CASE SUBJECT BACKGROUND:
TOKI RAPA NUI
Toki Rapa Nui is a non-profit organization on the Chilean territory of Easter Island, one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. Situated over 2000 miles west of continental Chile with an area of 63 square miles, the population of the island at the 2017 census was 7750, 60% of whom are descended from Indigenous islanders. As Thor Heyerdahl has written in The New Scientist, “geographical isolation breeds unfettered speculation” (January 20, 1990), and the mystery-shrouded history of Easter Island ensures its ongoing international status as an intriguing and compelling destination for researchers and tourists alike.
The word toki is the name for the tool used to carve moai, the stone statues that have become globally recognized icons of the island. Rapa Nui is the Indigenous name for Easter Island and also designates its native people and their language. At the core of Toki Rapa Nui’s mission is the concept of sustainability, both environmental and cultural. The organization comprises a number of strands that share the common aim of improving both the environment and the quality of life on the island, in areas ranging from agriculture, energy, and construction to the arts. When the island was annexed by Chile in 1888, the continuation of Rapanui culture was threatened. Until the late 1990s, the Rapanui people were not officially permitted to speak their native language, and Spanish was required for public sector jobs and education. Over the last two decades there has been a gradual move towards the revival and promotion of Rapanui language and culture, an agenda now taken up by Toki and suggested in its tagline, “Legado Viviente,” or “Living Legacy.” The Rapanui people are also starting to take back control of their ancestral land and monuments. In November 2017, for example, the Chilean president granted joint administrative rights to the Rapa Nui National Park.
Toki was founded in 2011 by a small group of young Rapanui people, including the concert pianist Mahani Teave and her husband Enrique Icka, a construction engineer and well-known singer-songwriter. Previously, no formal music tuition was offered on the island, not even as part of the school curriculum. Traditional musical skills and repertoire were usually passed down through families as part of an oral tradition.
In 2012, Ms. Teave secured a donation of classical orchestral instruments for the island. At first, the music school had no physical base and lessons took place in the homes of teachers. In 2014, construction began on the Rapa Nui School of Music and Arts, a building that Toki describes as the first completely environmentally sustainable music school in Latin America. The School of Music and Arts is now at the heart of Toki’s activities, along with the organization’s agricultural activities.
To create a music school building in line with the organization’s environmental aims, founders of Toki contacted the American architect and so-called “garbage warrior” Michael Reynolds, the founder of Earthship Biotecture. Earthships are constructed using basic materials such as cement combined with recycled elements, such as aluminum cans, glass bottles and tires. On land donated by Mr. Icka, hundreds of volunteers from the island and further afield helped to build a home for Toki that is completely self-sufficient, using sun, wind, rain and earth for processes providing electricity, water, heating and cooling. In a November 2017 presentation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, Mr. Icka described Toki’s ambitious goal to make Rapa Nui a fully environmentally sustainable island and consequently a small-scale model of environmental change for the rest of the world.
As of early 2018, Toki’s music school offered tuition in both classical and traditional disciplines, including violin, viola, cello, trumpet, piano, ukulele and ancestral song. Tuition in traditional dance and body painting is also available, and it is hoped that the scope of art forms offered by the school will continue to expand. Since 2014, Toki has presented an annual concert at Tapati Rapa Nui, the island’s festival of culture, which has taken place since 1968. For the Tapati performance on February 5, 2018, Toki formed — for the first time — a small orchestra, which performed a suite of Chilean children’s songs arranged by Toki’s piano teacher Ximena Cabello, and arrangements of two traditional Rapanui songs.
As of early 2018, Toki has approximately one hundred children registered, half of whom attend classes on a regular basis. Some students have attended the school since it was founded, while others have joined more recently as part of an ongoing recruitment drive. The Toki building acts as an after-school hub for these children and their families; it is not only a place to take lessons but also a place to congregate, socialize and eat. Students pay little or nothing to attend the school and instruments and tuition are funded by private donors, foundations and the Chilean government. Toki employs a minibus driver to transport students 1.5 miles to the school from the center of Hanga Roa, the island’s only town, and parent volunteers use the kitchen at the school to cook for students and staff with produce grown on Toki’s land.
Both the Fundación Mar Adentro, a Chilean foundation that supports the arts, education and nature, and ENAP (Empresa Nacional del Petróleo), a state-owned Chilean oil company, finance music classes at the school. In addition, the Consejo Nacional de la Cultura de las Artes de Valparaíso (the National Council of Culture and the Arts in Valparaíso) financially supports tuition in certain traditional Rapa Nui art forms, including hoko (a tribal war dance) and takona (body painting). Parents pay a small nominal fee annually, in part to assist with operating costs at Toki but also to help ensure regular student attendance. While the majority of the organization’s income is obtained through contributions, a small proportion of revenue is earned through the sale of produce grown on Toki’s land and of eight-stringed, Toki-branded Rapanui ukuleles made on the island.