Dance Paddle, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

Dance Paddle, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

Rituals for fertility

This object may look like it belongs in the Shipping gallery, but if you look closely you’ll see it has human features. In fact it’s related to performance, not water transport. It comes from Easter Island in Polynesia, where it was used during the 1800s in ritual dances.

Little is known about the paddles, but scholars think they were used in pairs to emphasise the dancer’s movements. These dances may have been significant for agriculture, promoting soil fertility and greater crop yields.

Fertility dancing reminds us of agriculture’s importance – something we often lose touch with in the UK because our economy is no longer agrarian and most of us live in cities. Find out more about the impacts climate change may have on agriculture in atmosphere... exploring climate science.

What do the other museums have to say?

Science Museum: 31 May – 10 July
Horniman Museum: 20 Jan – 6 March
Natural History Museum: 7 March – 17 April
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: 18 April – 30 May Wellcome Collection: 11 July – 21 August

Source: Horniman Museum. Inv. No: 1970.242

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