Massive arts from prehistoric times cite a contributory factor in the historical advancement of Modernism. Social and cultural traditions have contributed to molding and preserving the items from the ancient civilizations like the moai of Easter Island and the totem poles of the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
Easter Island is one of the Polynesian Islands located close to Chile and the home of 887 monuments called moai. There have been stories about the history of the island, but all these controversies still remain obscure.
Theories recount that moai and ahu were in use as early as AD 500. Roggeveen (1903) stated that the majority of the totems were carved and erected between AD 1000 and 1650. The volcanic ash of Rano Raraku had been used to carve these figures. Moai represents the authority and power of the political and religious groups on the island. It is a belief that these figures will bring good luck to the island. Rapa Nui regards that magical forces, alien visits, and sliding the statues on layers of yam and potatoes are responsible for moving the moai into its place. The transportation of the statues remains a mystery, but the use of log rollers, piles of stones, and ropes is the closest acceptable theory to date. The natives cut down trees not only to move and erect moai but also for agricultural purposes. This environmental destruction led to warfare, self-destruction, and cannibalism. Overexploitation of Easter Island’s natural resources is the reason for its extinction (Diamond, 2005).
The creation of moai triggers social and cultural complexities. This level of social complexity caused the advancement of its culture because the creation of moai signifies how proficient the natives were in their stone working skills, thus the rise of Easter Island remark the development of a new society.
The natives of the Pacific Northwest Coast have also something to boast for. They have monumental sculptures called totem poles carved out of the mature red and yellow cedar trees using sharpened tools. Jonaitis & Glass (2010) stated that the first sighting of the existing freestanding pole is around the 1700s.
Native Americans used totems in the celebration of cultural beliefs, but these were never objects of worship (meaning and purpose of totem poles, 2011). Totem Pole design varies and conveys symbolic reminders of notable events and has six variations. Natives carved house poles believing it brings luck to the family. They also carved mortuary poles that held human remains (Kramar, P. n.d) and some chose to carve a family pole because this symbolizes their clan status. The rest carved the portal pole that serves as a doorway. A number of natives sculptured a feast pole to record the important events and shame poles that were used to shame individuals (Keithahn, E (1963). There has been no devastating ecological impact noted. The natives converted their property into social status (Gatewood, J. n.d) and gave potlatches to prevent physical conflict outbursts.
Low man on the totem pole refers to the level of hierarchy in ancient times denoting the bottom part as the least important in the society. Nowadays, the bottom part indicates higher importance. It is the most intricate and carved part of the totem sculptured by the head carver and the apprentice carves the upper part of the totem.
The drive to carve totem poles continues to exist. This form of art is highly valued and resulted in the interest of the natives to save the dying art after its decline in the 1900s. Today, artists commercially produce totems. It is expensive and serves as a good source of income. This is a symbol of pride for the Pacific Northwest people.
Anonymous. Meaning and Purpose of Totem Poles, 2011. Web.
Diamond, 2005. Easter Island. Web.
Gatewood, J. (n.d.) Competition for Cultural Images. Web.
Jonaitis, A. & Glass, A. (2010) International: The Totem Pole: An Intercultural History. Web.
Keithahn, E. (1963). Monuments in Cedar. Superior Pub. Co. pp. 56. Web.
Kramar, P. (n.d). Totem Poles (pp. 31). Web.
Roggeveen, J. (1903) Easter Island. Web.