4 Oct 2011

Repatriation of Toi Moko underway

7:41 pm on 4 October 2011

An operation is underway to repatriate up to 20 tattooed Maori heads from museums in France.

The heads - known as Toi Moko - have been an object of fascination for European explorers who collected and traded them from the 18th century.

Since 2003, about 180 Toi Moko and Koiwi Tangata have been repatriated from several countries by the national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa.

Te Papa says Paris is arranging for a number of museums to hand over all the Maori heads they have in their collections to one central museum.

It says having the Toi Moko in one place will make it easier to collect and bring them home.

Te Papa says at this stage the heads are due to be returned to New Zealand in January 2011.