The Marton Moai (Stewart Park, George Nuku and David Gross, 2008)

The Marton Moai. Image courtesy of Middlesbrough Museum Service.

Outside the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Stewart Park, alongside two totem poles, stands The Marton Moai. The two year-long project beginning in 2006, was a collaboration between North East Wood Carver David Gross and Moāri visual artist George Nuku.  

A 3 meters high, 1.5 meters wide by 0.5 meters thick cube of Aislaby sandstone from Whitby was used to carve a modern interpretation of a Moai, found in abundance on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the Pacific Ocean. Captain James Cook wrote about his crew on HMS Resolution witnessing these stone megaliths in March 1774 during his second voyage to the Pacific. In his journal, he noted;

“On the East side of the Island near the Sea, they met with three Platforms (ahu) of Stone work, or rather the ruins of them: on each had stood four of those large Statues…Each Statue had on its head a large Cylindric Stone of a red Colour worked perfectly round; the one they measured, and that apparently not by the far the largest was 52 inches high and 66 in diameter…They observed that this side of the Island was full of those gigantic Statues so often mentioned, some placed in groups on Platforms of masonry, others single and without any, being fixed only in the Earth and that not deep; these latter are in general much larger than the others; They measured one which was fallen down and found it very near 27 feet long and upwards of Eight feet over the breast, or shoulders and yet this appeared considerably short of the size of one which they saw standing: its shade a little past tow oClock, being sufficient to shelter all the party, consisting of near 30 persons, from the rays of the Sun.” 

William Hodges accompanied James Cook as a draughtsman to record the voyages through sketches and oil pastel drawings. Upon returning to London, he painted grand scenes that created a Westernised vision of the Pacific. A View of the Monuments of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) by William Hodges, 1776. Image courtesy of National Maritime Museum Greenwich. 

Moai are large megalithic statues and hold great significance to the cultures they belong too. They are aringa ora, the living faces of ancestors. Despite the looting of moai during the late 1800s, (British Museum heres looking at you) there are said to be 900 still on Rapa Nui. The largest uncovered by archeologists is ‘El Gigante’ and is 20 meters long, about 7 times larger than the Marton Moai. As moai are living objects, when the unveiling of the Marton Moai took place on Friday 28th March 2008, a blessing was given at the ceremony in custom in Pacific Islander cultures. 

Ka Titiro iho ki Te Moai Tutira, E Tu ana ki runga Ki Ahunehenehe! Kei Marton e noho ana ai, Ara! Ko Te Marton Moai! 

Cast your gaze towards the Moai named Tutira – ‘The Lookout’, Standing on the platform called Ahunehenehe – named after the ancients. Marton is where you will find him! The Marton Moai!”

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