Wednesday, October 10, 2007

hidden, stolen friend

This is Hoa Hakananai'a, which means 'hidden or stolen friend'. Appropriate as it is now far away from his Easter Island home, in the British Museum. You can their official description here. Note how they carefully mention that the islanders helped to carry to poor heavy thing to the HMS Topaze boat that took it to Blighty. God knows what the British Empire would have done without the kind hospitality of strangers.

He's one of my favourite items in the Museum, which I rarely visit despite the fact it is very close to my college. This morning I decided to say hello to my hidden friend on my way to work. After passing through the loud courtyard I found him sulking amongst other pacific specimens. As usual I tried to imitate his face, which came very easily.

The text beneath 'the hidden or stolen friend' insists he is a statement about leadership and authority, but I think their guess is as good as mine. Any reading of this face would be a modern projection; for me he suggests vulnerability and the difficulty of holding your chin up. His small arms are holding his body tightly, almost in fear that he might fall off the pedestal. I would like to put my arms around him, but the text beneath also says please do not touch.

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