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Tattooed, severed and mummified Maori heads had been as soon as a prized collector’s merchandise in Britain. New Zealand needs them again.
It is laborious to think about Te Herekiekie Herewini overcome with anger.
At the same time as he talks about one thing that’s deeply macabre, he is softly spoken and extremely calm.
However beneath the floor is a smouldering Maori fireplace, and in his line of labor it may be troublesome to suppress.
Herekiekie’s job involves returning something very sacred, and he won’t stop until it’s done. (Stuff Limited)
Herekiekie is the person the New Zealand authorities has tasked with bringing again issues that had been taken by the British.
A whole bunch of issues.
The orange feathers of the North Island Kaka seen during a repatriation ceremony. (Supplied: Te Papa)
The remains of 20 Maori ancestors were returned to Te Papa in 2016. (Supplied: Te Papa/Kate Whitley)
Within the early nineteenth century, tattooed, decapitated, and dried Maori heads grew to become a coveted collector’s merchandise throughout Britain.
They’re referred to as mokomokai, or Toi moko.
The disturbing commerce started in 1770 with Joseph Banks, the botanist who travelled with James Cook dinner.
It sparked a harmful financial system round head-hunting and head-selling, and helped gasoline bloody tribal wars.
The influence remains to be felt in New Zealand at the moment.
A member of the Tainui Waka Alliance tribe pays respects during a mokomokai repatriation ceremony. (Getty: Marty Melville/AFP)
Ta moko is a type of conventional Maori tattooing.
Within the occasions earlier than steel and machines, it was chiselled into the pores and skin with chook bones.
The work is extremely detailed, with stylised curves and patterns, transferring virtually like waves or woodgrain throughout the contours of the pores and skin.
Tuterei Karewa was a chief and a warrior of the Maori iwi (tribe) called the Ngati Maru. (Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)
Moko tells an individual’s story and connects them to the previous.
And there’s no place extra important for moko than the face.
Facial moko is the ultimate statement of identity as a Maori. (Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)
This man, Tawhiao, was leader of the Waikato tribes, the second Maori King and a religious visionary. (Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)
When somebody with facial moko died, usually their head could be preserved.
It could be steamed, smoked, dried after which sealed with shark oil.
Haami Piripi, the chair of the nation of Te Rarawa, says there have been two foremost causes for this.
The primary was as a trophy of battle.
“Initially these tattooed heads had been our nice leaders, esteemed leaders,” Haami says.
Typically they had been used to barter peace treaties between tribes.
The second cause was to mark the life of somebody who was commemorated, who was cherished or wept over.
“This isn’t simply an artefact, it is a human being,” Haami says.
“A few of these are 200 or 300 years outdated, and but they appear precisely the identical as they did once they died. You may nonetheless see the very clear options and traits of the person.
“Each one in all them is a treasure.”
On the second British voyage to what we now know as New Zealand, Banks traded outdated white linen drawers (sure, underwear) for the pinnacle of a teenage boy.
It was taken away as a curio, and a grim fascination began to take root.
“Extra folks needed them, and the demand for tattooed heads grew so giant that the worth you can get for one was a musket,” Haami says.
A sketch by English soldier H.G. Robley, who collected mokomokai. It is titled: “Bargaining for a head, on the shore, the chief running up the price.” (Public domain)
In these days a gun was probably the most highly effective software you can personal, and earlier than lengthy, tribes began to steal one another’s heads to commerce.
Within the early 1800s, this fuelled what is called the ‘musket wars’.
“Muskets had been actually what was going to allow you to outlive as a tribe or not, as a result of if you did not have any and your neighbours did, then you definitely had been historical past,” Haami says.
Tribes began to get lots much less discriminating about what sorts of heads might be traded.
“Some folks had been tattooed after loss of life,” Haami says.
“Some tribes even tattooed their slaves after which minimize their heads off and offered these.”
A painting by Joseph Jenner Merrett (1816-1854) depicting a Maori war dance. (National Library of Australia)
Haami says the commerce was “pushed by the demand from the British, who discovered these items very fascinating”.
“They’d put them on their mantelpieces, stick a candle within the prime of it or one thing. It was actually, actually weird.”
By 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, making New Zealand an official British colony.
The a long time of mokomokai commerce stopped.
However for the households whose ancestors’ heads had been taken, it is by no means actually ended.
Since 2003, the New Zealand authorities has mandated that artefacts just like the mokomokai be tracked down and returned.
Te Papa staff and iwi (tribal) representatives pay their respects to ancestors returned to Te Papa in 2016. (Supplied: Te Papa/Kate Whitley)
Traditional fine feathered cloaks are placed over the travelling cases containing the ancestors, as a mark of honour and respect. (Supplied: Te Papa/Kate Whitley)
Herekiekie has been doing repatriation work for 13 years now, with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
On his first worldwide mission, the chair of a medical institute within the UK informed him: “We’re returning these ancestors as a result of they’re of no worth to us.”
The smouldering Maori fireplace burst into flame.
“Considered one of my work colleagues noticed my eyes …. noticed that Maori-ness in me rising,” he recollects.
“[They] took me away for a short time till I calmed down.”
He pushed the hearth again down. He acquired on along with his work.
“There have been over 1,000 ancestors taken from our nation. We have been capable of obtain 600 of these coming residence,” Herekiekie says.
“To me, the job is not accomplished till all our ancestors come residence. They’re me and I’m them.
“All of them should be supplied dignity and respect.”
Te Papa staff, alongside Maori descendants, the British High Commissioner and US Embassy representatives, carry ancestors onto Te Papa’s marae (national meeting place) in 2016. (Supplied: Te Papa/Kate Whitley)
The mokomokai unfold world wide at the moment are within the US, the UK, medical establishments, non-public collections and museums.
Monitoring down every one requires lots of detective work.
“Plenty of these items are nonetheless caught in folks’s attics, notably the estates round Britain and Europe the place the rich have acquired them and now put them away,” says Haami, who can be engaged on repatriating mokomokai.
“Each every now and then a few of them come out and get offered, and we’re at all times there prepared, poised to grab upon them.”
Stuff the British Stole
04 | The headhunters
The arrival of Europeans in New Zealand kicked off a commerce in mokomokai, however these colonial souvenirs have their very own advanced historical past.
Herekiekie’s job additionally includes correcting misconceptions concerning the heads themselves — and the way they had been taken within the first place.
Initially, he says, it was extra of a theft than a commerce.
“Joseph Banks supplied an merchandise of commerce for the pinnacle. The elder did not wish to truly give the pinnacle over, so Banks put a musket to his head,” he says.
“Via that engagement, the pinnacle was traded. It was one thing that was pressured upon the elder.”
He says the pinnacle taken by Banks was possible destroyed within the bombings of London.
“It could have been on the Royal Faculty of Surgeons in the UK for an extended time frame, however throughout World Warfare II that exact establishment was bombed by the Germans, and so I believe lots of the artefacts, or lots of the human stays, had been misplaced at the moment.”
The extra you discuss to folks, the clearer it turns into that the Maori truly had two issues taken from them.
The heads themselves, and the cultural observe of facial tattooing.
After New Zealand was colonised, many Maori say facial tattoos grew to become maligned in society, related extra with gangs and crime than tradition and custom.
However through the years, folks like Roki Maika have been preventing to deliver moko again.
Roki Maika is a New Zealand-Australian tattooist who specialises in moko. (ABC RN: Nick Wiggins)
“It is a bookmark in a folks’s lives. Moko is a approach of telling somebody’s story,” he says.
Roki is a Maori tattooist based mostly in Sydney, and he specialises in moko.
“I sit down with folks and often simply discuss to them about their life. They’ll at all times give me a narrative that I base the piece off,” he says.
“As I get to know them higher, I put extra element into it, whether or not they have an affiliation with the ocean or the land or household. The tales are crucial factor.”
The resurgence in facial moko tattoos in New Zealand has stretched all the way in which to crucial workplace within the land — or at the very least, crucial workplace block within the land.
That is the Beehive, the house of the nation’s authorities.
It is the place Nanaia Mahuta made historical past.
Nanaia Mahuta pictured with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier this year. (Getty: Michael Bradley)
Nanaia is the native MP for Hauraki-Waikato. She just lately grew to become New Zealand’s first female foreign affairs minister.
However earlier than that first was one other one.
In 2016, she grew to become the primary girl to put on moko kauae, the ladies’s facial tattoo, in Parliament.
Nanaia had been an MP for 20 years earlier than she acquired the tattoo, however she did not give it a lot thought as she stepped into the chamber.
In an odd approach, she felt just like the ink had at all times been there.
“It was truly feeling like someone had washed your face actually correctly,” she says.
“It was bringing the within out, I believe, in some form or type.”
Roki has a tremendous choice of moko that run up his neck and down his physique.
Every bit is linked to some a part of Maori historical past.
His left forearm is devoted to the god of the forest, Tāne Mahuta.
The story goes that when Tāne Mahuta created man, he punched his arms by clay to get to the chilly stuff within the center.
“Then when he had pulled his arms out, his arms had been lined within the clay substance — that is why the forearm is important,” Roki explains.
“The pores and skin components are devoted to the spirit world. They’re surrounding us on a regular basis.
“After which the components which have the strains, that is devoted to the residing world as a result of we see all the pieces.
“Placement has a that means, so wherever the moko is sitting, it has a that means the place it sits, after which within it every half has a that means nicely.”
For Roki, the query is just not whether or not somebody is worthy of carrying moko.
It is whether or not they’re prepared.
“Individuals will choose, folks will converse and folks will stare,” he says.
“Half the time you simply wish to ask them to come back up and ask about it, discuss.
“We’re good folks, we’re eloquent folks, we like to talk.”
Roki wants to get his face tattooed, but thinks he’ll wait until his kids are older. (ABC RN: Nick Wiggins)
He needs to get his facial moko, however thinks he’ll wait till his youngsters flip 18.
“Entering into with our children to major college, folks stare at us as a result of we’re lined with tattoos,” he says.
“I suppose out of respect for the children and them not getting teased or something, I’ll wait.”
Nanaia is aware of what he is speaking about.
Since she acquired her moko kauae, folks’s eyes linger a bit longer on her face.
Some do ask her questions. How a lot did it harm? How lengthy did it take? Did she cry?
Whereas attitudes are altering, that change is sluggish.
“There are an entire lot of issues that you simply did not take into consideration going into the journey,” Nanaia says.
“So all the pieces modified, however I am nonetheless the identical particular person. I am in all probability extra me than I’ve ever been.”
As moko returns to the faces of residing Maori, the problem of returning the lifeless stays.
In 2014, Te Papa Tongarewa was the positioning of one thing historic.
After prolonged negotiations with an abroad museum, 300 folks assembled to witness the biggest repatriation of ancestral stays in New Zealand’s historical past.
They gathered on this area, Te Marae, a spot for vital conferences.
The partitions and ceilings are alive with what sort of appear to be fish; undulating carvings of pink and orange and purple.
Then, 35 mokomokai had been gently laid on residence soil for the primary time in additional than a century.
Members of the Tainui Waka Alliance tribe and officials welcome 20 Maori heads during a ceremony at Te Papa Museum. (Getty: Marty Melville/AFP)
Only a few persons are allowed to see these sacred heads. Photographs of them are usually not proven out of respect.
Haami is aware of what it means to look into their faces.
“I’ve regarded within the face of each one, as a result of that is what you do, they’re folks,” he says.
“You may’t do all that work and welcome folks again and never take a look at them.
“And truthfully, in their faces, it happens to me each single time that I’ve seen that particular person someplace earlier than.
“It’s extremely transferring.”
Final month, 4 mokomokai had been repatriated from Germany, after a journey spanning greater than 100 years.
A formal handover ceremony to repatriate the remains of Maori ancestors. (Supplied: Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz )
The ceremony took place at Berlin’s Ethnologisches Museum earlier this year. (Supplied: Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz )
Each repatriation is a step forward, but the remains of many more Maori ancestors are still overseas. (Supplied: Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz )
With an estimated 600 mokomokai nonetheless scattered world wide at the moment, Herekiekie will not cease till every one is returned.
“Our ancestors are linked to our land, this land, and their spirit is linked to this land as nicely,” he says.
“Whereas they’re abroad, their spirit is just not settled.
“To me, the job is not accomplished till all our ancestors come residence. You simply need to preserve at it.”
His work continues. Deep inside, a Maori fireplace smoulders.
Editor: Nick Wiggins
Digital manufacturing: Monique Ross
Photographs: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa/Kate Whitley; the Workplace of the Hon Nanaia Mahuta; ABC RN/Nick Wiggins; Getty: Marty Melville, Hagen Hopkins, Michael Bradley; Public area.
Collection Producer: Zoe Ferguson
Government Producer: Amruta Slee
With due to: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
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