Formal talk and ceremony to mark return of Maoiri artefact

Falconer Museum - Maori skull being repatriated?
Falconer Museum – Maori skull repatriation ceremony next week

A NEW ZEALAND Museum is sending two representatives to Moray next week to give a talk at the Falconer Museum on the importance of an artefact being repatriated after over 130 years.

The pair will give a public talk at the museum on Monday, outlining the importance to their country of the Maori Skull that had been donated to Forres in 1883 after being uplifted from Waikouaiti in Ogago on New Zealand’s South Island.

Moray councillors agreed last year that the artefact should be returned to New Zealand after hearing representations from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, who had been tasked by their government in 2003 to support the repatriation of Maori human remains.

Te Papa wrote to the Falconer in September last year revealing that the artefact, which was donated by Mrs Edmonds of Carisbrook, Blackheath, to the Moray museum, was skeletal remains uplifted from Waikouaiti.

The Forres artefact is the latest of many located by the New Zealand museum, following the discovery last year of a collection of 800 skulls that were located by Te Papa gathering dust in the vaults of the Karolinska Institute in Solna, just north of Stockholm in Sweden.

Several years ago the anatomy department of the University of Birmingham also returned a tattooed and preserved skull to Te Papa after contacting the Museum of New Zealand on learning of their quest.

Monday’s talk, which takes place at 3.30pm and is open to the public, will be followed by a ceremony on Tuesday at which the museum will formally hand over the Maori skull which has been preserved in storage for 130 years having only ever been on display for a short period.

The co-leader of the New Zealand museum, Arapata Hakiwai, explained how important the ceremony is, saying it was “for the elders to tell the ancestors they’re going to journey home soon”.

Manager of the repatriation programme, Te Herekiekie Herewini, said: “In our beliefs your spirit and life force comes from the particular part of the country you are from. It is important for your life force to go back to that place. Repatriation allows both sides to reconcile their histories.”