The Great Court of the British Museum, £9.99
Height: 13.600 cm
Width: 8.800 cm
Donated by George Tamihana Nuku
Room 24: Living and Dying
Māori, AD 2008
Personal ornaments, such as this hei-tiki neck pendant, have always been significant in Māori culture. They may be passed from one generation to the next as heirlooms, or presented to important visitors. At funerals hei-tiki and other treasures may be brought out and placed on or near the coffin as representatives of ancestors who have passed on.
This acrylic neck pendant, Te Aonehe, was made by Māori artist George Nuku and shares a name with his son. Giving an ornament or weapon a personal name connects it with a particular tribal genealogy and increases its spiritual power.
It was donated to the British Museum by Nuku on the occasion of the repatriation of human remains to Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum of New Zealand, in November 2008. The gift symbolises a relationship of continuing trust and exchange between Māori communities in Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) and in London, and the British Museum.