South of Easter
Mau Rata sat himself down on the couch to explain the events that had been passed down through time by his ancestors.
‘The first tribe settled on Rapa Nui having crossed over a thousand miles of ocean from East Polynesia. Their safe arrival at land heralded as a gift from the great god Make-make. The gift was perfect – a land of plenty, of water, trees, birds and animals. There were eggs, meat and fruit aplenty. It generated much rejoicing. Life was easy.
Their first Anki insisted they give thanks to Make-make and honour their ancestors by building the Moai. The massive statues were carved from the volcanic rocks in the quarries and many trees were chopped down with which to roll them to their sites of erection. Much hard work and industry was required.
The life of ease was soon replaced by the toil of construction and transport, but Make-make was content and the ancestors were suitably honoured. Life on Rapa Nui was pleasant and the tribe prospered and grew. Many Anki came and went and always there was the pressure to produce more Moai for Make-make required appeasement and there were times when the rainfall was slight, the harvests slim and hunting more difficult.
As time passed the trees began to thin out as more and more were used to transport the huge Moai. With the thinning of the trees the soil began to wash away and the crops could not grow, the bird and animal populations decreased and hunting dried up, but there were still plenty fish in the sea.
More importantly, the water became scare. Without the trees the rain was not retained. Life became progressively harder.
The Anki saw this as the anger of Make-make and urged even greater efforts in the making of Moai. Surely if sufficient effort was put into producing Moai Make-make would be pleased, the rains would return and bring back the birds and wildlife; life would be easy again.
Feverishly they carved the rocks in the quarries and the last trees were felled in order to move them to their sites. On the day when the last tree fell, Hotu Matu’a paused with his stone axe, thought for a moment as he stared over the barren surface of their denuded island, and wondered. It was only a brief pause. Wielding the flint axe to good effect he soon brought the very last tree to earth.
The last Moai was moved to its position but there were no more trees on which to roll more Moai, so many were abandoned in the quarries and further carving was halted.
Now life was hard and cruel. There was no shade from the relentless sun. Water was scarce. There were no crops or fruit, no meat or eggs. There was no wood to build canoes or branches to make spears. Fishing became hard. People starved. There were roving bands of cannibals to hide from.
In disgust they began to topple the statues.’