The ethnological museum in Berlin has returned two mummified Maori heads to New Zealand on Monday, as “a sign of reconciliation for societies affected by colonialism.”

March 13, 2024

Berlin museum returns two mummified Maori heads to New Zealand

The ethnological museum in Berlin has returned two mummified Maori heads to New Zealand on Monday, as “a sign of reconciliation for societies affected by colonialism.” The Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, in the city of Wellington, had requested the return of the two Toi moko in the autumn of last year.

Berlin museum returns two mummified Maori heads to New Zealand

The Toi moko, as this type of tattooed head of Maori men is known, had arrived at the German museum in 1879 . But the names and the route by which they arrived in Europe are unknown, as reported by the German television network Deutsche Welle.

Berlin museum returns two mummified Maori heads to New Zealand

‘Toi Moko’ Maori EFE

The tattooed heads of Maori men were considered a collector’s item in the society of 19th century Europe , so, due to high demand, slaves and prisoners of war were tattooed and then killed in order to sell their heads .

Berlin museum returns two mummified Maori heads to New Zealand

Since 2003, the Berlin museum has returned various Maori remains to New Zealand, as well as announcing the return of ancestral Aboriginal remains to Australia . “We will do everything possible to continue on this path to correct historical errors,” added the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK), which runs the Berlin museum.

This repatriation is “a sign of reconciliation for societies affected by colonialism ,” said the federal commissioner for culture and media, Monika Gruetters, in a statement reported by the aforementioned media.

 

The singing of the ‘karanga’, as Maori women traditionally pay tribute to their ancestors, served to open the ceremony with which the transfer was staged. In an act in which ‘karakia’, another of the traditional prayers or invocations of the tribe, have also been recited.