Skip to main content

Country of Origin: Easter Island
Museum: The British Museum

“The indigenous inhabitants of Easter Island – the Rapa Nui people – have called on the British Museum in London to hand back a Moai statue, which was taken away 150 years ago. The island, a UNESCO world heritage site, is located 3,700km off the coast of Chile. Rapa Nui authorities have now asked the Chilean government to support them in their efforts to reclaim the basalt sculpture.

The Hoa Hakananai’a statue (meaning ‘stolen or hidden friend’ in the Rapa Nui language), which stands 2.4 metres tall, is said to have been taken by Richard Powell, a Royal Navy captain of HMS Topaze, in 1868. It was presented to Queen Victoria as a gift, who later donated it to the British Museum. Museum authorities insist that there is ‘great public benefit’ to the statue remaining in the collection, and said that there had been no official request for the museum to return the work.” – Frieze


22 Feb 2022: SIMILAR STATUE RETURNED TO EASTER ISLAND FROM SANTIAGO – “A huge “Moai” statue, one of the iconic stone monuments from Easter Island, began its journey back home on Monday following a years-long campaign to get it returned to its original setting since it was housed in a museum in Santiago in the 19th century.

The 715 kilogram (0.72 tonne) sculpture will be transported by truck to the Chilean port city of Valparaíso, from where it will set sail on a naval ship on a journey of about five days to reach remote Easter Island, known locally as Rapa Nui.

The initiative is part of a repatriation program seeking to return to the Pacific Ocean island ancestral remains, sacred and funerary objects. Similar negotiations have taken place to try to recover a specimen in the hands of the British Museum.” – Reuters

02 September 2019: “However, this week the Rapa Nui mayor, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, suggested the British Museum might be in a better position to preserve the statues than returning them to the Island…

…In exchange for keeping the statues, Mr Paoa hopes the Museum will agree to provide financial assistance with the conservation and, ultimately, support for a new museum to display these and other moai, together with other artefacts on Rapa Nui. If not, he says he’s prepared to join the governor’s action to have the statues returned.” – Returning Heritage

18 November 2018: “The statues, known as moai, were carved by the island’s indigenous Rapa Nui people to embody the spirit of a prominent ancestor, with each considered to be the person’s living incarnation.

“The British taking the moai from our island is like me going into your house and taking your grandfather to display in my living room,” says Anakena Manutomatoma, who is a native of the island and serves on Rapa Nui’s development commission.

“For us, the repatriation of Hoa Hakananai’a is an absolute priority.”…

…Tuki made the offer after the mayor of Rapa Nui, Pedro Edmunds, sent a letter to the British Museum in August requesting the return of the two statues.

In response, the museum invited a delegation from Rapa Nui to visit the moai and discuss the request.” – BBC News