Museum of Natural History returns three Ivi tupuna

Museum of Natural History returns three Ivi tupuna

Museum of Natural History returns three Ivi tupuna

ecember 11 of last year was an historical day for Rapa Nui, when the Chilean Museum of Natural History – MNHN returned three Ivi tupuna (bones and biological remains of ancestors) which traveled back to the Island under the vigilance of the Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community, the Commission for Development of Isla de Pascua (CODEIPA), the Municipality of Isla de Pascua and the Under-secretary for Heritage, Emilio De La Cerda.

Upon their arrival, the ancestors were received with great emotion by the Rapanui community in a caravan that carried them from the airport at Mataveri to the Father Sebastian Englert Museum, where an umu (ceremonial feast) was held in their honor.

This return occurred within the framework of a process of dialogue and joint efforts on the part
of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage with the local community, whose representatives traveled in a delegation to the Museum of Natural History. There the committee visited three moai (statues) which form part of the permanent exhibition and were given access to pieces in the collection that originated on the Island, among them a Reimiro (breastplate necklace), Moai kava kava (wooden
statues) and two Rongo-rongo (hieroglyphic writing) boards.

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In respect to this visit and the following agreement,
Camilo Rapu, the President of the Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community, commented that in this museum there are more than 300 archaeological artifacts from the Island and “on this occasion we visited the moai, two of them made of basalt and one carved in trachyte, which is not in very good condition. We are a living culture that still maintains our traditions, so it is important to repatriate our archaeological pieces. We are grateful for this gesture from the Museum and hope that this can serve as an example for the other museums in the country.”

On the part of the Minister of Culture, Consuelo Valdés, this visit is considered a demonstration of the will of the government to support and facilitate the restitution of cultural and bio-anthropological artifacts of the ethnic ancestors of the present-day Rapanui. “The restitution of human remains from the collection
is a very profound gesture which holds an intangible
spiritual dimension that far transcends the concept
of return of simple material goods”, added the Government Secretary.

The Rapanui collection at the MNHN holds, in addition to the three moai, archaeological and ethnographic collections, as well as a bio-anthropological collection composed of 109 skulls and a minimal number of individuals. The three moai under the care of the institution are unique in that they have been indoors since the 19th Century, which has protected them from erosion. These pieces were brought to the continent by the Chilean Navy. Two came on board the Corvette “O’Higgins” in 1870 and donated that same year to the Museum. The third was brought by the Training Ship “General Baquedano” in 1921, originally donated to the National History Museum and later, in the 1960s, passed to the MNHN.

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It should be recognized that the Museum of Natural
History of Chile is working on the digitalization of part of its collections to place them at the disposition of the community as 3D models of emblematic pieces. From the Rapa Nui collection, there are already nine pieces on-line, among which are some Moai Pa’apa’a, a Reimiro, a wooden snail and two Rongorongo
tablets. These can all be seen at:: https://sketchfab.com/MNHNcl/collections/rapa-nui
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