Cyprien Chabert is the kind of creator that I love, a story teller. He works his murals and drawing with a simple black line, to create a world of gardens, nature managed by man. He is an urbanite that is fascinated by how culture interacts with ecology. The story of Easter island and the Birdman cult inspires him as a metaphor for ecological issues that our planet faces. He told me the story while arranging his papers around the Ile de Pâque (Easter Island) table, which he designed by tracing the outline of the island onto old table tennis table, and cutting it out.
Once upon a time Easter island was a lush forest with giant trees, and being such a tiny little island it had a very sensitive ecosystem. Settlers came and gradually the glorious forest was all wiped out. War and famine then distroyed their system of monarchy, which was replaced by the Birdman cult. Every year each of the local tribes had a candidate to be the king, and they each had a young champion, who would compete in an annual an egg hunt, (now doesn’t this just makes the name of Easter island seem all the more appropriate?) Every year the festivities would begin when the black terns flew in to nest on Motu Nui, a nearby island. The young champions would plunge off a treacherous cliff, often cutting themselves, and then either swimming across shark infested waters, or dive bleeding into the waters, to become a shark lunch. If they’d survived as far as the island they would wait for days or weeks, until they wrestled a newly laid egg from under it’s battling defensive mother, then race back to present the unbroken egg to their sponsor. The first candidate to have an egg became the Birdman, a king for a year. And as Cyprien Chabert says, this whole event probably also kept the warrior population under control.
It’s quite tricky to actually play table tennis on this table, like the ecology of a small island, it’s hard to keep the ball in play. Maybe this could be a revolutionary green way to elect new leaders. Diving into killer shark filled waters would present some health and safety issues, (though for some politicians would be a natural habitat). Instead it could be quite up lifting to have presidential candidates fight it out in a table tennis tournament on this highly symbolic table. Think of the paper, the transport, the electricity and all the money used on a traditional campaign that would be saved. This could become a beautiful contemporary ritual for the cult of the ping-pong-men.