M ori ancestors return home

Hinemoana Baker and Te Arikirangi Mamaku from the Maori delegation remove the bl

Hinemoana Baker and Te Arikirangi Mamaku from the Maori delegation remove the black cloth that covered the t?puna (ancestors) during the ceremony. Photo: Harry Haase

Ethnographic Collection at Göttingen University returns two Māori Toi moko to Te Papa Tongarewa Museum New Zealand

In 1834, the University of Göttingen received, via the then reigning royal house of the United Kingdom, two Toi moko (preserved Māori tattooed heads) originally from New Zealand. These Toi Moko are now returning there: on Thursday 15 October 2020, the two Toi moko were handed over to the Māori and to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (known as Te Papa) during a ceremony at the University of Göttingen.

The two Toi moko have been part of the Ethnographic Collection of the University of Göttingen since 1934, listed as -Kopftrophäen- (head trophies) of the Māori. "We have no background information about how the two Toi moko came to Europe from New Zealand", says the Curator of the collection, Dr Michael Kraus. "Out of respect for the Māori, of course, we are very happy to support their return." The Māori have close ties to their homeland. With the repatriation of the two Toi Moko, they will be reunited with their community and their land.

"These are not objects, but our sacred ancestors (tūpuna). We can now take them home where they belong," explains Dr Arapata Tamati Hakiwai, Māori co-leader of Te Papa. Since 2003, the museum has been organising the return of Māori and Moriori ancestral remains from outside New Zealand as part of the state-sponsored Karanga-Aotearoa programme. More than 600 ancestors have been brought back in this way.

The two Toi moko in Göttingen will also find their rest at Te Papa at the beginning of November. As the exact tribal connections of the Toi moko have not yet been identified, their first resting place will be in Te Papa’s Wāhi tapu (sacred repository). In the words of New Zealand’s ambassador to Germany, His Excellency Rupert Holborow, this repatriation reflects the friendship between the two nations: "By demonstrating their respect for New Zealand’s native culture, German cultural institutions are strengthening this bond, which is based on shared values and interests," says Holborow.

Theaterplatz 15, 37073 Göttingen, Germany

Tel: +49 (0)551 39-27894

Email: mkraus@gwdg.de


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