Dignity for Relics

“For decades, New Zealand has campaigned for museums to repatriate the mummified and heavily-tattooed heads of Maori warriors held in collections worldwide — now it must decide what to do with the gruesome but culturally valuable relics,” Neil Sands writes for AFP. “Te Papa has more than 1 of the heads, known as toi moko, in storage, along with about 5 skeletal remains plundered from Maori graves as recently as the 193s. Te Herekiekie Herewini, who leads Te Papa’s repatriation programme, said the heads of deceased chiefs or family members would be mummified as a way of preserving their spirit, while enemies’ heads were preserved as war trophies. ‘Initially the mummification of heads and bodies was part of our normal mourning process,’ Herewini said. He said repatriating remains was an emotional issue for Maori, who had a strong connection to the land and wanted to give the warriors the dignity of a proper funeral. Far North tribe Ngati Kuri to bury them near Te Rerenga Wairua, or Cape Reinga, the northernmost point in New Zealand, where Maori believe the spirits of the dead depart for the afterlife.”


Tags: AFP  Maori  mummified heads  Te Papa Tongarewa  

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