Lot: 56

Male figure "moai kavakava" ("rib figure")

Easter Islands

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Old British Collection, Wales H: 16.5 inch 10000 EUR / 15000 EUR

wood, pigment, base Like the meaning of the enigmatic giant stone statues, the "moai", the wooden figures of the ancient Rapa Nui civilisation are still mysterious today. There has been much speculation about their meaning and use. A connection with emaciation and famine seems obvious. The embodiment of a "bird-man" deity, who was an important figure in Easter Island mythology, was also considered. Most likely, however, these emaciated male figures represent the spirits of the dead, as the people of Rapa Nui imagined them, when they reappeared to the living as ghosts. Through records kept by a frigate captain in 1882, it is known that the figures were worn hanging around the neck. It is reported that during important harvesting, egg gathering, and fishing times, the population gathered together and leading males brought with them the wood images showing them suspended from their bodies.


Kaeppler, Adrienne, Polynesia, Honolulu 2010, p. 362 Wardwell, Allen, Island Ancestors, Oceanic Art from the Masco Collection, Fort Worth 1994, p. 256 f.