Easter Island is a beautiful and unique place to not only discover the landscape and natural transformations, but to also experience the impressive traditional and individual culture of Rapa Nui – that still exists today.
There are several ways to take part in ancestral experiences and get an insight to understand the culture of Easter Island.
The Polynesian people were great in traditional dances as well as music and art. Their religious rituals were guided by many spiritual beliefs. Today, Easter Island attracts tourists from all over the world. Tourists can participate in the performances, for example in ancestral marriage rites, which include photo shoots and videos of you dressed in traditional rapa nut clothes. You can also get your body painted in the Takona Ceremony, which is accompanied by Curanto – a typical dish of the island that is prepared with firewood on a red-hot stone. The dish includes seafood and agricultural products such as plantain, yams, sweet potatoes and sugarcane.
Participating in a performance like the one I’ve described, gives you the opportunity to experience a lot of the island’s culture – all at once! You can also take part in a “Takona Ceremony”, and feel like a real Rapa Nui. During this ceremony, different drawings and colors are used to identify the person’s clan or status. Tattoos are also a very traditional art form to the Polynesians, much so that there are several artists on the island who are available to help you get a tattoo. The tattoos represent the typical symbols of the island, and stand for protection, strength, and fertility. They are known to look very similar to classic tribal tattoos.
Another activity I recommend is watching one of the authentic dance performances that take place on the island, to truly understand at a deeper level -the Rapa Nui’s culture. This may seem touristic, but the experience comes along with an intention to preserve the ancient culture and transmit it to the younger island’s inhabitants – so is taken very seriously. Paying around $20 USD, you can witness a passionate fusion of dance and song – and enjoy the sound of traditional and modern instruments. A good location to watch this ritual is on the Anakena beach, which gives the evening a final touch with its beautiful landscape, scenery, and views.
To see a great selection of activities in Easter Island, check out this excellent variety over here.
To live the full Rapa Nui Culture experience, I suggest visiting the Island during the first two weeks of February. During this time, the Tapati Rapa Nui Festival will take place, which has been celebrated every year since 1968. The festival lasts an entire week, and represents the most important cultural festival of the island. The festival’s purpose is to maintain the island’s traditions, and hand them over to the young islanders. The island locals dress up and represent the different clans that exist, to teach others about the island’s historical races. The experience of being at this festival, will make you will feel like you’ve traveled back in time!
From seeing a run with 2 bananas holding hands (Aka Venga), to listening to ritual songs about unique historical stories and legends performed by the competing clans (Riu), the Tapaati Rapa Nui Festival is a great experience, and indeed, very entertaining. In the Haka Pei contest, you will see young islanders sliding down a hill on plantain trunks. You will also get an insight into the production of the traditional costumes, which are made out of a plant introduced by the first Polynesians (Tingi Tingi Mahute), as well as the Takona body painting, which includes many natural pigments to cover the body with meaningful symbols and drawings.
Last but not least, the final celebration of the whole week is a massive parade in which all participants attend. During this final celebration you will see performances, traditional dances, and locals wearing traditional make-up and clothes. The final dance of the celebration involves the newly selected Queen of Tapati. To stay updated and obtain more information, check out the festival’s Facebook page.
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