Ana Hue Neru
The Caverns to whiten the YoungLas Cavernas para blanquear a Jóvenes
Both caves, Ana O Keke and Ana More Mata Puku, are found close to each other on the northeastern cliff of Poike, which falls precipitously more than 100 meters (330 feet) into the ocean. On the upper edge, on a steep slope covered with grass, is Ana O Keke, a volcanic tube more than 440 meters (1440 feet) long (Gautier &Carlier, 1987). The lave originally flowed through this tunnel from the cone on the peak of Poike, called Puakatiki (elevation 370 meters: 1214 feet) toward the north coast, descending approximately 30 to 40 meters (98 to 131 feet). The entrance is only 20 meters (65 feet) below the edge of the drop-off. Inside the cave, there are parts that form a perfect vault and where remains of Huki, a tool used by the Islanders to cut stone and make way through the rocks, can still be found. Its width varies from 1.8 to over 2 meters (6 to 6.5 feet ) but the height is extremely variable. There are sections of the tunnel only 30 centimeters (12 inches) high while others are 1.8 meters (6 feet). Throughout the length of the cave, there is a constant filtration of water and some places in the interior hold lagoons of fresh water. The low entrance of only 70 centimeters (28 inches) requires that the visitor go in crawling, but just 2 meters (6.5 feet) along, the tunnel opens to 1.3 meters (4 feet) high and 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) wide. The natural light that filters in illuminates a panel that is about 5 meters (16 feet) long and 1.2 meters (4 feet) high, containing some unique petroglyphs that are not found anywhere else on the Island and are assumed to allude to the rituals that were held in the cave. Near Ana O Keke, there is a large eroded gully called Te Tiamo, where you can find Riare, a white paste for painting faces, and red Kiea, an earthen pigment which was used for body painting. These pigments can be mixed with vegetable juices and stored in damp balls in Ipu, dried gourds which hung from the roof of the cave.
According to Island folklore as related by Juan Tepano to Metraux (1971), “for this cult, there was not only Ana Hue Neru, but also the Casas-Koro, some houses specially built to house young people of both sexes who would spend their time practicing various games and dances without ever going outside.” Father Englert (1948) noted a sadder, more monotonous version: “selected when only sweet infants, the loveliest of both sexes were chosen to be Poki huru hare or Repa huru hare, which meant ‘children destined to stay indoors’. They were not permitted to go outside to play or run in the fresh air, so that their bodies would not lose their white color. If they wanted to go out, they had to stay within a narrow area that was marked off by stones where there was no sun.”
It is uncertain when exactly the custom of Neru came to an end. Englert wrote (1948): “The last woman who was known to have been a Neru in her childhood was the paternal grandmother of the Pakarati family, Te Oho a Neru, who died very old in 1927. She had married before 1850, so this practice must have ceased to exist by then.”
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