Statues ‘like human remains’ to islanders
THE Easter Island Moai statue at the centre of an international row should be “treated like human remains”, an expert in international law has said.
The statue, known as Hoa Hakananai’a, has been in the British Museum since around 1870, after it was taken to England from the island, now governed by Chile, by Richard Powell, captain of HMS Topaze.
But the indigenous population of Easter Island, known as the Rapa Nui, have requested its return.
The British Museum is only considering a temporary loan of three to five months as it believes “there is great value in presenting objects from across the world” in London. It has said it hopes to develop positive collaborations with the Rapa Nui community.
Paz Zarate, a legal practitioner in public international law who regularly settles disputes before the International Court of Justice, said: “What distinguishes it is that it’s a claim being made by indigenous people. For them, this is not an object or a statue.
“For them this is a grandfather and it’s full of spirit and needed back in the island to care for the people. This is family for them and it helps explain their emotional reaction. This case should be treated like we are dealing with human remains, not just a statue.”