Vai a Heva (“water of Heva”) is the name of the monumental sculpture of a face whose open mouth is a natural cavity which collects rainwater, located in a rocky area of the Poike peninsula. Its name comes from an old tale about the teachers of Rongo-rongo (writing developed on Rapa Nui) that was noted down in the manuscripts of the late Uka Tepano-Kaituoe, which have been edited and will soon be on sale.
There once were two young brothers, Raki and Mata Nui, who went to study Rongo-rongo at Te Tiamo on the northern side of the Island where there lived six teachers, all brothers. In six months, the boys learned to read and write well and to recite patautau (poems) as they did the hoko (a warrior’s dance) with a wooden bird called Piu. When they were about to leave for home, Raki killed all the teachers, except for one, Heva who was away at the time, and Mata Nui took the bird Piu. The next day, the woman who usually brought breakfast to the teachers found them all dead in their beds. She began to scream in terror, which brought the neighbors to try to console her. When they saw the five dead men, they began to investigate. The woman told how, before she went to bed the night before, she had served food to all of them and among them were two stangers. Everyone immediately thought, “Those are the ones who did it” and sent for the oldest brother. The first thing that he did was to sculpt a Moai (statue) with the mouth open as if it was crying, in honor of his murdered brothers. He named the statue Vai a Heva. Then he gave the names of his brothers to each water pond in the area. The first was called Vai U’utu Roroa, the second Vai Taringa Aku-Aku, the third Vai Tino He’e, the fourth Vai a Angi and the last one Vai a Uri.
After some three months had passed, a young man from this area went to visit a friend who lived at Rano Kau on the southern point of the Island. After a month, he dared to ask about news of the community. His friend told him that in another week there was going to be a parade with dances and costumes and two people were going to lead it carrying a wooden bird named Piu. When the day of the party arrived, the young visitor put on a costume and mixed in with the crowd to hear the conversations of the people and find out the meaning of the dance. As the dancers jumped around, he was able to move about without the party-goers noticing. As they returned from Vinapu, over by Te Kioe Uri, he went ahead and into a house where he was able to prove to himself the meaning of the celebration. He began to take his distance, singing and jumping through the crowd, moving backward in the line until he reached the house of his friend. Tired out, he ate something and slept for a while. He woke when it was already dark and everyone else from the party was sleeping. He got up and said good-bye to his friend and ran back to his home, where they were waiting for him. After he reported that those responsible for the murder of the teachers were Raki and Mata Nui, two members of the community went running to Reinga Karo for vengeance. They arrived that very night and killed hundreds of people. When they returned, everyone congratulated them and celebrated the vengeance that they had done.
Three days later, one of the neighbors of the party went by to see what had happened. It was the fourth day and he found them all dead with their eyes full of veri, a maggot. He called the other neighbors to help bury the dead and everyone then knew of the evil that Raki and Mata Nui had done. From that moment this place was called Mata-Veri.
The author, Uka Tepano-Kaituoe, born in 1929, was the oldest daughter of Esteban Tepano-Ika and Emilia Kaituoe. Her father was the son of Juan Tepano, the famous informant of the researchers Alfred Metraux and Katherine Routledge. During the years of her marriage to Gerardo Velasco-Garcia-Huidobro, between 1971 and her death in 2004, she made notes in a series of manuscipts of the teachings and stories that she had received from her great-grandmother Veriamo, her grandparents Juan Tepano and Engepito, as well as her father. As was common in those days, the tales were repeated to the children in the evening family gatherings following the day’s work. This oral folklore became tradition which was cultivated in some families with great care and respect. The 75 notebooks of Uka Tepano are the most extensive written work in the native language which reflect a way of life from the past. The text was translated by Betty Haoa and edited by her widower, Gerardo Velasco.