View the Moais—stone statues that the Rapa Nui culture—on the Ahu Tongariki website on Easter Island, 3700 km off the Chilean shore in the Pacific Ocean. Photograph by Gregory Boissy/AFP/Getty Images.

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The Rapa Nui people, the indigenous population of Easter Island, have enlisted the help of the Chilean government to petition the return of a significant Moai statue from the brothers Museum.

The seven-foot-tall statue, called Hoa Hakananai’a, which translates to “the steal or concealed friend,” is taken into consideration a spiritual object through the neighborhood people. In the Rapa Nui culture, the Moai sculptures are believed to be populated by protective spirits or mana.

The frosting was eliminated from the island in 1868 through a imperial Navy captain, Richard Powell, and also presented as a gift come Queen Victoria. She donated it come the national museum in London in 1869. The sculpture is rare since it is one of only a few examples the Moai make from basalt; the various other 900-some sculptures on the island, made in the 16th and 17th centuries, were constructed with volcano ash. Etched into its back are figures connected with the Tangata Manu, or the “bird man” cult. 

Although the Rapa Nui human being took regulate of the conservation, preservation, and management of their archeological heritage in December 2017, Chile’s national treasures minister Felipe Ward, told AFP on Tuesday that the request for Chile’s assist “seems proper given the brand-new coordination and conservation attributes being carried out ~ above the island through regards the Moai.” 

A spokesperson because that the brothers Museum said gendergeek.org gendergeek.org the the museum is not aware of an main request for the return that the statue native the Rapa Nui people, the Easter Island advance Commission, or the Chilean government. The representative underscored the educational worth of displaying the sculpture at the museum. 

“We think that over there is good value in presenting objects from across the world, alongside the stories of other societies at the brothers Museum,” the spokesperson said. “Hoa Hakananai’a is complimentary to check out in ours Wellcome to trust Gallery and is among the most popular and most photographed exhibits v our 6 million travellers each year.”

The Moai in ~ the british Museum. Picture courtesy Kevan via Flickr.

Asked how the museum could respond to a request for the return the the sculpture to Easter Island, the spokesperson noted that the museum is among the world’s top lenders and also that the Trustees will constantly consider loan requests. “We space keen to occupational collaboratively with partners and communities throughout the globe and also welcome any certain proposals and discussions about future share project and also research work.”

This is no the very first time the Chilean government has been referred to as upon to aid the Rapa Nui gain their statue back. In 2016, a Chilean documentary filmmaker released a petition questioning the government to need the return the Rapa Nui artifacts, however until now the Chilean federal government had no responded positively.

“It’s a unique piece, the just tangible link that accounts because that two essential stages in our genealogical history,” local Rapa Nui leader told AFP, including that recovering the occupational would it is in “an crucial symbol in closeup of the door the sad thing of violation the our civil liberties by europe navigators.”

Hoa Hakananai’a is among an approximated 4,000 artefacts taken native Easter Island due to the fact that it was an initial recorded by europe navigators in 1777 the are currently in collections around the world. Another Moai statue was standing in the Quai Branly museum in Paris, for example.

Easter Island, which is about 2,000 miles off the Chilean coast, was linked by Chile in 1888, by which time the majority of its populace was decimated through European diseases like smallpox or sold right into slavery. Earlier this month, the Chilean federal government made moves to restrict tourism to the island to defend its famous statues and natural environment, reduce the number of days tourists can visit, from 90 to 30. It likewise fast-tracked a bill seeking to change Easter Island’s surname to Rapa Nui.

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