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  • Ingrained Images:Wood Carvings from Easter Island
  • Joan Seaver Kurze

Ingrained Images is an extensive study of Easter Island wood carvings that accompanied an exhibition at The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. The book is richly illustrated with color maps, photographs, and black and white line drawings of the various wooden carved objects described within.

Joan Seaver Kurze spent much of the 1980s studying the wood carving tradition on Easter Island for her doctoral thesis. Based on her dissertation, the book includes conversations with Rapanui artisans (many of whom have since passed on) and her observations of how they worked. The relationship of Rapanui men with their kautoki (carving tool or adze) is explored in detail and the custom of women using chisels to carve rongorongo symbols on tablet replicas is discussed. Kurze relays the fascinating history of each of the carvings found in the Catholic church in Hangaroa.

The first chapter introduces the reader to Easter Island from pre-contact times up to the Rapanui of "today" (at the time of publication of the book in 1997, there were only 2700 residents living on the island). The second chapter summarizes acculturation on Rapa Nui from the 1800s, when the exchange of objects between visitors and islanders first began. She describes the transition from the carved female pa'apa'a figures to the Barbie dolls with hula skirts she saw for sale during Tapati one year. The development of the tradition of wood carving on Rapa Nui is discussed in the next chapter, as is the symbolism present in the various carvings. The importance of the kautoki, sources of wood, and the passage of the carving tradition from fathers to sons is presented. Finally, each of the types of Rapa Nui carvings are illustrated and described: human forms (moai kavakava, moai tangata, moai pa'apa'a, moai vi'e), androgynous figures, moai replicas, tanagta manu, moai moko, and human body parts, such as hands and feet; fauna, such as bird figures (manu), turtle (honu), fish (ika), octopus (heke) and mollusks (pure, mama); ceremonial / functional objects (rei miro, tahonga, ua, paoa, 'ao, rapa); and the kohau rongorongo tablets.

Ancient and modern belief systems are covered in the fourth chapter and the history of Christianity on the island is detailed, including the story of the creation of Maria, Madre de Rapa Nui, who now stands guard over the interior of the Parroquia de Santa Cruz with her otherworldly glare. All of her companion saints are described in detail. The final chapter includes an interesting discussion of Rapanui aesthetics and the interplay between Christian morality and Polynesian sexuality.

The last part of the book includes a catalog of objects, many of them illustrated, that were on display at the Maxwell Museum for the exhibition that coincided with the South Seas Symposium, the Fourth International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific, and a glossary of terms used in the book.

This book would be a wonderful addition to the library of anyone interested in the history of the wood carving tradition on Easter Island. We are offering it to our readers at a very special price of $12.50. [End Page 81]



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