I'm thinking about the complicated role that Universal museums around the world to play in preserving cultures I'm thinking about museums in France in the United States in the United Kingdom that hold large collections of Pacific Island objects they preserve them they make them available for study but these objects are very far from home and endangered cultures are in the main minority cultures and minority cultures require friends in dominant cultures or majority cultures so learning institutions museums included universities schools public institutions have a major role in promoting their agenda of finding equitable ways to support the revitalization of those minority indigenous cultures in terms of objects in artifacts and tonga that are spread throughout the world plundered purchased given in the spirit of goodwill whatever way they were exchanged and many disconnected from their source communities Marty Tom and artifacts that are spread throughout the world particularly through Europe UK us then there's probably a rising demand from Marty to reconnect with those particular Tonga reconnect how repatriation may be digital can only go to some extinct to satisfy that source community would physical repatriation help support cultural revitalization the British Museum has two moai one large moai it is much beloved in London but it is very far away from its home it is a really complicated issue because the museum does have a universal agenda to show works of art from cultures across the world and there is some real benefit to have a spectrum of cultures available that can be compared and studied but it also isolates that object from its culture and when we think about the sculpture not as an inanimate but as an adamant figure that has a spiritual life that becomes even more important perhaps and of course there is a price to the island itself in the loss of that object if I take the view that I think that Tonga artifacts or objects that are in museums need to speak of their own culture of their own history through their own language then I think that's a challenge for an institution to enable that because it needs to speak first and foremost of into its own people there are Maori curators there are people that hold their cultural tradition and also are interested in music the interesting thing about Maori curators or indigenous curators for that matter they are loaded with expectations of indigenous people and institution expectations it's an unfair burden and it sounds like the museum's responsibility is broadening and museums have significant work to be responsible partners in not only being places that care for and display but are much more directly responsive to the cultures that produce the objects that they hold [Music]