Moai Kavakava

oceania | Easter Island

Moai Kavakava

Easter Island

Moai Kavakava male figure
Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

Late 19th century
Carved wood, obsidian and bone
Height: 25 cm – 9 ¾ in.

Provenance
Ex collection Charles & Blanche Cybele Derby, USA
Ex private collection, California, USA
Ex collection John Giltsoff, London
Ex private collection, London
Ex collection Amy & Elliot Lawrence, New York

Published: Fine Arts Paris & La Biennale 2022
Moai Kavakava Figure 25 cm / Galerie Flak Price: on request
Easter Island is a name that all by itself evokes mystery, the dream of far-away places, and ocean voyages. After reading descriptions of them by explorers and authors such as Pierre Loti, generations of artists and collectors had their imaginations ignited by moai, those stone giants with piercing eyes.
Isolated at the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Rapa Nui came to be known in Europe as Easter Island after the Dutch expedition led by Roggeveen landed there on Easter Sunday, 1722. James Cook’s Second Voyage (1774) revealed the existence of « human figures made of narrow pieces of wood about eighteen inches or two feet long and wrought in a much neater and more proportionate manner than the (stone) statues. (...) There was something characteristic in them, which showed a taste for the arts » (A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World, James Cook’s Second Voyage, 1772–1775).
This type of emaciated, almost skeletal, male figure was known locally as a moai kavakava literally « statue with a prominent rib-cage ». The lack of reliable information and the unique physical appearance of these figures has led to much speculation. Objects of status and prestige, they seem to have been important genealogical symbols, and were probably used to honor ancestors and tutelary deities in order to obtain their protection.
Mysterious and fascinating, the wooden statues of Easter Island are veritable icons of ancient Pacific arts.
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