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  • Retracing Routledge Exhibition in Darlington, England
  • Susie Stephen

This past winter an exhibition opened in Darlington, northern England to visually tell the story of the ‘Retracing Routledge’ project.

As outlined in an earlier edition of this journal, Retracing Routledge took place in 2014 to follow the path of the 1914 Mana Expedition (co-led by Katherine and William Scoresby Routledge) from England to Rapa Nui. The project also raised funds for the Easter Island Foundation Scholarship Program.

The Darlington exhibition was held in a gallery within the town center’s ‘Crown Street’ library. As an interesting side note, Katherine Routledge’s uncle, Edward Pease, a prominent member of Darlington’s Quaker community in the 1800s, had left a substantial sum in his will as a gift to the town, which funded the construction of the library. Now an historic and protected building in Darlington, the 1884 library stands as a classic example of the Pease family influence on the town during that era.

The exhibition provided a space where, using a variety of media, visitors could gain a glimpse into the work of the Routledges and the Mana Expedition, the efforts of Retracing Routledge, and learn about the Easter Island Foundation’s scholarship program. The aim of the exhibition was to inform visitors about the links between a historical figure from Darlington with Rapa Nui, inspire people to be curious about the world, and to give guests a glimpse into a short section of Rapa Nui’s history.

A selection of archival images provided material and context that recreated scenes from the Routledge’s visit to Rapa Nui between March 29, 1914 and August 18, 1915. Many people were fascinated by a reprint of the Mana’s ships log from the day Easter Island was first sighted and also a receipt for goods that were taken onboard. A subset of archival images from the Mana Expedition were also placed alongside photographs of their modern counterparts, wherever possible, providing a comparative view of landscapes and scenes from across Rapa Nui. It wasn’t possible to visit all the sites that the Routledges surveyed and spent time working on, but those that were accessible provided enough information to show landscape and land-use change, population growth and the development of Hanga Roa.

A number of artists contributed to the exhibition. Nick Thorpe, an Edinburgh based journalist and author of Eight Men and a Duck: An Improbable to Voyage by Reed Boat to Easter Island gave a captivating talk to visitors in December. Nick presented dramatic video and colorful photographs from his experiences, sailing on the reed vessel Viracocha and spending time on Rapa Nui. Amaya Riva, a painter based in Hanga Roa, created a piece of artwork especially for the exhibition and the subtle beauty of ‘Ana Kai Tangata’ drew considerable attention throughout the duration of the exhibition. Photographers Graeme Rowatt and Jesse Stephen also contributed past and present photographs from Darlington and Rapa Nui.

Two shorts films were put on view, both written and produced by school groups. The first film was the final product of a shadow puppet theatrical performance. A large group of 260 grade 7 art students from Hummersknott Academy in Darlington worked with art teacher Helen Mason and local artist Kelvin Moore (of KanDo Arts) to design and create a variety of puppets, props and an entire theatre set, all inspired by the story of Katherine Routledge and the Mana Expedition. The puppets and set were then used by a smaller group of 90 students to act out scenes from Rapa Nui’s past. The shadow puppet play was completed in a single day, which was quite remarkable, as the students had no previous experience of shadow theatre techniques. Footage from the day’s action was captured and edited into a striking short film with no spoken word but accompanied by a soundtrack. The second film was put together by a group of high school students and their teacher Francisca Contessa at the Aldea Educativa (high school) on Rapa Nui. The film begins with an introduction, which quickly moves to a ‘flashback in time’ scene where Juan Tepano is portrayed discussing a Rapa Nui legend with Katherine...


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pp. 52-54
Launched on MUSE
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