Easter Island







Easter Island is one of the world's remote and highly spiritual places. Located 4,000 kilometres from Tahiti in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is barely touched by modern civilization. It is often referred to as Rapa Nui, the "navel of the world".

Only 64 square miles in size, it is like an open air museum for there are huge stone moais gathered everywhere. These mysterious carved figures, massive in size, some weighing 50 tons, stand more than ten meters high, gazing out across rolling hills, mountains and extinct volcanoes towards crystal clear waters.

Hanga Roa is the tiny capital where most of the 2,000 inhabitants live. About 69% of the islanders are descendants of the original Polynesian ancestors. The remainder are mostly from Chile. The official language is Spanish, but many islanders speak Rapa Nui.
Rapa Nui was settled around 300AD by Polynesians. Chile annexed Easter Island in 1888 and in the 1960s the island received its own municipal constitution province of Valparaiso.

There are no indigenous land mammals and even marina mammals are rare. White tropic birds nest on the offshore pinnacle of Motu Kao Kao. Life revolves around fishing, agriculture and archaeological research carried out by permanently stationed Chileans and foreigners. In the stone quarry near Rano Raraku volcano, you can see where the stone moais were quarried. There are also monuments in indifferent stages of construction. Other major attractions are the magnificent beaches. The ceremonial centre of Orongo perched on the rim of the glazier of the volcano is the best place to view the three islets of Motu which figured in the birdman ritual. At Tahai, a short walk from the village, locals can often be found selling artefacts such as carved replicas of the moais.

Visitors to the island can choose accommodation from among ten hotels and twenty-seven boarding houses, or stay with the family. Camping is allowed. Sightseeing is done by car, motor cycle, on horseback or on foot. If hiring a car, be aware that there is no insurance on the island. For the the very adventurous only, hire a fisherman with the boat to take you to Motu Nui to see the cave paintings. This can only be attempted on a calm day.

Food is moderate and everything that is not grown locally must be shipped in. The main diet is fish and chicken. Lobster is a delicious local treat and there is sweet potato, yam and poi made from taro. Night life is confined to the bigger hotels on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The best swimming is at Anakena or Ovahe beaches on the north coast. There is also big game fishing with local fishermen who will take you out in their boats. You can also snorkel, go hiking or horseback riding. Wood or stone carving are popular with tourists, and islanders often come to the hotels to display and sell their work. Also available are colourful T-shirts and posters.
The Rapa Nui festival is held for one week in late January and early February.



 was discovered by Europeans in 1772, attacked by Peruvian slave ships in 1862 and later devastated by epidemic diseases. Sadly much of the island's musical traditions disappeared along with the population.

The traditional genealogy of Easter Island has its origins in the recorded myths and legends of the early settlers who first came and settled on Easter Island. Legend has it that this settlement resulted either from a supernatural being called Uoke or the dreams of Hau Maka. The name of Hau Maka is one of the few old ones still

remembered today. His memory is kept alive in a song which recounts part of the legend:
O Hatu Matu'a i-unga-mai ai
Ia Hau Maka, i toona tuura
Ka-kimi te maara mo te ariki
Mo te arikim mo tomo. Hatu Matu'a sent here
His servant Hau Maka
To search out a landing place
For the king to land.

The music of Easter Island has a most distinctive Tahitian influence and comprises traditional singing and chanting. In this sense, every family forms a choir. Each of these groups vies in imagination with the others in relating the life of the community and thus perpetuating the memory of the Rongorongo. In the past, these groups had come together each year to take part in the contest. Supposedly judged in an unbiased manner, the contest results in disputations and quarrels which can go on until the following year and the next contest.

In the early days, these groups were accompanied by the conch-shell trumpet with rhythm being provided by a dancer leaping on a thin stone slab set over a pit containing a large calabash resonator. It is also believed that in the early days stone castanets were also used. Unfortunately, none of these instruments remain in use today and singers are now accompanied by guitars. In common with other Polynesians, the traditional music also forms the basis for the dance and several examples of this are shown below:

Contemporary Easter Island music tells stories about the arrival and departure of loved ones, the story of the new bride which praises marriage, the villages, the sunrise and the wind blowing on the island. There are also songs which are concerned with the past, the Rongorongo tradition which traces the history of the family from the very earliest times along with the song of the moai sculptures in which the rhythm is provided by the striking together of two stones, representing the sound of the sculptors of the giant statues at work in the quarries. These songs can all be heard on Jane's Pacific Islands Radio Stations below.



On Easter Island, as throughout Polynesia, the people maintain an oral tradition in the form of songs and stories about their mythical gods and heroes who had the strengths and weaknesses of men, and into tales of history about noble ancestors who bore the names and attributes of gods.  The oral traditions exist wherever the Polynesians settled. On every island, the poets, priests, and narrators drew from the same deep well of the mythological past which the Polynesians themselves called the night of tradition.

On far away Easter Island, the only great gods were Tangaroa and Rongo and these were merely mentioned in the lineage of Hotu-matua, the traditional founder of the community.  A local god, Makemake was regarded as the creator of mankind and was also patron of the Bird Cult, the principal festival of the island.
Makemake first manifested himself in the form of a skull and the large-eyed rock-carvings or petroglyphs at the sacred village of Rongo are said to represent him. This village was built on the cliffs overlooking three small islets and it was to one of these, Motu-nui that Makemake was said to have driven the birds to protect them from egg gatherers.

Each year in the nesting season, servants were sent to the island to await the appearance of the first egg, while their masters waited at Rongo. The man whose servants found the first egg became Bird Man, for one year. His hair and eyebrows were shaved and his eyelashes cut off and he carried the egg on the palm of his hand down the mountain to a place where he lived in seclusion for the rest of the year

Tantalisingly, little is known about Easter Island traditions, including the annual election of the Bird Man however it has been suggested that the Bird Man was the chosen representative of Makemake and that the contest for fetching the first egg determined his selection.




The Language of Easter Island

The language of Easter Island Rapanui has ten consonants (g, h, k, m, n, p, r, t, v and the glottal stop), five vowels (a, e, i, o, u), and three diphthongs counting as single syllables (ai, au, oi); g is the sound of ng as in sing, h is strongly aspirated, the rest are much like in Spanish. The glottal stop is the sound which is heard instead of t in Cockney: Wha' is i'? ("What is it?").

Englert is careful to record vowel length, stress, and glottal stops, which are all crucial in distinguishing between words in the Rapanui language (as in all Polynesian languages), but he is not consistent __ or perhaps the misprints make it so appear. He indicates length with a circumflex, the glottal stop with an apostrophe. Stress is indicated by an acute, but only when it does not occur where expected regularly (here Englert follows the principles of Spanish orthography).
Stress. To tell where the stress should normally occur on a word, and is omitted in writing, count its syllables from the end. The three diphthongs count for one syllable each, and a vowel, long or short, also counts for one syllable.

• Words ending with one of the three diphthongs ai, au, oi have the stress there, on the last syllable, on the main vowel of that diphthong: po'oi, kau, hahau, mai, Tahai.

• One-syllable words ending in a single vowel are unstressed: te, mo, ma.

• All the rest take the stress on the second-last syllable maikuku, mana'u, tea, aito, amiami, û'i.

Whenever the stress does not occur where expected under those rules, Englert writes an acute over the stressed vowel: takaúre "fly" (not takaure); ra'á "sun" (not ra'a), ká "to light a fire," distinct from ka (unstressed), which is the mark of the imperative. When the final vowel of a word is stressed, it is also pronounced long. Thus the á of ra'á is long: ra'â; likewise the é of ké "other, different": me'e kê "something different."



‘umu -    underground oven


vai -    water


te -    the


tokerau -    wind


roa -    long    


tangata -     man; to be human.  


pito -    navel


nene -     sweet, delicious.  


moana -     ocean or blue


motu -     island


matato‘a -     warrior, tribal chief;


mauku -     grass


maunga -     mountain/hill 


ika -     fish


iorana -    greeting, used like hello and goodbye.  


"Iorana tatou" -     hello/goodbye everyone.  


kai -    to eat


hanga -    bay 


hare - house


hare mauku - grass house


hiku -     tail


You're welcome - O te aha no

What is your name? - Ko ai tou ingoa?

To your health! - Manuia (paka-paka)!

Thank you - Maururu

Please - Ana hanga koe

How are you ? (singular) - Pehe koe?

How are you ? (plural) - Pehe korua?

Hello! Good morning! Good afternoon! Good evening! - 'Iorana!

Fine! - Riva-riva! (often sounds like diva-riva , or riba-riba)

Goodbye - 'Iorana (old: Ko mao a )




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