a hear here cura

sophie berger / sound engineer & director
all sounds and photographs by sophie berger if not otherwise mentioned
RAPA NUI was produced by arte-RADIO production, put on air by arnaud forest
text and layout by edouard sors if not otherwise mentioned
coordinates -27.11,-109.35 / easter island / valparaiso district / chile / south america
english text / french audio

céline ripoll: storyteller; tina, mario, cléo & flavien: voices 
hear here – click on the photos and listen to the early sounds of the discovery of an island: you shall be directed towards various excerpts of Rapa Nui, a radio broadcast by Sophie Berger – testimonies are spoken in French
écoutille – cliquez sur les photos et entendez les sons des débuts d’une île : vous serez redirigé vers des extraits de Rapa Nui, une pièce sonore radiophonique réalisée par by Sophie Berger


To set a first foot on the dry soil of an exhausted water-mine (be it a khettara, galeria, foggara, qanat, aflaj or any other karez) can trigger some ‘collapsological’ awareness of what is at stake with climate change and ecological transition in arid regions. But put both feet in desert-borne waters and you’ll awaken your senses and maybe revive the sapience associated to the 80 000 hidden channels present undercover from Morocco to China. Standing solitarily in the darkness of hypogeal oasian system like a rooted palm tree, recall the caress of running water over your feet, your knees, your waist... As your eyelids gently close, lower your eyes and look down to your hands, close-up on their palms. Breathe in and hear the blue pulse beat between your temples.
Now take the deepest breath ever: as you dive into a bottomless well, well-being enfolds you, your feet lose contact with the ground as you curl up. The matrix you now belong to transports you from one space, across your world, to another, to the other side. The virtual confinement you began on the firm continental Afro-Eurasian hemisphere continues inside the biggest liquid body on Earth: you are part of the immense liquid womb that mirrors the none-the-less immense surface of the Dust Belt you just left. Earth releases you at an abyssal average 15 000 feet below sea level: time remains suspended until a glimpse of light and a subdued ocean floor show you a way to rise from the waters. Wash ashore one of the 10 000 isles scattered in the Pacific Ocean, catch your breath on the sand of an atoll or the slopes of a volcano and get set for an antipodal exploration.


The barren environment of Rapa Nui - antipode to a dusty wind farm between Jaisalmer stone city (27.12, 70.65) and the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India - is the most oriental, most meridional and most isolated of all Polynesian terrestrial habitats. According to contemporary carbon and pollinic studies of local soils and water, this island was perfectly uninhabited before the 8th century and host until approximately 1650 to forests of native cocoid palm trees, a variety now extinct, the Jubaea Paschalococos disperta.

According to Polynesian Rapa Nui tradition, seven Haumaka people (the first in Rapa Nui language) led by Hotu Matu’a (the king to be) fled Hiva (the Marquesas archipelago), sailed their double canoes during two months (almost 2000 nautical miles) until they washed ashore Anakena beach (the 100-metre sand strip that punctuates the 100 kilometres of uninterrupted abrupt coastline). The newcomers named the island Te Kainga, Te Henua or Te Pito: ‘the land’, ‘the edge of the world’ or ‘the navel of the world’.

From the moment they set foot on what they reckoned to be a miraculous haven until the depletion of resources, the neo-native settlers paid tribute to their saviours (their ancestors and their volcanic safe hold) by carving legless stylised human figures called Moai. Sculpted at the feet of the dormant volcanoes, monolithic Moai statues emerged from tuff bedrock and were literally ‘walked’ by the islanders to spots where their verticality would lastingly mark the scenery.

Within five centuries of active occupation, the prosperous island became the home to over 20 000 inhabitants and the pedestal to almost 1000 stone Moai weighing between 3 to 12 tons for an average 1 to 6 meters. Many Moai remain scattered around the quarries, erect on a hillside, left to lean in a slope, laying face down to the ground or caught in it. Others still stand upright solitarily while the most illustrious, strategically placed on Ahu platforms around the island, stand in a row; a few freestanding moai wear red scoria caps, fewer direct their painted eyes to the sky... All face inland, except for seven who face the ocean like the Haumaka once did. But none saw the plight to come. 


When Dutch explorer Jakob Roggeven discovered the island in 1722 on Easter day - baptising it Easter Island and the Moai, Easter Island Giants - the palm tree had almost disappeared off its face and the population was diminishing. In 1786, the forest had definitely lost ground to a steppe landscape and the French Comte de La Perouse counted less than 2 000 souls. The deforestation was long suspected to have been caused by the gigantism of the indigenous people’s artistic endeavour, precipitating irremediable climate change, erosion, famine etc.: a civilizational collapse due to blindfoldedness called the Easter Island syndrome. Quite recently though, it has been proven that the autochthones did not shoot themselves in the foot by chopping off the palm trees, but instead, by landing on the island with a small yet highly reproductive variety of rodent they fed upon during their crossing: the Polynesian rat proliferated, fed on the coconuts fallen to the ground and prevented the forest from renewing itself. That ‘natural’ decline was aggravated by the illnesses brought by western sailors, traders or missionaries, by the frequent raids of Peruvian slave traders and by the land spoliation by ranchers: according to 1877 records, only 111 natives remained.



Sophie Berger landed on renewed Rapa Nui with her gear to hear the light of a grotto, the water in a crater, the sirens singing in the wind and the Moai quietly gazing at the sky. She knows that words can fulfil what the eyes cannot, that sounds have meanings that the heart embraces and that silence is plentiful. She can turn - for a second and for eternity - speakers into heroes.


I ‘tell’ with sounds of all kinds.
I record, rework, compose, edit, mix and cast sounds in a sensitive way...
Because sound speaks to everyone's body and imagination and can tell a lot ...
I didn’t realise until late that water had infiltrated all my projects…
The one where I walked along a river from its source to its estuary,
another one where I sailed the oceans and also the projects that took place on some extremely isolated islands,
surrounded either by the Southern Ocean or the Pacific Ocean...
But maybe this is no coincidence after all…
It's true that I like the energy of waves; it nourishes the landscapes, it inhabits places, men and women…
Water reminds us of our fragility; it calls for a form of humility and respect for nature...

Sophie Berger