Deepening the Mystery: Surreal Rapa Nui (fka Easter Island)

Rapa Nui8 copy

Originally Published on (Hana Hou! Magazine – Hawaiian Airlines)

I stretched out my sleeping bag under his three-foot-long nose. I was bored with my anthropologist friends, who were constantly digging and sifting and measuring in and around the stone men of Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island). I was traveling with Dr. Terry Hunt, an anthropologist at the University of Hawai‘i who was directing a field school for students from across the United States. They had come here for the purpose of analyzing the moai; I just wanted to feel them. So for a couple nights, I wandered up to the rim of Rano Raraku Crater for some peace and quiet.

For me it was all about art, and art doesn’t require deconstruction. It is what it is. Surrealist painter René Magritte once proclaimed that the job of the artist is to deepen the mystery. If that is the measure of superlative art then the rapanui who carved these giants succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. From the moment Captain Roggeveen first saw them in 1722, the moai have been and remain beautifully perplexing. The fact is that all of the science for all of these years hasn’t made much of a dent in explaining these magnificent, monumental sculptures. Only the moai know the answers to all of those curious little inquiries, but they continue to be stone-faced on the subject.

So I turned to a local bar for some insight. Passing a hitching post located just outside the front door, I walked across the empty dance floor to get a better look at, of all things, an amusing knock-off Magritte’s Golconde. You know this painting: A sky full of proper English gentleman, dressed in bowlers and topcoats and suspended in the air like raindrops. The local artist’s interpretation substituted moai in place of the tiny Englishmen. Art inspires art.

Rapa Nui 3 copy

The unflinching gaze of the moai at Tongariki, Rapa Nui (fka Easter Island)

Rapa Nui2 copy

All of the moai left standing on the rim of Ranu Raraku Crater stare at the sea … watching and waiting.