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Dutch to return mummified Maori head to New Zealand

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Amsterdam (dpa) - The Dutch Culture Ministry said Tuesday it has decided that a mummified head of a tattooed Maori be returned to New Zealand in the first such gesture by the Dutch authorities.

Education and Culture Secretary Medy van der Laan is to hand the head over to James Te Puni, director of the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, on Wednesday.

Van der Laan said that an item of this kind had no place in a public museum and called its return an "important" decision.

She said the return provided an opportunity for the Maoris to "reclaim their identity and reaffirm the worth of their culture".

And it gave the Dutch the opportunity to come to terms with aspects of their colonial history.

The head has in recent years been kept in the Cultural History Museum in Leiden.

It was brought to the Netherlands in the middle of the 19th century and was initially housed in a collection of "rarities" maintained by King William I.

New Zealand's original inhabitants have in recent years demanded the return of items like the head, and several have been returned by the British.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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