Brigadoon - An Occasional Corner on the Internet
Designed by Mark Little
South America January to April 2017
The Tangata Manu or Birman ceremony was probably initiated around the 18th Century in honour of the Make Make god and lasted until the arrival of the Catholic missionaries in 1866.
Each Spring, the island awaited the arrival of the Manutara (Easter Island Seagull) which nested on the islets near the Rano Kau volcano. Once they arrived, the tribes would send representatives to Orongo to compete for leadership.
They would swim out to Moto Nui (an islet about 2km off the island near Rano Kau) on small reed floats. The objective of the competition was to obtain the first egg laid by the seagulls. The winner placed the egg on a band around his head and swam back to the island to become chief for the year.
Moto Nui is the largest of the islets near Rano Kau. The contestants (known as Hopu) in the Birdman competition where hopefuls stayed wile waiting for the first egg to be laid. The winner of the competition became known as the Tangata Manu and had great power on the island for a year. The winner's clan gained rights such as collecting eggs and young birds from the islets.
Many Hopu were killed during the competition by falling from the cliffs or being attacked by sharks.
In the foreground of the image above, is Motu Koa Kao, a sea stack, rising about 20 metres (65 feet) above sea level.
It was, perhaps, a good thing that the competition did not use this islet as there probably would have been a lot more fatalities.