x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

France agrees to send back 20 tattooed Maori heads to New Zealand

Since 2003, New Zealand has led an ambitious programme of collecting Maori heads and skeletal remains from museums around the world so they could be properly mourned and buried.

PARIS // France has handed over to New Zealand authorities 20 tattooed heads of Maori ethnic people once held in several French museums as a cultural curiosity.

Frederic Mitterrand, the French culture minister, presided over a handover ceremony today at the Quai Branly museum in Paris.

New Zealand's embassy said it involved the single largest group of Maori heads to be repatriated.

Since 2003, New Zealand has led an ambitious programme of collecting Maori heads and skeletal remains from museums around the world so they could be properly mourned and buried according to tradition.

France long resisted handing over such cultural artefacts, but a law passed in 2010 eventually paved the way for the return of the heads.