It’s a very special time for one small, remote place in the Pacific. That place is called Easter Island and it’s home to a unique Polynesian culture with a collection of more than 800 Moai statues. During this time of year, island culture comes alive and locals show off what makes Easter Island distinctly theirs. The celebration is called Tapati Rapa Nui and it takes place every year in February.
Tapati Rapa Nui dates back to the 1970s, originally beginning to help preserve and celebrate the island’s sacred culture. It’s important for the younger generation to feel a connection to their roots. During the festival, islanders participate in various competitions and games. Activities include canoeing, swimming, dancing, singing and Haka Pei. Haka Pei is a traditional competition where islanders slide down a steep hill on banana trunks. It sounds fun, but can also be a bit dangerous! Therefore only individuals who are experienced in this activity should participate.
Locals participating in the festival divide into two teams. Each team is led by a female from the island. By the end of the week, islanders add all the points gained and announce a winner. A selected female from the winning team is crowned “Queen of the Tapati” on the final night. This moment is one of the biggest highlights of the festival.
The competition games are limited strictly to the local islanders. However, travelers are welcomed to watch and enjoy the festival. Besides the sports competitions, visitors can enjoy Easter Island food and admire the traditional handicrafts, clothing and body paint. One popular meal to try is called “Umu Tahu,” consisting of meat and fish. This dish is cooked in a traditional way, placing the food in a hole in the ground with hot stones and firewood. It’s a unique dish that you need to try!
With this festival, we can start to learn and connect more with Chile´s mysterious island in the Pacific. It is so important that small communities, like Easter Island, don’t lose their identities. As time goes on, we are at risk of losing more cultures, languages and traditions. According to The New York Times, “Roughly half of the world’s six or seven thousand languages has been in danger of going extinct.” But continuing festivals and celebrations, such as Tapati Rapa Nui, small communities are able to hold on to their traditions and share their culture with future generations.