VAI - The Story of Water on Rapa Nui
VAI - The Story of Water on Rapa Nui
Two visionaries, one a paleoecologist, another a filmographer, tell a visual story of water over the last 15,000 years on Rapa Nui.
Two visionaries, one a paleoecologist, another a filmographer, tell a visual story of water over the last 15,000 years on Rapa Nui. Read more
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
― E.E. Cummings
Hello, I am Candace. For the past 10 years i have worked on answering the question "What happened to the trees on Easter Island?" 10 years of working on a PhD searching for clues, to find out if there was something else besides humans cutting down the 16 million giant palm trees to move the moai around? I don't remember how I came about going there for the first time, but I began digging in the dirt when I was just a girl. Riddled with intrigue of finding Atlantis one day deep in the ocean and listening to the breath of the cypress trees with their root fingers reaching up above the water so they wouldn't suffocate. Growing up in the bayous of Louisiana instilled a love of nature, so alive and deep in my blood. I know now, it was the trees that have drawn me to this barren grassland so far away from any other place on this planet but yet a story big enough to travel the world. We want to tell you a story, a new story about what I found deep down in the mud below the waters of the crater lake Rano Kao, and I need you to help me do this.
For those of you curious but without a lot of knowledge of Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island) it is considered the most remote inhabited land on this planet. In modern standards its a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles to Santiago and then another 5 hours west of there out into the Eastern South Pacific where the closest thing is 4,000 kilometers away. The current theory holds that Polynesians settled this island less than 1,000 years ago, and built gigantic stone statues called moai that exist nowhere else on this planet. The why and how may never be known and there is a lot of speculation out there. The current collapse theory has gotten alot of press, but it is lacking factual scientific evidence and especially, until now, climate change information. I have hope for the human species just as I do about the trees as having the wisdom and mindful reverence to adapt, innovate and make change given any condition it is put into. Sometimes, however, nature wins.
Just for the record however, what actually happened to the people is not that they consumed all of their resources and died, but rather at the hand of slavery their demise came. For hundreds of years slave ships have landed on the island taking people to the guano mines in Peru and Chile, even American slave ships stole in the Pacific waters. The final undoing was in the 1860s when 8 Peruvian slave ships kidnapped more than 1,400 people including the last king and the holders of the oral knowledge. Most died along the way to Peru and in protest by the Tahitian king to return the Rapa Nui people to their island, only 15 made it back alive, but well stocked with disease which infiltrated those left in hiding to leave only 111 remaining alive when Chile annexed the island in 1888. A great history can be found on the Easter Island Foundation web at http://islandheritage.org/wordpress/?page_id=144
There is no knowledge about the trees, no word remains, and the only way that anyone ever knew that a giant palm forest existed here was by the finding of the first palm pollen fossil in the lake Rano Raraku by Thor Heyerdahl's team in 1958. However they never completed the pollen work, and it wasn't until the 1980s that John Flenley, from New Zealand, and my mentor cored the lakes for the first time. I am the second and the only lady to have done so thus far!
The Grit behind the Idea
In 2005 and 2008 I cored the ancient crater lakes. A 9-meter core KAO3 taken near to the center of the biggest crater Rano Kao was used for the dissertation. The radiocarbon dates begin at the Last Glacial Maximum at 15,000 years ago. Above these lake sediments lie 12.5 meters of dark lake water with a floating mat, a virtual floating peat bog 2-3 meters deep that at one time lifted from the lake bottom when it was dry and now holds the last 1,000 years of history on the island. The cores were further sampled for fossil pollen to identify what plants lived here and how they changed over time. Four new palm species were discovered and a distinct date when the palm pollen disappeared was noted. Oxygen isotopes were analyzed for rainfall and drought patterns and uncovered drought cycles of 600-700 years, and major events that carried with them lots of curious new plant introductions, mites and human presence more than 2000 years before current theory holds for Polynesian arrival.
Not giving away all the secrets here.....
With all of the scientific data complete, we are going to take 15,000 years of information and create a documentary film. A bit narrative and creative non-fiction, we will tell the story of water on Rapa Nui. Nothing can live without water, and on an isolated island where one cannot borrow another's river, or trees, those that live in this isolation chose to adapt or die. The unfolding of this information looks at the giant palm trees and the 17 other trees now extinct on the island. It uncovers patterns of drought and finds allies that support each other during these times. The people that also endured these sometimes drastic events also created waterways and reservoirs that we have just began to discover and excavate. What was thought to be random amounts of volcanic rock, are now known as lithic mulch in an amazing innovative way were used to create moisture by using the heat of the sun, on the cool earth below. The ancients that survived for thousands of years here also changed with their environment. This is a new story, not one of collapse like the current thinking writes, but a different one about nature and humans working together to survive.
Spence Palermo, a filmographer with Intercultural Images http://www.interculturalimages.com/ is my partner in the creation of this film. He is a writer, producer, director, cameraman and editor and will be the whiz of technical expertise for this project. Intercultural Images is an Oregon based video production company which specializes in documentaries, environmental, educational and promotional films. Spence has 22 years experience working in film and television production and has production expertise throughout the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Artic and the Pacific for clients who include National Geographic, Discovery Channel, PBS, History Channel and a host of other non-fiction venues.
Between the diversity and experience that both Spence and I hold we can wear many hats at one time, which makes filming more simple and easier than a whole team to coordinate with. It keeps the cost low as well. Mostly it allows complete freedom to tell a true story without someone else dictating what is allowed or not into a film. Grassroots efforts make big change, and this film will challenge current theories for sure.
Paleoecologist, Anthropologist, Teacher, Healer and Medicine Woman. See the bio above for more story. For BioSummary and Vitae see www.blackcoyotemedicine.wordpress.com/academic-vitae/
The Project Logistics:
Depending on funding and weather, either in October 2013 or March 2014, we will head to Easter Island for 2-4 weeks of filming. The data we have, the story is written, we need to simply capture the visual story for you. We will film the crater lake Rano Kao that is now in great danger of collapsing into the sea. In 2008 an outside wall breach nearly 150 meters above sea level near to the lake surface within the crater broke loose and caused a huge slide into the ocean. In the near future this outside wall will collapse and the lake with all of its history of plants, trees and humans will be lost forever.
We intend to shoot everything we can: The lakes, the plants, the people, the legends, the archaeology. Returning after completing the filming, Spence will begin editing and with brevity we will end up with a 30-60 minute narrative documentary of creative non-fiction. The release will be spring 2014, with first issue to all of you that have bought the DVD. Then the film already in progress of submission to Film Festivals will hit the roads and the public airways for viewing.
This project will not happen without you. And I hope we have given some brilliant rewards for your sponsorship. If We've missed a really great idea, please email with suggestions. You will not be disappointed, and with gratitude in advance of your support, its grassroots efforts, well in this case treeroots efforts like this that will change the world!
With a warm heart and wishes for brilliant adventures,
Candace and Spence
Michael and Alejandro, part of the RKE08 Expedition, coring the mat of Rano Kao
View from the Cliffs of Rano Raraku beyond to Tongariki, the largest Ahu with 15 moai reconstructed.
The 6 pieces of Art in the Rewards
Each piece of art includes 3 images, either photographs or sketches that candace took on the island between 2002 and 2008. Three images were chose for each piece, merged together in photoshop and printed on canvas. The result is a transmutation of individual stories into vibrant colors and a new creation. Each art piece is framed and is 21" square.
*For a commissioned piece of art, created in the same idea but perhaps printed on mylar and backlit, or on cotton, or another fiber of choice is possible. Email Candace with request. Cost for a commissioned piece of same size would be $500.
#1 - Ahu Akivi The first Ahu with Moai to be reconstructed, these moai face seaward and is the only of its kind as the others face inward. Deep within this picture is a tattooed man of ancient past as if envisioning that long distance wonder deep out to the ocean beyond.
#2 - Rano Raraku Numbering as many people on the island are the horses and cows brought over years ago after the sheep farm ceased to exist in the 1960s. These horses are of beauty and determination to survive and find shelter among the moai and often find a good backscratch among them. Deep in the colors of this piece is the lake Rano Raraku that lies within the crater.
#3 - Within the Moai This piece combines a shot of the moai on the hillside at Rano Raraku as they are forever laid resting and gently being covered with eroding soil. Just the heads remain and deep within one closeup lies a photo of the only remaining forest now alive on the island, a Eucalyptus tree standing grandiose, planted 40 or so years ago to be used as a fuel source. However what lies beneath the Eucalyptus is just as silent as the moai, nothing grows in the oils of these forests, not even the birds like them. Just wind gets to play alongside both.
#4 Vinapu Called the Inca Wall of Easter island, Ahu Vinapu sits just downhill of Rano Kao. Nearby is the first female moai found by Thor Heyerdahl. This wall however is of master stonework as the exact fitting of the stones are just like the Inca walls found in South America. With erosion sitting seaside of the wall is a peculiar and worn moai up to his shoulders in dirt. Ghosted in this image are two moai one with topknot another from the hillside of Rano Raraku showing the amazing work and skill of the anicent ones that built these with stone tools.
#5 The One-Horned Near to Hanga Roa, the town on the island is an old crater, now used as the dump. Similar to Puna Pau where the red scoria was mined for the topknots of the moai, this crater holds deep treasures. Guarding the pit is the one-horned cow, and looking within is an overlay of the cave Ana Te Pahu and the giant taro within where the ancients grew their food.
#6 Orongo Situated on a cliff a thousand feet above the ocean, is Orongo. Sometime in the late 1600s the Make Make, Birdman cult were formed and met in this ceremonial center. The only architecture on the island to be built of laid flat stones. This place sits high above Rano Kao looking upon its waters. In this piece is a petroglyph on a stone at Orongo of the Make Make, as well as the structures and deep within the art is a photo looking down upon Moto Iti and Moto Nui where the myth follows the warriors as they scale down the cliffs, swim across to the islands and pluck an egg of the terns. Swimming back without breaking the egg, scaling the cliffs again, the first to return wins the Kingdom for the next reigning and waiting King.
Risks and challenges
Risks & Challenges
Permission and Permits to film- Candace cored the lakes on the island in 2005 and 2008 and is familiar with obtaining permits. She is currently working with CONAF who administers permits to core and excavate, however none will be needed during this time but we will obtain permission to film.
Rain- it actually rains alot on the island, and we will be prepared to shoot no matter what the conditions are like and bring duplicates and backups that are rain and water proof, however losing something to the lake is a no return!
Coordination of all the filming, interviews, excavation, yoga retreat, plant restoration and youth sponsorships shall require diligent organization. We are allowing time for unexpected delays as human free will always brings change. We just need extra time to work with what we cannot expect. Having two season options allow this much needed organization time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)