Easter Island leader makes tearful plea for British Museum to return 800-year-old statue

The governor of Easter Island wept yesterday as she urged Britain to return a 800-year-old statue considered to represent one of her people’s ancestors.

The four-ton, 7ft 10in Hoa Hakananai’a is regarded as one of the most spiritually important of the Chilean island’s 900 famous stone monoliths, or moai.

Each of the figures is said to embody tribal leaders or deified ancestors.

It was taken from the island, which lies in the Pacific more than 2,100 miles off the coast of Chile, in 1868 by Commodore Richard Powell, captain of HMS Topaze, who gave it to Queen Victoria.

 The governor of Easter Island Tarita Alarcon Rapu found the sight of the four-ton, 7ft 10in Hoa Hakananai’a so emotional yesterday that she burst into tears as begged the museum to return it

 The governor of Easter Island Tarita Alarcon Rapu found the sight of the four-ton, 7ft 10in Hoa Hakananai’a so emotional yesterday that she burst into tears as begged the museum to return it

 The governor of Easter Island Tarita Alarcon Rapu found the sight of the four-ton, 7ft 10in Hoa Hakananai’a so emotional yesterday that she burst into tears as begged the museum to return it

She donated it in 1869 to the British Museum, where it now stands at the entrance to Wellcome Trust Gallery.

But Easter Island’s indigenous community, the Rapa Nui, want Britain to give back the spiritually ‘unique’ effigy.

Governor Tarita Alarcon Rapu found the sight of the artefact so emotional yesterday that she burst into tears as she begged the museum to return it.

The statue was taken from the island in 1868 by Commodore Richard Powell, captain of HMS Topaze, who gave it to Queen Victoria. It now lies at the entrance to Wellcome Trust Gallery in the British Museum

The statue was taken from the island in 1868 by Commodore Richard Powell, captain of HMS Topaze, who gave it to Queen Victoria. It now lies at the entrance to Wellcome Trust Gallery in the British Museum

The statue was taken from the island in 1868 by Commodore Richard Powell, captain of HMS Topaze, who gave it to Queen Victoria. It now lies at the entrance to Wellcome Trust Gallery in the British Museum

She said: ‘We are just a body. You, the British people, have our soul.’

The museum has faced other claims to return artefacts to their original homes, including the Elgin marbles to Greece and the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.

A spokesman said the museum would only consider lending the statue out, adding: ‘The museum is one of the world’s leading lenders. The trustees will always consider loan requests.’ 

The museum has faced other claims to return artefacts to their original homes, including the Elgin marbles to Greece and the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

The museum has faced other claims to return artefacts to their original homes, including the Elgin marbles to Greece and the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

The museum has faced other claims to return artefacts to their original homes, including the Elgin marbles to Greece and the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

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