Tag Archives: Maori Heads

All Gone!

Yes it’s true.  The big red Santa boot has gone, removed, put into the trash can and now can be forgotten.

So what else is on my mind today?

Twenty tattooed Maori heads are about to be repatriated from France.  At a  ceremony on Monday at Quai Branly museum in Paris, presided over by the French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand and New Zealand’s ambassador,  the heads encased in a box, were handed over.

Maori Warriors

Photo copyright EPA

In the 18th and 19th centuries Maori heads with intricate facial tattoos or moko, were often kept as trophies from tribal warfare. But with the coming of the white man, it became fashionable for  to collect these heads  by private individuals and men were in danger of being killed simply for their tattoos.

These heads are revered as ancestral remains by Maori, who hold it an insult that they should be on display in overseas museums.   Those from the museum in France have not been on display.  We are told that over the years French museums, anthropological researchers and private collectors have preserved and simply stored the heads.

Since 2003 the NZ government has been attempting (and succeeding in some degree) repatriation of these body parts.  And while more than 180 heads and skeletal remains have been repatriated to New Zealand since that time,  about 400 are estimated to remain in the UK alone.

The heads will be brought to Te Papa our National Museum and then will be distributed to the tribes to whom they belong. Some are readily identifiable but others are not, and Maori tribes are unwilling to accept body parts of anyone other than their own.  Because of this, Te Papa have some 500 unidentified body parts in storage.

As a Pakeha (non Maori New Zealander) I applaud the government’s actions  in repatriating these artifacts.