Easter Island controversy: Islanders want British Museum to return ‘stolen friend’ statue


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In 1868, a large Easter Island statue was dug up by the crew of a Royal Navy frigate and transported to England, the place it was offered to Queen Victoria as a present. The monarch gave the statue, or moai, to the British Museum in London, the place it stays to today. Now the Easter Islanders need it again.

The Eight-foot tall basalt statue is named Hoa Hakananai’a, which suggests ‘misplaced or stolen good friend’ within the language of Easter Island’s indigenous Rapa Nui folks. Constructed to represent an ancestor’s spirit, the statue is believed so far again to roughly the 12 months 1200.

Round 900 statues, or moai, are dotted round Easter Island.


An elderly woman sits reading by a large stone statue, or moai from Easter Island on display at the British Museum, London, 1967. (Photo by Romano Cagnoni/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

An aged girl sits studying by a big stone statue, or moai from Easter Island on show on the British Museum, London, 1967. (Picture by Romano Cagnoni/Hulton Archive/Getty Photos)
(Romano Cagnoni/Hulton Archive/Getty Photos)

Hoa Hakananai’a was taken together with a smaller statue often called Hava, which was additionally given to Queen Victoria as a present and can also be within the Bristish Museum to today.

The Rapa Nui need the museum to return the items.

“The British taking the moai from our island is like me going into your own home and taking your grandfather to show in my front room,” Anakena Manutomatoma, an island native who serves on Rapa Nui’s improvement fee, informed the BBC.


Rapa Nui sculptor Benedicto Tuki has provided to make an actual duplicate of the statue to take the moai’s place within the British Museum.

Hoa Hakananai'a. Easter Island's stone statues of human figures, known as moai, were probably carved to commemorate important ancestors and were made from around AD 1000 until the second half of the seventeenth century. From the British Museum's collection.

Hoa Hakananai’a. Easter Island’s stone statues of human figures, often called moai, had been most likely carved to commemorate vital ancestors and had been created from round AD 1000 till the second half of the seventeenth century. From the British Museum’s assortment.
(CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Photos)

In August, Rapa Nui mayor Pedro Edmunds despatched a letter to the British Museum requesting the return of Hoa Hakananai’a, in response to the BBC. A delegation from Rapa Nui is anticipated to reach in London Monday to suggest exchanging the moai for Tuki’s duplicate.

“We imagine that there’s nice worth in presenting objects from internationally, alongside the tales of different cultures on the British Museum,” stated a spokesperson for the British Museum, in a press release emailed to Fox Information. “Hoa Hakananai’a is free to view in our Wellcome Belief Gallery and is among the many hottest and most photographed displays with our 6 million guests annually.”


One of many world’s main lenders of artifacts, the British Museum has over Eight million objects in its assortment.

This August 2012 photo shows heads at Rano Raraku, the quarry on Easter Island.

This August 2012 picture exhibits heads at Rano Raraku, the quarry on Easter Island.
(AP Picture/Karen Schwartz)

“We’re eager to work collaboratively with companions and communities throughout the globe and welcome any particular proposals and discussions round future joint venture and analysis work. The British Museum has been in contact with representatives from Rapa Nui and shall be happy to host a delegation to go to to the Museum,” the spokesperson stated.

“We very a lot stay up for this assembly and having a chance to have a dialogue straight with the Rapa Nui group. The topic of the talks would contain taking the delegation to see Hoa Hakananai’a after which discussing any future proposals they’ve.”

Rapa Nui, which is situated greater than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, continues to be a supply of fascination for historians. Researchers, for instance, lately shed new mild on why the traditional statues are positioned alongside the island’s coast.


Earlier this 12 months, consultants additionally labored out how historical islanders had been in a position to place huge stone hats on the statues.

This undated photo released by Explora en Rapa Nui shows some of the massive Moai statues on Easter Island.

This undated picture launched by Explora en Rapa Nui exhibits among the huge Moai statues on Easter Island.
(AP Picture/Explora en Rapa Nui)

In 2016, analysis carried out on artifacts from the island questioned the idea that the traditional civilization there was destroyed by warfare.

Consultants studied lots of of historical objects discovered on the shores of Easter Island. Beforehand, the artifacts had been regarded as spear factors, however evaluation reveals that they had been possible normal goal instruments.


Carved from obsidian, or volcanic glass, hundreds of the triangular objects, often called mata’a, litter the floor of the island.

Moai At Hanga Kio'e, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile

Moai At Hanga Kio’e, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile
(Insights/UIG by way of Getty Photos)

Some scientists have estimated that, at its top, Easter Island’s inhabitants could have been as excessive as 20,000, however fell over centuries after the island’s timber and palms had been lower right down to construct canoes and transport its well-known big statues. One principle means that the deforestation led to soil erosion, impacting the island’s capability to help wildlife and farming, and the collapse of its civilization.

When the Dutch arrived on the island in 1722, its inhabitants was three,000 or much less. Solely 111 inhabitants had been dwelling on Easter Island by 1877.

Nevertheless, different consultants have questioned whether or not Easter Island ever supported a big inhabitants, citing as an alternative the arrival of Europeans, who introduced illnesses and took islanders away as slaves.

Observe James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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