Campaigners Demand Britain Return Easter Island Statue

View of Moais on Easter Island. Campaigners are calling for Britain to return a giant statue they say was stolen from the mystical Easter Island.  (GREGORY BOISSY/AFP/Getty Images)

Chilean filmmakers have launched a campaign for Britain to return a giant statue they say was stolen from the mystical Easter Island.

Hoa Haka Nana’ia – “hidden or stolen friend” in the island’s native language – is one of the star exhibits in London’s British Museum, seen by tourists from around the world.

But campaigners say it belongs along with other sacred sculptures on the remote Chilean island in the Pacific, from where it was taken a century ago.

The London moai, as the famous Easter Island Statues are known locally, stands 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) high and weighs around four tonnes.

It is thought to have been sculpted around the 13th century.

Like other moai, it was believed to be inhabited by a “mana,” or spirit, that protected local tribes.

A new documentary about the statues says that “one way to recover the mana to restore wellbeing to the island is to bring the spirit of the Moai Hoa Kaka Nana’ia back to its native land.”

The film’s producer Paula Rossetti told AFP that she and director Leo Pakarati have gathered more than 500 signatures for a petition urging the Chilean government to make a formal demand for the moai’s return.

Britain faces numerous such requests from other countries for the return of cultural artifacts allegedly stolen over the centuries by British explorers.

Hoa Haka Nana’ia is one of 4,000 objects campaigners say were stolen from Easter Island and are now held in collections around the world.

“It will be difficult to get them back,” Rossetti admitted.

© 2016 AFP

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