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Toi Moko welcomed home

Published: 6:45PM Thursday May 12, 2011 Source: ONE News

A centuries-old mummified tattooed Maori head has officially been restored back in New Zealand with a ceremony at Te Papa today.

The toi moko, which is the first to be repatriated from France, was given to the Rouen Museum by a French citizen in 1875.

Attempts to bring the head home were made five years ago, but the move required a law change from the French.

French senator Catherine Morin-Desailly was instrumental in making that change happen, and she was part of the delegation in Wellington today.

She told ONE News that being present has illustrated the importance of returning the head.

"I didn't realise it would be so important and here when you're on the spot, people talk to you and I can see their emotion and I can see their reaction and the fact they are sort of overjoyed."

The toi moko is the first of around 20 to be returned from France, with Te Papa hoping to have the all repatriated by the end of the year.

In the mean time staff will begin working to identify the warrior and his Iwi, a task which could take years to complete.

Michelle Hippolite of Te Papa said the investigation will include consultation with ta moko specialists.

"We'll be trying to identify regional differences in tattoo design and try to get to specific locations or iwi that these designs may belong too."

Once the identity is established a final resting place will be found.