Historical Advances in Repatriation of Rapanui Heritage

Historical Advances in Repatriation of Rapanui Heritage

Historical Advances in Repatriation of Rapanui Heritage

Repatriation of the Moai Hoa Hakananai’a

delegation of Rapanui, made up of representatives of the Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community, the Commission for Development of Easter Island (Codeipa) and the Council of Elders, accompanied by the Minister of National Properties, Felipe Ward, traveled to London to meet with the authorities of the British Museum and present a formal request
for the repatriation of the Moai Hoa Hakananai’a. “Here your children and grandchildren have come to search for you,” was the phrase in the Rapanui language that a member of the delegation pronounced in front of the Moai Hoa Hakananai’a. In an intimate ceremony, the representatives of the Island presented offerings of
red and white kiea (colored earth), with which the Moai (statue) had been painted originally. With the traditional song “I’He A Hotu Matu’a”, the delegation indicated its recognition of Moai Hoa Hakananai’a and requested that his Mana (spiritual power) soon return to Rapa Nui.

Following this, the delegation began the official process with the Chilean Embassy in London, holding an informative coordinating meeting with the Ambassador, David Gallagher. After the first encounter, the highly awaited meeting with the
authorities of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer (director), Jonathan Williams (assistant director) and other employees of the institution, was held. The group explained the spiritual importance of this ancestor within the Rapanui culture and his significance in the past, the present and the future of the Island.

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Rapanui delegation in meeting with authorities of the British museum.

Team Ma’u Henua with Emilio de la Cerda, undersecretary of patrimony.
“We sense that it was a positive encounter. The English people were able to understand how important Moai Hoa Hakananai’a is for us as a people with a living culture. I think that we are on the right path”, said Camilo Rapu, president of the
Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community. This feeling was ratified by the Minister of National Properties, Felipe Ward: “The fact that we sat down to speak for the first time with the British Museum and that they accepted the invitation to visit the Island and verify
for themselves what is happening in conservation which would enable us to take charge of a moai, such as Hoa Hakananai’a, leaves us with a light of hope.” The Governor, Tarita Alarcón- Rapu, concluded that the manner in which the Rapanui people arrived through this delegation has been very different from other requests made previously, especially noting the many interviews with authorities and the press, both in the United Kingdom as well as from other parts of the world, in a demonstration that this visit represents an important international historical landmark.
According to a poll by the British “Sky News”, 65% of the British people have a favorable opinion of the request from the Rapanui people.

The group also visited the Moai Hava, which is held at the Royal Academy of Arts and was taken from the Island togetherwith Hoa Hakananai’a, before returning to Chile on November 23, with the task of continuing the diplomatic conversations. At the same time, efforts will be made to repatriate other Moai, archaeological pieces and human bones from the Chilean National Museum of Natural History,
the Archaeological Museum of La Serena and the Fonck Museum in Viña del Mar.

Rapanui delegation with Chilean ambassador in London.

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Rapanui delegation with Chilean ambassador in London.

Moai en / in la Serena

Moai of the Archaeological Museum of La Serena

 

The mayor of La Serena, Roberto Jacob, met with the President of the Ma’u Heua Indigenous Community, Camilo Rapu, and the archaeologist Rafael Rapu, head of the Department of Archaeology of Ma’u Henua, to set up the protocol for, together, repatriating the moai (statue) held in the local museum and for the carving of a new sculpture by Rapanui artists that will replace the moai as ambassador of Rapa Nui in La Serena. At the same time, they agreed to establish closer ties between the two towns with the idea of developing cultural exchange that will strengthen the relations between the Rapanui community and the pre-Hispanic Diaguita culture, which still can be found among the community in La Serena. In this way, this aringa ora, or living face of the ancestors, will become the first moai from Rapa Nui to make the return journey to his homeland.

The Moai, 2.94 meters (9 feet, 8 inches) tall, made
of the volcanic tuff from Rano Raraku, was taken to La Serena at the beginning of May 1952 and installed in the yard of the Infantry Regiment Number 21 “Arica”. Following efforts made by the mayor at that time, he was moved in 1987 to a park that was established on Colo Colo Street so that the people of La Serena could appreciate him. However, in his new home, he suffered frequent acts of vandalism, which led to him being moved again to the Archaeological Museum of the city. In 1995, with the approval of the National Monuments Council, the moai was taken to an expo in Milan, Italy and, later, to an exhibition in Bordeaux, France, from where he returned broken and damaged.

Camilo Rapu & Roberto Jacob, Mayor of La Serena.

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