Quantcast
Connect with us

Tattooed shrunken head relic returns to New Zealand

Published

on

ROUEN, France (AFP) – The tattooed, shrunken head of a Maori warrior starts a long voyage home to New Zealand on Monday when France hands the mystic relic back more than a century after explorers took it away.

At the town hall in Rouen, northwest of Paris, Maori elders will perform chants, prayers and other rituals to honour the dead man, a relic of the ancient practice of mummification of Maoris killed in battle.

ADVERTISEMENT

The head, which tribal custom forbids from being photographed or filmed, will be handed over to the Maoris in a box by officials from the town and the Museum of Rouen, which has housed it since 1875, organisers said.

Maoris will chant “invocations and solemn tributes to the dead warrior, who will be returned the very next day to his native land in order to find his final resting place,” the museum said in a statement.

The restitution follows a four-year political struggle which ended last year when the French Senate voted a law allowing the return to New Zealand of all Maori human heads held in France, estimated to number between 12 and 15.

A computerised image of the Rouen head from the museum gives a haunting impression of a high cheekboned youth masked with swirling green tattoos, with a crooked-toothed grimace and a gruesome gash where one eye should be.

ADVERTISEMENT

The ceremony was to be attended by New Zealand’s ambassador to France, Rosemary Banks, and Michelle Hippolite, a director of the Te Papa museum in Wellington, herself a Maori, one of New Zealand’s indigenous minority.

Experts there will carry out genetic tests on the head to try and identify its tribe of origin so it can be returned to its people and buried.

The story of how the head came to France is not known. It was given to the museum in 1875.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It was exhibited until 1996 in the style of the 19th century, presented as a savage from the other side of the world, a survival from pre-historic times,” said the Rouen museum’s director Sebastien Minchin.

Rouen authorities decided to give the head back to the Maoris in 2007 but were overruled by the national government which feared setting a precedent for other museum holdings such as Egyptian mummies or relics of Christian martyrs.

The Senate made an exception for the Maori remains last year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Maori warriors would tattoo their faces with elaborate geometric designs to show their rank. The recovered heads of those killed in battle were displayed and venerated until the soul was judged to have departed.

The tattoos made them an object of fascination for European explorers who collected and traded them from the 18th century onwards, prompting the macabre practice of tattooing and then killing slaves specially for their heads.

The first such head recorded as being acquired by a European was taken in 1770 by a member of an expedition of the British explorer James Cook. It was that of a 14-year-old boy believed to have been killed just for his head.

ADVERTISEMENT

The demand for the preserved heads drove the true Maori to stop getting the tattoos and preserving their relatives’ heads.

About 320 Maori heads have been returned from several countries since New Zealand began demanding their return in the 1980s, the organisers of Monday’s ceremony said. The French museums are due to follow suit by 2012.

The organisers said a ceremony was also planned in New Zealand on May 12 to welcome the head home from Rouen.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Right-wingers have a full-blown freakout over Kavanaugh revelations — and it could blow up in their faces

Published

on

Do Republicans think “men are the real victims of sexism” is a winning argument going into the 2020 election? That sounds preposterous, but there are strong indications that Donald Trump and other leading Republicans believe they can win by feeding a “victim mentality” in men, a mentality they otherwise tend to decry when detected in actual victims.

On Sunday, the New York Times published an article by the authors of a new book about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, introducing more corroborating evidence for claims that Kavanaugh had a history throughout high school and college of getting trashed and then sexually abusing his female classmates. That story, almost a year after Kavanaugh’s momentous confirmation hearings, was interesting further evidence that Kavanaugh likely perjured himself before the Senate. Ultimately, it doesn’t really change anything, since there’s little reason to believe that anyone actually believed Kavanaugh was telling the truth at the time.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

WATCH: Lewandowski’s lawyer freaks out, tries to block Congress from asking any further questions

Published

on

During the House Judiciary Committee testimony of President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about the Russia investigation, Lewandowski's attorney frantically crashed the witness table and demanded that Congress stop asking questions of his client.

"Mister Chairman, as you know I am counsel for Mr. Lewandowski—" began the attorney.

"You are not a witness and you should not be seated at that table," cut in House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sharply.

"I understand that," said Lewandowski's attorney. "I will leave after I register a formal protest based upon the debate that I heard. These seem to be unauthorized questions and I know you choose your words carefully—"

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Lewandowski’s testimony will let Democrats build Nixon-like articles of impeachment: Ex-prosecutor

Published

on

As President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski combatively testified before the House Judiciary Committee, he admitted that Trump asked him to communicate to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation must be shut down. Aside from that revelation, most of the testimony was unproductive, with Lewandowski lashing out at members of Congress and running interference for the president.

But as former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote on Twitter, these outbursts — and the fact that Trump sanctioned the way that Lewandowski behaved in the hearing — could be the basis for Democrats to write up articles of impeachment against Trump similar to those drafted against Richard Nixon in 1974:

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image