Easter Island LocalsNatives of Easter Island
Easter Island Carnival charm entices locals and visitors alike
Away from home on Chile's Easter Island for carnival celebrations, a middle-aged female US citizen is cautious. Except for a string, she has her breast painted by a night owl. One of a few thousand visitors who have connected with the 9000 inhabitants of the Pacific Island for Tapati, Susan is an hilarious mixture of dancing, musical and folk sport that is held every February for two wards.
The only city on the island, Hanga Roa, the night owls are waiting in a long line under the glowing tropic hot spring solstice to take part in a time-honored ceremony - a leap into an old, clay-filled vat. Then a man named Ale distributes this reddish-brown color by heart to the body of other locals - and any tourists who are willing to do so.
Then different contours are formed in front of the baths full of colouring. It' done by the Rapa Nui - the Polish term for the island and its inhabitants - to draw icons based on the legends of birds or figures from the long forgotten Rongorongo script system.
A little after 5 pm a soldier is blowing into a huge shell and signals the beginning of the evening procession with colourful wagons and dances in lavish outfits. This is no different from the big carnival festivities in Rio de Janeiro. Tapati is both a test of male power and female charm to celebrate Polish proud.
The Easter Island lies at the most southern point of the so-called Polynesian Triangle - a Pacific area, with Hawaii and New Zealand at the other vertex. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its almost 900 solid rock tombstones - the Moai, which the Rapa Nui sculptured centuries ago.
Competing sides are trapped in a competition to coronate a new Tapati Empress who will rule for a year. Local residents are spending month and month making large wood sculptures for the eucalyptus tree procession, which depict idolised forebears such as the mystic Moai stones giant or the birdman. The Marquesas Islands in Polynesia, France, use large polychrome drum instruments, while the Rapa Nui favour pine horses, which produce a slight tone near passionas when their teeths meet.
Several of the tapati activity reflects a more latino atmosphere - the older ones are struggling to be the Emperor of the Akkordion, as young folk demonstrate their art of thong. On the Hanga Vare Vare Vare, the Hanga Roa Festival's central platform, the performers swing sensuously to the Polish beats.