A Moai for La Serena

A Moai for La Serena

A Moai for La Serena

Since the beginning of January, four Rapanui sculptors have been carving a moai (statue) for the city of La Serena. This is a work in limestone, more than 3 meters (almost 10 feet) high, sculpted by Pepe Tuki, Pau Hereveri, Jonny Tucki and Tony Hucke. This piece of art is being made within an on-going process of recovery of Rapanui heritage which today is scattered throughout many different parts of the world.

Soon it will be finished, this moai, carved by the best sculptors on the Island, will be given to the city in exchange for an historical moai that is currently in the Archaeological Museum of La Serena.  As recorded in history, at the request of then-President of Chile, Gabriel Gonzalez-Videla, the ancient moai was sent as a “gift” to the city of La Serena in 1952 in gratitude for the extraordinary feat of aviation that began at the airport of La Serena, the President’s birthplace, to Easter Island.

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On January 19 of 1951, the Chilean Air Force pilot, Roberto Parragué-Singer, and his crew took off in a Catalina Speedway 5, a small long-range plane, although slow (a little more than 200 kms or 125 miles per hour), with sufficient fuel for 24 hours of flight and with food for 15 days.  Manutara (“bird of good fortune”) was the name with which the airplane was christened before making the journey of 19 hours in flight.  They landed on a dirt strip which had been previously leveled and cleared with the cooperation of the local population, whose great dream had been to establish an air bridge to the continent, ending the extreme isolation in which the Island had lived for all the previous centuries. This memorable flight also served as a guiding experience for an Australian aviator to fly, two months later in another Catalina, from Australia to Chile with an intermediate stop in Rapa Nui, which led to the later construction of a proper 2000 meter (6560 feet) landing strip at Mataveri.

Although no official documents exist that confirm the donation of the moai, today the authorities of La Serena have understood the request of the Rapanui people to repatriate this moai, which, more than just a sculpture, forms a fundamental part of Island heritage.

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Following 68 years, the city of La Serena and the island of Rapa Nui decided to strengthen relations and commemorate each year this historical occurrence through the newly sculpted moai which will form a major part of one of the principal squares of the city.  The exchange is scheduled to take place during the first half of the this year.
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