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British Museum Accused Of Censorship After Repatriation Demands For Easter Island Statue

The British Museum has been accused of silencing the online demands to return Easter Island statues.

Recently, the British Museum unveiled a new exhibit that features 10 ‘recovered’ artifacts. Soon after, Mike Milfort – a Chilean social media influencer – launched a campaign to ask for the return of the moai statues (better known as Easter Island statues) to their native place. He asked his 1 million followers to spam the museum’s Instagram post regarding the exhibition with “return the moai” comments.

The museum did not publically acknowledge the campaign but chose to turn off comments on the post. This action brought further criticism from many. Freya Samuel, a specialist in museum decolonization, claimed that by turning off the comment, the museum effectively turned off people’s voices. However, some also pointed out that the museum was well within its rights to manage its own social media page however it prefers.

Europeans first discovered the moai statues on Easter Island (natively known as Rapa Nui) in the 19th century. These statues, thought to represent the spirits of the ancestors, are 400-600 years old. Two of these moai were gifted to Queen Victoria in 1868, who later donated it to the British Museum. The moai on display during the current exhibition is the Hoa Hakananaiʻa.

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The current incident is only the latest in a series of scandals faced by the British Museum. Since last year, repatriation demands from various countries have been strengthening. This was only accelerated after the revelation that thousands of artifacts were stolen from the museum’s collection over many years.