Rapa Nui Moai

This video is a fascinating introduction to the moai of Rapa Nui which have long captured the curiosity and imagination of many people across shores.


These humungous, monolithic carvings face inland, with their backs to the sea. Given the small the size of Rapa Nui, it may appear as if they stare out to oncoming seafarers and storms but while doing so, they primarily gaze across the island and watch over the community. They are infused with deep mana.

Ahu Akapu and the moai figures at Tahai further in the distance

Moai are situated to overlook ceremonial spaces; a localised version of the Polynesian marae known as ahu. This indicates they once were associated with ancestral lineage and areas of clan land. Most ahu are located on the coast and typically consist of a raised stone terrace (already reaching heights of 7 metres), on which they placed these monumental, ancestral deity figures, running parallel with the sea.

Moai were carved in situ in a quarry of soft volcanic rock on a hill called Rano Raruku. The method of transportation is highly innovative, simply using a system of rolling logs. Some are capped with red scoria topknots or pukao and are brought to life by inserting shell eyes.

245 ahu sites have been identified on Rapa Nui. Some of them show evidence of maintenance and up-keeping of the moai. The cyclical nature of statue-raising is a proclamation of the importance that these ancestral temples held within the culture. They were built continuously between AD 1000 – 1500.

As someone who is interested in early exploration, settlement and trade routes; essentially, the knowledge of how we have come to live today, it never ceases to amaze me how relentlessly determined and powerful these early voyagers were. Navigating between atolls and islands, the settlement of the Pacific was not some accidental happening. The deep understanding of their environment, respect for their traditions and resourceful ingenuity led to a thriving network of cultural exchange.

Love how Dr Wayne Ngata describes Pacific culture and the ocean as a continent, a home to which we all belong as it surrounds and connects us all – this world of water, Oceania.

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