Berlin museum returns mummified Maori heads to New Zealand

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BERLIN – Berlin’s ethnological museum has returned two mummified Maori heads to New Zealand, marking the occasion with a ceremony and prayers in the German capital on Monday (12).

The move was “a signal of reconciliation to the societies affected by colonialism,” Monika Gruetters, federal commissioner for culture and the media, said in a statement.

Tattooed heads of Maori men, known as Toi moko, were collector’s items during the 19th century. Demand was so great in Europe that slaves and prisoners of war were tattooed and then killed so that their heads could be sold.

The museum, one of the world’s largest of its kind, has been tasked since 2003 with returning Maori remains to New Zealand.

“We are constantly learning new things from our own provenance research, but also from exchanges of this kind,” said Hermann Parzinger, the head of the cultural body that runs the museum.

“And we will do everything possible to continue down this path in order to right historical wrongs,” Parzinger said.

-dpa

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