British Museum social networks trolled by Chilean Internet users

Since the start of the year, Internet users have stirred up controversy over Chilean statues from Easter Island held by the British Museum in London.


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The Hoa Hakananai'a moai, a statue from Easter Island in the collections of the British Museum in London since 1869. (ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP)

The British Museum trolled by Chilean Internet users on Instagram: the British institution has received thousands of negative comments on its social networks since the start of the year. The museum exhibits two monumental statues from Easter Island, a territory attached to Chile, and these two moai are now the subject of debate.

It all starts from an influencer based in Santiago, the Chilean capital. At the beginning of the year, Mike Milfort invited his million subscribers to harass the British Museum on his social networks with this message: “Give back the moai.” An initiative welcomed by the President of Chile himself, Gabriel Boric. The campaign seems effective since the museum was even forced to temporarily close comments under its publications.

Statues imported to London in 1868

One of the two moai, 2.42 m and 4 tons sculpted in basalt between the year 1000 and 1600, is particularly emblematic. This is Hoa Hakananai’a, the“stolen friend” or the“lost friend” in Rapanui, the Polynesian language spoken on Easter Island. The other, the Hava moai (the “repudiated” where the “rejected”), is not on permanent display by the British Museum. The controversy is not new: a written request to return the two statues was sent to the museum five and a half years ago by the Easter Island authorities. A delegation from the Rapa Nui community then offered to carve a replica of Hoa Hakananai’a to exchange it for the original. “In it lives the spirit of our ancestors. For some it is a simple stone or a sculpture of archaeological value, but for us it has an important spiritual and energetic meaning”, explained Camilo Mapu, the president of the island community.

Internet users are calling on the British Museum to return the Moai statues.  (INSTAGRAM / SCREENSHOT)

Regular exchanges have since taken place between the management of the British Museum and the local authorities of Easter Island, assures the museum. The British Museum does not intend to return these two imposing works. He believes their exhibition in London gives millions of people a better understanding of Rapanui culture. “The strength of the British Museum’s collection lies in its breadth and depth, which enables millions of visitors to understand the world’s cultures.” These statues were shipped by a British ship in 1868. Hoa Hakananai’a was offered to Queen Victoria by the Admiralty. And she donated it to the British Museum.

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