Easter Island demands British Museum give back iconic 1,800-year-old stone statue

Easter Island demands British Museum give back iconic 1,800-year-old stone statue taken from clifftop by explorer in 1868

  • The statue stands in the British Museum and was taken from the island in 1868
  • Easter Island, officially Rapa Nui, say carved heads are spirits of their ancestors
  • A delegation backed by Chilean government will arrive in London next week

Easter Island has demanded the return of one of their iconic carved head statues taken from the island 150 years ago.

The 2.5 metre tall statue, known as moai, from the island officially known as Rapa Nui and is part of Chile, stands in the British Museum.

A delegation from the island backed by the Chilean government will travel to London to ask for the return of the statue dating from around 1200 AD.

The indigenous people of the island say the carved heads carry the spirit of their ancestors and are considered reincarnations of relatives.

The 2.5 metre tall statue, known as moai, from the island officially known as Rapa Nui and is part of Chile, stands in the British Museum

The 2.5 metre tall statue, known as moai, from the island officially known as Rapa Nui and is part of Chile, stands in the British Museum

Under Chilean law, the moai are considered part of the landscape and not just objects.   

The British museum is now willing to talk for the first time since it acquired the statue from Queen Victoria who was gifted it from English navigator Commodore Richard Powell, who removed it from a clifftop in 1868.

Anakena Manutomatoma, who serves on the island’s development commission, told The Guardian: ‘We want the museum to understand that the moai are our family, not just rocks. 

‘For us (the statue) is a brother; but for them it is a souvenir or an attraction.’

The indigenous people of the island say the carved heads carry the spirit of their ancestors and are considered reincarnations of relatives

The indigenous people of the island say the carved heads carry the spirit of their ancestors and are considered reincarnations of relatives

Queen Victoria who was gifted it from English navigator Commodore Richard Powell, who removed it from a clifftop in 1868

Queen Victoria who was gifted it from English navigator Commodore Richard Powell, who removed it from a clifftop in 1868

‘Once eyes are added to the statues, an energy is breathed into the moai and they become the living embodiment of ancestors whose role is to protect us.’ 

The island is offering the museum a carved replica in return for the original statue.

The museum has strict rules about around objects leaving its collection, however the people of Rapu Naia hope they will be successful in acquiring the statue.

The British Museum said that they were looking forward to the visit and ‘discussing any future proposals’.

Under Chilean law, the moai are considered part of the landscape and not just objects

Under Chilean law, the moai are considered part of the landscape and not just objects

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