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Influencer causes social storm as British Museum’s Instagram account inundated with calls to return Easter Island statues | Planet Attractions
     

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Influencer causes social storm as British Museum’s Instagram account inundated with calls to return Easter Island statues

The British Museum has been bombarded with social media messages from Chilean Instagram users demanding the return the institution’s iconic Easter Island statues from its collection




Chilean social media users have flooded the British Museum with calls to return two iconic Easter Island statues

The British Museum has been fighting a battle with Chilean social media users following months of posts calling on the institution to return two of Easter Island’s famous stone monuments.

The museum is home to two moai statues taken in 1868 by British surveyors from Easter Island - also known as Rapa Nui - which is home to more than 1,000 of the famous ancestral relics.

Since January, a trend in Chile has seen social media users flood the British Museum’s Instagram account, as well as its YouTube and Facebook pages, calling for the moai’s return.

Santiago-based influencer Mike Milfort is credited with starting the trend, after encouraging his more than a million followers to call on the museum to return the statues. Such has been the success of Milfort’s efforts, that even Chile’s President, Gabriel Boric, has expressed his support for the movement.

On Easter Island itself, its citizens have expressed a desire for more autonomy from Chile after it annexed the island in 1888. Pedro Edmunds Paoa, the mayor of Rapa Nui, said Boric should “not politicise something that is so holistically, spiritually and culturally important to us”, adding his motives are for self promotion rather than a real concern. That’s not to say, however, that the island doesn’t want the statues returned.

In 2018, Rapa Nui issued a written request for the return of the British Museum’s two moai, which was followed by a visit from Easter Island representatives to “discuss any future proposals”. This was followed up again in 2023 when the island’s elders’ council wrote to King Charles to once again request the artefacts’ return, though they are yet to receive an answer.

“We are not ruling out that the Hoa Hakananai’a could stay in London and be our great ambassador,” said Edmunds Paoa in a Guardian report. “But we need to firmly establish that its rightful owner is the culture of Rapa Nui.”

In response to the social media trend, the British Museum had closed comments on recent Instagram posts, though these are once again open with only certain posts limiting responses.

“We welcome debate, but this has to be balanced against the need for safeguarding considerations,” said the museum in a statement, which added that it had “good and open relations” with Rapa Nui.

The British Museum is not the only institution to have moai statues in its collection, with museums in France, New Zealand and the US also displaying the relics.


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Influencer causes social storm as British Museum’s Instagram account inundated with calls to return Easter Island statues | Planet Attractions
news

Influencer causes social storm as British Museum’s Instagram account inundated with calls to return Easter Island statues

The British Museum has been bombarded with social media messages from Chilean Instagram users demanding the return the institution’s iconic Easter Island statues from its collection




Chilean social media users have flooded the British Museum with calls to return two iconic Easter Island statues

The British Museum has been fighting a battle with Chilean social media users following months of posts calling on the institution to return two of Easter Island’s famous stone monuments.

The museum is home to two moai statues taken in 1868 by British surveyors from Easter Island - also known as Rapa Nui - which is home to more than 1,000 of the famous ancestral relics.

Since January, a trend in Chile has seen social media users flood the British Museum’s Instagram account, as well as its YouTube and Facebook pages, calling for the moai’s return.

Santiago-based influencer Mike Milfort is credited with starting the trend, after encouraging his more than a million followers to call on the museum to return the statues. Such has been the success of Milfort’s efforts, that even Chile’s President, Gabriel Boric, has expressed his support for the movement.

On Easter Island itself, its citizens have expressed a desire for more autonomy from Chile after it annexed the island in 1888. Pedro Edmunds Paoa, the mayor of Rapa Nui, said Boric should “not politicise something that is so holistically, spiritually and culturally important to us”, adding his motives are for self promotion rather than a real concern. That’s not to say, however, that the island doesn’t want the statues returned.

In 2018, Rapa Nui issued a written request for the return of the British Museum’s two moai, which was followed by a visit from Easter Island representatives to “discuss any future proposals”. This was followed up again in 2023 when the island’s elders’ council wrote to King Charles to once again request the artefacts’ return, though they are yet to receive an answer.

“We are not ruling out that the Hoa Hakananai’a could stay in London and be our great ambassador,” said Edmunds Paoa in a Guardian report. “But we need to firmly establish that its rightful owner is the culture of Rapa Nui.”

In response to the social media trend, the British Museum had closed comments on recent Instagram posts, though these are once again open with only certain posts limiting responses.

“We welcome debate, but this has to be balanced against the need for safeguarding considerations,” said the museum in a statement, which added that it had “good and open relations” with Rapa Nui.

The British Museum is not the only institution to have moai statues in its collection, with museums in France, New Zealand and the US also displaying the relics.


 



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