26 Jan 2012

Toi moko repatriation ceremony at Te Papa

6:49 am on 26 January 2012

A powhiri will be held at Te Papa museum in Wellington on Thursday to mark the return to New Zealand of 20 toi moko or Maori ancestral heads from France.

The preserved heads were officially handed over to members of Te Papa's repatriation team at a ceremony in Paris on Monday.

Members of France's Ministry of Culture and the Culture and Communication Minister Frederic Mitterand attended the ceremony.

Mr Mitterand said the handing back of the toi moko closes a terrible chapter in history and opens a new chapter of mutual respect and friendship.

But the Minister said more than ever it's a tribute to Maori communities and their history.

Among the guests at Thursday's ceremony at Te Papa will be France's ambassador in New Zealand Francis Etienne.

Over the next five to 10 years staff at Te Papa intend to do a lot of detective work to trace the origin of each toi moko and return each of them to their whanau.