Apr 15, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

Toi Moko to be returned

2 min read

A mummified head held by a UK museum is to be sent back to New Zealand after more than 150 years.

v2_file_606208615The Maori head, or Toi moko, was brought to Britain in the 1840s and has been kept in Warrington Museum in Cheshire since 1843.

The museum says it will be sent back to its motherland due to its “great cultural importance”.

Janice Hayes, the museum’s manager, said: “We don’t know the precise origin of the head. We do know that Maori used to preserve severed heads for two reasons – either to venerate a loved one, or to ridicule an enemy defeated in battle.

“But we also know that some Maori, when they learned that Europeans would pay gold for the old artefacts, began to manufacture more heads for sale.”

She says the Warrington Borough Council decided to return the head after council Te Papa Tongarewa wrote to it seeking the repatriation, at its expense.

“Because these Toi moko are so sacred to the Maori it is regarded as an insult even to show a photograph of one and the museum removed the head from public view many years ago.”

Te Papa has indicated that it will want to conduct a ceremony at Warrington Museum to thank it for its care of the Toi moko before the New Zealand authorities resume custody of it.

The artefact is unlikely to be repatriated until later this year and the council hopes to invite members of the New Zealand and Samoan rugby league teams to pay their respects to the Toi moko during their stay in the UK as part of the World Cup.

It is estimated there are still at least 100 Toi moko in including in institutions and collections overseas and the Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation overseen by Te Papa is seeking their return.


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