Tue 30 Jun 2009
After spending time in Turkey this northern summer I’m pretty sympathetic to calls for the return of artifacts stolen by colonial powers and others. So it has been exciting to read about the parliamentary debate in the France over the return of Maori remains to Aotearoa New Zealand. The upper house/Senate voted unanimously on 29 June in favour of a bill calling for France’s museums to return all Maori heads still in their possession to New Zealand. The bill now heads to the National Assembly for approval. France’s newly appointed ministry of culture, Frederic Mitterrand, has supported the legislation and said, “these mummified heads led to a particularly barbaric trade, fuelled by the sinister curiosity of travellers and European collectors.” France has about 15 Maori heads, including eight at Paris’ Quai Branly museum of tribal arts, which opened in 2006.