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"Moai Kavakava" Top 5 Page for this destination Easter Island Local Custom Tip by pure1942

Easter Island Local Customs: 28 reviews and 26 photos

  Moai Kavakava
by pure1942

Rapa Nui is justifiably famous for its magnificent giant, stone moai. However, the island also has a proud and ancient tradition of fine wood carving (strange for an island that has been virtually treeless for centuries!). Nonetheless, intricate wooden carvings of war clubs, ceremonial paddles (ao), writing tablets (rongo-rongo), ceremonial dress pieces and chest plates (reimiro) and statues have been found all over the island. The term moai actually stems from the Rapa Nui word for ‘image’ and so does not confine its use solely to the famous stone moai of Easter Island. There are also smaller, wooden moai although their characteristics are very different to the stone giants. The moai kavakava are not as well known as their stone counterparts but are just as mysterious and intriguing. Kavakava literally means ‘ribbed figure’ and the reason behind this strange name becomes immediately apparent when you see one. These highly stylised wooden figures, carved with obsidian tools from dark coloured driftwood, are carved to depict an almost skeletal figure with protruding ribs, eyebrows and nose. Unlike, the stone moai, the moai kavakava have legs and are often depicted sporting a goatee beard as well as displaying a prominent ***!!! The purpose of these wooden figures is not entirely clear but according to oral traditions these carvings were prized possessions and were kept wrapped up inside people’s homes and were only brought out for special occasions, festivals and ceremonies where they were hung around the neck during ritual dances. There were once hundreds of these moai kavakava on the island but most of these carved figures were taken from the island, either sold, stolen or given as gifts to visitors, and are now scattered all over the world in museums and private collections.

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  • Written Nov 2, 2011
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