Saturday, February 23, 2008

Migration (part 7 of 8)

a stone adze

shapes a tree

into departure

or return—

on Rapa Nui

warring tribes

felled the forest

and built wooden skids

to transport monuments

through denuded land.

topsoil blew into the sea,

children grew up to preside

over statues

toppled into discord.

rats in the holds of

canoe migrations

became food

for starving generations.



Rapa Nui is the Polynesian name of Easter Island. It was originally covered with a diverse forest including the largest palm trees in the world, but had been completely deforested by the time of its European discovery in 1722. The Polynesian inhabitants of Rapa Nui cut down trees for firewood, to build canoes, and to transport moai, great stone statues that were a form of competition beween the island’s dozen or so clans. Clans had begun to throw down each other’s maoi in the 18th century; none remained erect by 1868.

Rats were introduced to Rapa Nui as stowaways when Polynesians migrated to the island in about 900 AD. They became an increasingly important food source when land birds had become extinct, migratory bird populations were decimated, and no trees remained to build canoes for deep sea fishing.


Every Friday for 8 weeks I will post a section of a poem-painting cycle called “Migration.” This work is based on my experiences in New Caledonia, where in 2007 I was invited to an artist residency exploring the connections between Melanesian cultures and aboriginal tribes of southern China.

If you enjoy this work, please visit my painting website at, and click the links below to see previous postings of “Migration”.

Scott Ezell

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

No comments: