Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Island statue heads home

Easter Island statue heads home

This Moai was taken from Easter Island in 1929 and taken to Chile before eventually finding its way to the Netherlands. The Moais, crafted between 400 and 1,000 years ago, represent deceased sacred ancestors of the Rapanui.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) � The huge stone head is framed by a wooden crate that casts shadows across its vacant eyes and elongated nose. After an odyssey of more than 80 years, the sculpture is set for what should be its final journey � home to Easter Island.

The 7-foot Moai, carved from compressed volcanic ash and decked in a red-rock headdress called a Pukau, is one of almost 900 ancestral statues crafted centuries ago on the remote Pacific island, annexed by Chile in 1888.

It was taken from the island in 1929 and spent some 40 years in the Chilean capital of Santiago before traveling to Argentina and making a quick round-trip visit to the Netherlands.

"Today is the end of a long exile for this Moai," Chilean Ambassador Luis Maira said at a ceremony Tuesday in Buenos Aires. "Today it is being returned to the place where it belongs, where the people are affectionately waiting for it."

Chilean artist Rosa Velasco, the statue's current owner, said that by returning the Moai she hopes to help preserve part of the cultural heritage of the Rapanui islanders, the natives of Easter Island.

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Paul Kekai Manansala