The Eye of the Moai
By Cristian Moreno Pakarati – Historiador / Historian
Six more eyes were found during the same campaign to restore Ahu Nau-Nau. In following years, the statues of this Ahu were decorated with replicas of coral eyes for special occasions. In the early 1980s, the statue at Ahu Ko Te Riku in Tahai received permanent replicas of coral eyes, sculpted by Juan Haoa-Veriveri. The decision to do so was taken by the Council of Elders at that time with the intention to show the appearance of a Moai complete with eyes; this Moai already had a Pukao (a type of hat or hairdo made of red scoria stone) which was not original, but had been placed over the statue in the 1960s.
However, we also have proof that not all the Moai had eyes. Some statues, apparently from an early period, lack eye sockets that are well enough defined to have held coral eyes. In addition, various statues which were transported and erected on platforms in different periods didn’t have their eye sockets carved out. There are the four Moai at Ahu Oroi, two at Ahu Hanga Tetenga, one at Ahu Hanua-Nua-Mea, among others.
In 2012 the coral eyes were used by a group of Islanders for the ceremonial reception of the crew of two traditional Polynesian catamarans which had arrived from New Zealand, navigating by the stars and not with modern instruments. The eyes were replaced in one of the Moai of Ahu Nau-Nau so that the ancestors could again participate in such a magnificent event.
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