Saturday, November 8, 2008

easter island

Windblown grassland and rockiness are the portrait of the sad, grey & dreary tropical isle worn thin. A tribe of natives wear reed and grassen outfits in bird motifs adorned with shiny seashells and feathers. They are the Birdman cult; subscribers to the dominant belief system of Rapa Nui. Wherein control over the council of tribal chiefs is determined by a race/competition.

All the Birdmen gather in the sacred ceremonial village of Orongo among many carvings and paintings of stone illustrating the Birdman motif and wholly representing religiosity.

Each chief chooses a representative Hopu to climb down the cliffs of Orongo to swim the channel to the tiny isle of Boko Maru with the aid of a reed bundle floatie. The waters between the main island and its smaller wristbone-shaped counterpart absolutely teem with sharks.

The contestants who survive the swim and get to the island must gather the first egg of the Manutara (or sooty tern) and return the way they came with egg un-broken in a little reed basket tied round the neck. Some hide out in caves for days to wait for the bird to lay down an egg that serves as a sacred offering after precarious transport. That white and speckled oblate spheroid in a seabird’s nest lies in play. Is a fresh-laid egg softer at first?

The victor presents the unbroke egg to his chief and the chief is the Birdman for the year. Hard to tell why the guy who actually performed the feat isn't the one in charge. Hard to tell if it’s the first egg.

The island of Rapa Nui is nearly completely deforested. The ecosystem is tight. Two kinds of trees are extinct. There are a few small imported coconut palms, some bushes and the final native tree species. A palm protected by a small outlandish cult of savage conservationists.

Other smaller things, less important to me and you, (because trees are important to us right?) have gone extinct on this tiny remote rocky island. Bushes, birds and lizards. Grass, moss and worms.

There are Moai, mountainous monumaniacal monolithic monuments to man, in all directions. A thousand or more. Perhaps forty percent have been toppled in tribal skirmishes. Things so sacred become so quickly toppleable.

The ancient originator of the art of shaping tuff, the stone of compacted volcanic ash, askt his friend’s opinion on the first crude Moai sculpture. After sleeping on it the friend answered ‘make it look like a man, man.’

So, the style of Moai carving progressed to become more familiar.

The Buddha askt his likenesses not be in his likeness. So he is oft-portrayed portly to signify his spiritual wealth; as the rich are known to match the fatted calf of excess.

Many Moai are decorated and painted with a variety of natural pigments: powdered corals, rat blood, guano, roots.

Flaming Moai: wasteful decor.

Most of the island's resources were spent on the construction and transportation of this enormous ignematic statuary. But they sure dress up nice.

A band of rat-killers clad in ratskins shoddily sewn together with ratgut pass nearby the large Birdman outing. Their hats resemble ratheads. What might be the brainpan of the rathead is a secret chamber wherein lie the seeds of the island's few remaining palm trees. The rats find these palm nuts an exquisite delicacy. So exquisite it drew the rats to migrate thousands of Polynesian miles by sea when they got the bulletin in the rodent trade journals.

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