New Zealand museum remains hopeful of return of Maori head

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New Zealand's national museum hopeful it could persuade France to return the preserved head of a Maori warrior

   WELLINGTON, January 3, 2008  - New Zealand's national museum remained
hopeful Thursday it could persuade France to return the preserved head of a
Maori warrior despite a court ruling it should stay in France.
   A French administrative court ruled on December 27 that a museum in the
western city of Rouen had no right to decide to return the elaborately
tattooed head, arguing it was now part of France's cultural heritage.
   City authorities wanted to return the head as an "ethical gesture of
respect for the Maori people." But the court said they had failed to consult a
scientific committee before withdrawing it from a national museum collection.
   New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, is still hopeful the head
will be returned.
   "What we're hoping for is the Rouen museum and the French government will
discuss this matter further," Te Papa repatriation manager Te Herekiekie
Herewini said.
   "We're leaving it up to the French government and we want to have further
discussion about it in the near future.
   "We will be delighted if they come to a decision that the toi moko -- the
ancestor -- is returned."
   The museum has been campaigning for the return of the heads for burial in
their traditional tribal areas.
   The preserved heads of warriors with facial tattoos were popular with
European collectors in the 19th century before the gruesome trade was outlawed.
   Following the settlement of New Zealand by mainly British Europeans from
the 19th century, the indigenous Maori now make up about 15 percent of the
country's 4.2 million people.


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