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Recreations of the mysterious stone heads of Easter Island are at the centre of a new exhibition on the famous statues which have become a worldwide icon.
Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture is being held at The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton, Middlesbrough until September 4 this year.
Eight of the stone heads, known as ‘moai’, especially created for the exhibition and measuring up to 10ft tall are on show, along with the stone moai, Tutira, created in 2008 and standing outside the Museum.
The exhibition has been curated by Dr Ian Conrich, Fellow at the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex and produced in association with The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum.
The exhibition was formally opened on Saturday, March 5 by Cristian Leon, the Cultural Attache for the Embassy of Chile in London.
He said: “Before this exhibition there were only two moai in London at the British Museum and the one in Marton, probably in the whole of the UK, now we have another eight.
“This exhibition shows their massive popular appeal and their continuing use in everything from films, adverts and toys through to computer games, comics and cartoons.”
Dr Conrich said he hoped they would reveal the extensive cultural impact of the moai created on the small Pacific Island: “Easter Island’s stone statues have long held a popular appeal which has extended far into the culture of foreign countries.
“We are trying to understand how it has captured the imaginations of different cultures around the world and to do that we are bringing together academics from a wide range of backgrounds including cultural studies, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, and international relations.
“This material has never been brought together in this way before and it is a huge coup to be able to put it on display here at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, and later at the Kon-Tiki Museum (from October 2011) and on Easter Island (from May 2012).”
Dr Conrich said it would be fascinating to see how islanders react to the exhibition when it is staged on Easter Island.
The exhibition features more than 300 images, 150 objects and many interactive elements. During its international tour it will also be complemented by a series of linked events and workshops.
He said: “I have shown material like this to islanders before and they are stunned by the way the statues are represented in the culture of other countries.”
The exhibition has been put together in partnership with co-curators Dr Roy Smith from Nottingham Trent University and Martyn Harris from Birkbeck, University of London.
They have been assisted by Dr Dan Bendrups from the University of Otago, New Zealand, Dr Grant McCall from the University of New South Wales and Easter Island-based researcher Frieder Wahl.
Production has been in association with The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum and there will be an associated publication of the same name, including foreword by Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon.
Senior Museums Curator Phil Philo said: “It is entirely appropriate for us to have had a major role in the production and staging of this exhibition and publication.
“Captain Cook visited Easter Island in 1774 and returned with some of the earliest and most important accounts of Easter Island and its people.
“Continuing the Museum’s role in interpreting Captain Cook in new and unusual ways to show Cook’s relevance and importance today, this exhibition features more modern items inspired by the culture of Easter – items that I am sure that Cook would have recognised and been amused by!”
Easter Island,Myths, & Popular Culture is on at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum 5 March - 4 September 2011.
The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum is located in Stewart Park, Marton in Middlesbrough Postcode: TS7 8AT. Tel: 01642 311211
The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum has 2 lifts that allow for wheelchair and pram access to every floor in the museum.
There is an orange disabled badge holder’s parking bay at the front of the museum. Access to this car park is via The Grove entrance to Stewart Park.
A wheelchair is available for use by visitors. Prior notice is preferred.
A disabled toilet is located on the ground floor.