Mana Tupuna: Honoring the Ancestors Abroad

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2020
Authors
Kelly,Phineas
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The Mana Tupuna Project reimagines the connection between contemporary Rapanui people and the carvings of their ancestors. The inaugural iteration of this multifaceted project focuses on the Mulloy collection in the University Wyoming Museum of Art. By digitally bridging between museum art abroad and people on Rapa Nui, this project reinforces Polynesian language, culture, and values in both local and global settings. Beginning in March 2020, international travel and tourism to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the island was in a state of relative isolation for nearly two and a half years. Resilient and indomitable as ever, the people of Rapa Nui took this time to refocus on traditional farming, fishing, Rapanui language, and cultural revitalization projects. The Mana Tupuna project, which is a collaboration between the Rapa Nui Tour Guides Association, Rapa Nui wood carvers, and the author, explores and assesses colonial discourses, their effects on the art and culture of Rapa Nui, and the possibilities for more sustainable forms of tourism that do not rely solely on people physically visiting the island. The applications that support Mana Tupuna function as language and culture revitalization tools. Educational institutions on Rapa Nui have already begun to use them. These applications re-anchor Rapa Nui wood carvings from the 1950s and 1960s, now residing in the University ofWyoming Art Museum, to the people and places of Rapa Nui via 3D modeling, 360° photography, virtual reality, and the internet. Crucially, the global tourist audience can also access versions of these applications. Wood carvings (moai toromiro), among the first trade goods exchanged between Europeans and the Rapanui, have been a key element of social interactions between the islanders and their visitors since the first Europeans visited the island 300 years ago. This article, which privileges traditional Polynesian cultural values, explores the history of Rapa Nui wood carving and Western views of this tradition.
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Rapa Nui, Indigenous language revitalization, decolonization, moai toromiro
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