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Mon Apr 20 00:56:34 SAST 2015

French return 20 Maori heads to New Zealand

Sapa-AP | 23 January, 2012 14:03
A traditional Maori performer.
A traditional Maori performer.
Image by: DAVID GRAY / REUTERS

France has handed over to New Zealand authorities 20 tattooed heads of Maori ethnic people once held in several French museums as a cultural curiosity.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand presided over a handover ceremony Monday at the Quai Branly museum in Paris. New Zealand's embassy said it involved the single largest group of Maori heads to be repatriated.

Since 2003, New Zealand has led an ambitious program of collecting Maori heads and skeletal remains from museums around the world so they could be properly mourned and buried according to tradition.

France long resisted handing over such cultural artifacts, but a law passed in 2010 eventually paved the way for the return of the heads.

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