Sunday, March 20, 2011

we need them home

I have a real problem with this story about the British Museum producing a new book, "Taonga Maori in the British Museum". The book is okay, it catalogues mainly taonga appropriated since cook's first visit. The plight of these taonga is not okay. All of these taonga should come home - it is not right that they are overseas, we need them home. Holding onto these taonga is a form of colonisation, it demeans all parties and mocks any ideas of equality we might have. There is not one good reason why these taonga should not be repatriated.
The taonga collection has more than 2300 items and comes out of a promise the museum made after a major 1998 exhibition that Maori should know what was held in London. Everything from waka, lintels, hei-tiki, treasure boxes, kete and clothes to weapons, tools, burial chests and models of pataka (storehouses) is shown photographically, with research about what is known of the history and provenance of the piece.
Te Papa's director of Matauranga Maori, Arapata Hakiwai, said going through the collection was spine-tingling. "These things are old. They're a real part of our cultural heritage, and yet they have been unknown for so long. "What this does is bring them back into the world of light," he said. "Not only are they exquisite in terms of works of art, but the histories and the encounters that they represent are really significant. I think all Maori are going to really, really love it."
Which is all true but he then says that they provide a virtual repatriation and that some taonga can serve as ambassadors overseas - here we part company - they should all come home. No if's, but's or maybe's - all home with their people, we need them home as much as they need to be home. 

And if you need further confirmation, read this
There is such scant information about some objects, including the mokomokai, that curators and academics have been left with a historical record full of holes. They know it originates from the west coast of the North Island and the authors note it that may have been given to the museum by a John Lubbock. In a letter dated April 6, but with no year, Mr Lubbock wrote to a museum scholar and benefactor: "My dear Franks, I have sent the Museum a New Zealand head which I believe rather a good specimen of tattooing. If however you do not care to keep it, perhaps you will advise me next time I see you where I had better send it."
There is no good reason for these institutions to keep our taonga, to keep our people - it is cruel and totally inappropriate.