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Common Threads

T-shirts printed on Molokai commemorate Rapa Nui restoration.

By Catherine Cluett, Special to the Dispatch

There’s a lot that small islands in the Pacific Ocean have in common. But Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, and Molokai have some personal ties. Molokai’s Brigid Mulloy is the daughter of William Mulloy, the archeologist who restored the well-known statues in Rapa Nui known as Ahu Akivi in 1960. The seven statues of Ahu Akivi comprise the first ceremonial site ever restored on Rapa Nui.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of their restoration, and Brigid Mulloy and her family are traveling to the South Pacific island to celebrate the historic event. They are bringing with them another piece of Molokai – T-shirts to commemorate the event printed right here on Molokai.

Molokai artists Ann Van Eps and Steve Legare purchased a printing press from Bamboo Pantry after the store closed several months ago. Since then, they have been printing shirts on Molokai for sale and various events by special order. The Ahu Akivi anniversary shirts feature a historic photo of the restoration, printed smoothly on silky polyester shirts. Mulloy said she will take 100 of the shirts to Rapa Nui for the celebration, and more will be printed afterward to share on Molokai.

The printing machine, known as a heat press, uses a technology that permanently bonds ink to the fabric. It’s a labor-intensive process, explained Legare – one shirt at a time. First, the image must be digitized. Then, the design is printed onto transfer paper. The transfer process of the ink onto specialized polyester fabric occurs at a temperature of 400 degrees as the ink vaporizes and adheres to the polyester.

Mulloy said she will take 100 of the shirts to Rapa Nui for the celebration, then more will be printed afterward to share on Molokai. Mulloy and her family will travel to Rapa Nui for the month of October. She said several events to honor her father’s work will take place during that time.

October 12, 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the blessing of the completed restoration. The main event will be a celebration at the site will take place that day, attended by public officials, community members and family members of those who worked on the restoration. The population of Rapa Nui is about 6,000 people, and Mulloy said she expects many to attend the celebration.

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