Friday, January 23, 2015

Rapa Nui is Coming for the Moai


Rapa Nui people claim return of their Moai held in museums around the world

For generations, the people of Easter Island allowed several of its statues of volcanic rock to leave Rapa Nui and become museum pieces in distant places. But no more. Currently trying to arrange the return of some monuments scattered in the country, they contacted lawyers in Chile and the United States, and warned: "It is only the first step." [...] These other 11 pieces (between complete moai heads and pukao or hats) scattered in museums in North America, Europe and Oceania, represent 1% of the nearly eleven hundred monuments that have been identified so far in Rapa add Nui. Among these works are three parts in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC (an upright moai, a head and a pukao); two heads held by the French Louvre and Quai Branly, respectively; and moai in the of Liverpool and British museums.
The mysterious basalt sculptures with outsized heads were made some 500 to 750 years ago and have become a symbol of Easter Island, a territory annexed to Chile in the late 19th century. The current campaign is the result of concerns raised on the small island by plans to take one of the statues to France in 2010:
Italy's Mare Nostrum and France's Louis Vuitton launched the project to haul the Moai across oceans for public view in Paris two years ago. They aimed to introduce the island's culture to Europe in exchange for helping preserve its heritage with a fund that initially included half a million dollars. Archeologists and logistics coordinators had scoped out the site and preselected a statue five meters (16 feet) tall that weighed 13 tons. They had planned to insure it for two million U.S. dollars. The island's 4,000 inhabitants were informed about the project during public meetings before a referendum was held under the auspices of the International Labour Organization's convention on indigenous people. Out of 900 people who responded, 789 islanders said they opposed sending the Moai to France, while 94 said they supported the move.
Another focus of campaigners' attention re holdings of human skeletal remains removed from burial caves on the island, held in a number of museums.

Sources:
Jorge Poblete and Alejandro Jiménez, 'Rapa Nui va por sus moai', Capital Online January 23, 2015

Graciela Almendras, 'France won't get Moai after Easter Island snub', AFP April 10, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Will Western museums hear the voice of the people?
    Kwame Opoku

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