SANTIAGO, February 23
A huge ‘Moai’ statue, one of Easter Island’s iconic stone monuments, began its return journey on Monday after a year-long campaign to restore it to its original setting as it was sheltered in a museum in Santiago in the 19th century.
The 715-kilogram sculpture will be transported by truck to the Chilean port city of Valparaíso, from where it will embark on a military ship for an approximately five-day journey to reach isolated Easter Island, known locally as of Rapa Nui.
The initiative is part of a repatriation program aimed at bringing ancestral remains, sacred and funerary objects back to the island in the Pacific Ocean. Similar negotiations took place in an attempt to recover a specimen from the hands of the British Museum.
“For the first time, a Moai will return to the island from the mainland,” said Culture Minister Consuelo Valdes. “It is undoubtedly part of a work that we started years ago as a ministry with the return of various collections and ancestors to their homeland.”
Easter Island, more than 3,219 km from the Chilean coast, has more than a thousand stone statues, giant heads carved centuries ago by the inhabitants of the island, which have earned it its fame and its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Rapa Nui community held an act in honor of the icon at the National Museum of Natural History in the Chilean capital, which still preserves two smaller sculptures. The statue will be kept at the Padre Sebastián Englert Anthropological Museum on the tourist island. Reuters