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Male Figure (Moai Kavakava)

Though the monumental stone figures of Rapa Nui have for years captured the public imagination, another type of sculpture carved of wood, the moai kavakava, “statue with ribs, ” also leaves a remarkable impression. Always male, moai kavakava have prominent rib cages, clavicles, and spines, and sunken eye sockets that evoke skeletons, leading most scholars to believe that moai kavakava represent ancestors or their spirits; but their beards, glinting bone-and-obsidian eyes, and elongated fleshy earlobes place the images within the realm of the living.

Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
Male Figure (Moai Kavakava)
Early to mid-19th century
Wood, obsidian, bone
H. 15 in. (38.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 80.5.1