Moai kavakava

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a colour photo of a thin male statuette in dark brown wood
Statuette collected in the nineteenth century

A mo‘ai kavakava is a small wooden figure of a standing, slightly stooped male with an emaciated body.

These figures originate from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The name mo‘ai kavakava is formed from mo‘ai for the monumental monolithic human figures found on Easter Island and the word kavakava meaning ribs. Little is known about the cultural context of these figures although they are generally considered to be representations of starving ancestors or demons. It is believed these figures were worn hanging around the neck of the men who took part in the ritual dances during public ceremonies.[1]

German Expressionist Max Ernst was inspired by these figures and their rituals, and they can also be found in the collections of the French surrealist André Breton.


  1. ^ Forment, F.; Huyge, D.; Valladas, H. (2001). "AMS sup.14C age determinations of Rapanui wood sculpture: moai kavakava ET 48.63 from Brussels". Retrieved 2009-02-05. 

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