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News from the Island we did not want to hear…

Jul 19, 2020

Luis Tomas Pate Riroroko is gone. In June I included my little quickie shot of him carving – we would visit him in his studio. It seems there was some kind of fishing accident and he was flown to the mainland, but didn’t make it. I’m reposting that portrait. We got to know an amazing number of good people in our three years on Easter Island, Luis was one of them. It helped that he was so fluent in English. We haven’t been back to the Island now since 2016, but feel the loss as if we were there.

If you walked by the shop you could tell if he was in by looking in the window at this chair. This is where he worked, catching the light from the street. Behind him, lined up on tables, were his recent carvings. His were among the most polished on the Island. I did a series of pictures for him at one point. That was early enough on where, there being a large number of images and my being limited on storage space, and they weren’t for my use, I deleted my copies. It would be nice to post a few here. Luis specialized in reproductions of carvings in museums around the world – there are hundreds, while the Island museum has very few.

It’s interesting that new, original work, no matter how good it is, sells for much, much less than good reproductions of the museum pieces. We’ve purchased both and were always shocked how reasonably priced a beautiful original work was compared to a couple of our prized copies. Between 2006 and 2016 we saw a noticible downturn in the average quality of the carving on the Island, as the great ones aged. Luis seemed, to us anyway, to be the youngest of them. We have already heard that Rapanui have already started hoarding a lot of the best pieces – with Luis gone that is going to accelerate. I hope the Museo jumps quickly into acquiring a good selection.

Watching Luis work was always interesting, the level of concentration, the unbelievable speed with intervals of slow, intricate care. Within minutes he could be ankle deep in wood shavings.