Easter Island

Recent Photos by Andrew Higgott

Photo Library Corridor Gallery 20/3/2014 - 30/5/2014 -

Monday – Friday 10.00 – 1.00 2.00 – 6.00; Building closed from Monday 7 – 21 April

Image: Moai at Ature Huki

Easter Island's isolation is astounding, a tiny speck of land in the southern Pacific Ocean, over 2000 miles from the nearest land mass. The population of less than six thousand is centred on the town of Hanga Roa, leaving the rest of island as wild and open landscapes, populated by little but the moai or statues which are dotted singly and in groups over the rocky terrain, almost all with their backs to the boundless ocean.

These monolithic figures vary in height from three to six metres, and each is unique: their strange and enigmatic faces are haunting presences, every one with its own character. Some eight hundred were created over a period of five centuries from around 1000 AD. How it was done is astonishing, both in terms of carving and transporting them, but with its tragic later history the traditions of this sophisticated culture were almost entirely lost.

Extreme isolation meant that the island was their world- for centuries, generation after generation had no contact with anywhere else, only knowledge that its first settlers had come as boat people from somewhere further west. These figures act as guardians, maybe revered ancestors, maybe deities: Rapa Nui, to use the island’s indigenous name, was called Te Pitu O Te Henua, which means something like ‘the centre of the world’. They were sentinels for the communities that constructed them, but they also provided a boundary, physical, metaphorical and spiritual, with the world beyond. 

Contact details

Head of Exhibitions:
Vanessa Norwood
T: +44 (0)20 7887 4031

Public Programme



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