More than one hundred local community members attended the closing presentation by 16 youngsters who participated in the two-week camp organized in explora Rapa Nui, in partnership with archaeologist Britton Shepardson. The main goal of this camp is to teach local students to value Easter Island’s archaeological heritage and to become true ambassadors of their culture. Once more, this program restates explora’s strong commitment to the Rapa Nui community and is part of our corporate conservancy and sustainability program.
Rapa Nui students between 13 and 17 years of age who were part of TAO 2017 shared the activities they conducted during the past two weeks while they camped in the premises of our hotel and attended this program’s current version. The final presentation took place in the premises of explora Rapa Nui in front of more than 100 people –basically community members. With excitement, the youngsters shared that during their winter break they walked more than 30 kilometers to the northern area of Easter Island –one the least known in Rapa Nui– and visited Poike Volcano and relevant archaeological sites. Eager to share what they experienced, they also narrated some fascinating lessons learned.
In this 2017 version, students once more used 3D technology, not to photograph the moai like last year, but to take pictures of some of the pieces in the Padre Sebastián Englert Anthropological Museum. This is creating a digital version of the models and will eventually develop the first collection of Easter Island replicas. For Britton Shepardson, the expert responsible for the program, research needs to leave the academia to make actual contributions to the community. They also used 3D technology to take pictures of remains that are found outdoors in Rapa Nui.
Research work done with microscopes in the anthropological museum was another activity that the youngsters shared with their audience. This work involved analyzing pieces known as matā, which are stone instruments in the form of acute angles that have helped establish that the Rapa Nui people had weapons.
During this version of the TAO, students attended several lectures offered by local experts. Mahanua Wilkins from CONADI (National Bureau for Indigenous Development) spoke about the natural history of Easter Island. Sebastián Yancovic from Manu Project offered a lecture on the different bird species found in the Island, a very important aspect of local culture. Finally, Francisco Torres and Paula Valenzuela from the Easter Island Anthropological Museum taught youngsters about geology and the importance of preserving their heritage.
The massive attendance to the program’s closing reveals an increasing community acknowledgment to this explora-supported activity. Students camp in the hotel’s premises, and both youngsters and the entire program crew are provided with transportation and food. “This alliance helps us keep students away from the town and therefore from things that can distract them”, comments Shepardson, who admits that TAO is getting growing local support and popularity.
This year, 16 students were recruited among 31 candidates who submitted applications based on school grades and a motivation letter. For Shepardson, this program is empowering students and making them into spokespersons on behalf of the Rapa Nui culture. Many of those who have taken part in former versions are now tourist guides and advocators of their culture, and even one of the girls followed his steps and is now an archeologist.