It appears that ceramic garden gnomes were invented in Germany in the middle of the 19th century. But it was in my native land, Australia, that an amazing gnome event first occurred, in 1986. A woman in the eastern suburbs of Sydney woke up one morning to discover that her garden gnome Bilbo had disappeared, leaving a note: "Dear Mum: I couldn't stand the solitude any longer. I've gone off to see the world. Don't be worried. I'll be back soon. Love and kisses, Bilbo." During the months that followed, in her mail, the lady received photos of her gnome in various well-known European settings: in front of Big Ben, alongside the Eiffel Tower, in a Venetian gondola, etc. And scribbled words of affection on the back of each photo assured his mum in Sydney that he was having the time of his life.
Finally, one night, Bilbo reappeared unobtrusively in his native Sydney garden. His wanderlust was fulfilled, and his mum found him posed calmly among the flowers as if nothing had ever happened. But his gnome's heart was in fact full of contentment and pride in his exploit.
We learn today that this same kind of wanderlust has struck in an unlikely place: Easter Island.
The French press has just revealed that one of the 980 giant statues—referred to as moai—has expressed the desire to travel to Paris "to emit spiritual energy that will change the conscience of humanity". Thanks to the Louis Vuitton group, the maoi's wish will be granted. Next year, a giant statue will be brought from Easter Island to the City of Lights, and it will be posed for a fortnight in the Tuileries gardens.
In my opinion, that's an excellent address for a maoi on a short trip to Paris. It will reside between the obelisk of the Place de la Concorde and the glass pyramid of the Louvre. On the other hand, unlike its homeland, there won't be a view of the vast ocean.
That particular site was chosen by two members of the island's Rapanui community, who came to Paris especially for that purpose. One of them told us what to expect from the maoi's presence: "It will metamorphose the conscience of the materialistic world into a more humanistic conscience." In my humble opinion, in this time of economic crisis and fear about global warming, that's exactly what we need, in France and elsewhere. The Easter Island fellow added: "The maoi is not a mere hunk of stone. It's a link. They show the world that, in attacking Nature, Man destroys himself. The story of Easter Island is the history of Humanity."
Do you know what I think? I reckon that the super bright guy from Hawai, young Barack, might be pulling the strings behind this unexpected and extraordinary scheme for transferring some Pacific wisdom to the Old World. Besides, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the halt in Paris were just a stopover on the way to the White House...