The festival began in the 1970s as a way of maintaining and promoting the Rapa Nui culture amongst the islanders, and in particular for generating interest and a sense of identity amongst the children. Only in the last few years has the travelling community woken up to this unique event, and February is now very much high season on the island.
Easter Island (Rapa Nui) may be best known for the monolithic heads, or moai , that dot its landscape. However, Easter Island’s claim to fame each summer (that’s early February when you’re south of the equator) is Tapati Rapa Nui, a festival that is at once a test of masculine strength and feminine grace, a celebration of local culture and a welcoming of visitors. Unlike many island festivals, Tapati Rapa Nui has been a festival for locals, by locals, rather than a tourist attraction.
In 1969, just a few years after Easter Island gained some autonomy from Chile, Semana de Rapa Nui was born as a simple summer festival that featured singing, dancing and a small parade. Over the years it has evolved, including a name change, but Tapati Rapa Nui has always been about celebrating Polynesian pride. While tourists are welcome, and tend to pack the island this time of year, this is not a commercial luau or something you’d find at a hotel in Waikiki. Expect true authenticity in these festivities, and a deep appreciation and respect for the culture by the Rapa Nui people and all who attend.