Most scholars and fieldworkers have reported that Belauans today have very little interest in the monolithic stone carvings and that, in the opinions of many islanders, foreigners surely must have carved them. The experience we had with the Belau Monolithic Sculpture Project in 1987, however, told us something quite different. We found that many Belauans had a profound interest in the carvings as a valued part of their cultural heritage. We were also convinced that some of the carvings were still valued as sacred objects in several of the more remote villages.
During the 1989 field season, anthropologist Dr. Ben Finney visited Rapa Nui. He gave a lecture in the school auditorium about Hokule’a, the great replica Polynesian voyaging canoe. Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg agreed with Finney and then-Governor Sergio Rapu that an outrigger canoe club would be a wonderful new challenge for Rapanui young people and a good way to renew cultural links between Rapa Nui and the rest of Polynesia.
Van Tilburg took the idea to Rodrigo Paoa A., leader of Corporación de Resguardo Cultural Mata Nui A Hotu A Matu’a O Kahu Kahu O Hera, the island’s Masters of Culture Program. La Corporación consists of a vital and active group of Rapa Nui artists, artisans, community leaders, businessmen and teachers. There were, in 1989, 80 members and a seven person board of directors. Rodrigo formed Mata Hoe Vaka Kahu Kahu O Hera Rapa Nui. Niko Haoa and Cristián Arévalo Pakarati were founding members, and Van Tilburg and Finney served as advisors. Our challenge was to return to the US to form, from scratch, the Rapa Nui Outrigger Club (RNOC) as a support group for Mata Hoe Vaka. Our goal: to get an outrigger canoe to Rapa Nui.
In 1995, Komike Hokule’a was formed in Long Beach, CA. The goal was to organize a warm welcome for Hokule’a when she arrived in Long Beach on her West Coast Voyage. At the same time, the dream was to foster Polynesian voyaging heritage awareness among school children and the local California community. Headed by Ka’ala Pang, Van Tilburg and Ted Ralston joined the komike. A great welcome at sea for Hokule’a was planned as she entered Long Beach harbor. A fleet of outriggers joined the escort, and members of RNOC, who flew from the island to join in the celebration, paddled one of them. [Read More…]