The governor of Easter Island has tearfully begged the British Museum to return one of its famous statues, saying: “Give us a chance so he can come back.”
The museum has held the Hoa Hakananai’a – one of the most spiritually important of the Chilean island’s stone monoliths – for 150 years.
“My grandma, who passed away at almost 90 years, she never got the chance to see her ancestor,” said governor Tarita Alarcón Rapu after meeting officials from the British Museum, accompanied by Felipe Ward, Chile’s national assets minister.
‘Moai are family’: Easter Island people to head to London to request statue back
“I am almost half a century alive and this is my first time,” she added.
The four-tonne statue, or “moai”, is one of hundreds originally found on the island.
Each of the figures was considered to represent tribal leaders or deified ancestors.
It was an emotional moment for the indigenous Rapa Nui visitors when they saw the basalt statue, which for them, contains the spirit of their people.
“I believe that my children and their children also deserve the opportunity to touch, see and learn from him,” Rapu said, with tears in his eyes.
“We are just a body. You, the British people, have our soul,” she added.
Hoa Hakananai’a was taken without permission in 1868 by the British frigate HMS Topaze, captained by Richard Powell, and given to Queen Victoria.
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