Model ,  1:24 scale, of His Majesty’s Bark "Endeavour", 1769. 1968, National Maritime Museum, England. Gift of the United Kingdom Government, 1969. Te Papa

Where did Toi moko go, and why 

Through multiple trades and many changes-of-hand, the Toi moko ended up in a number of countries around the world - including America, Australia, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, and Argentina.   

The nineteenth century was characterised by a culture of fascination with and curiosity about ‘exotic’ cultures, particularly as a number of European nations were undertaking and maintaining colonial ventures around the world.  European tourists were attracted to exhibitions of all things strange and unusual, including ‘Human Zoos’ filled with people from various cultures throughout Africa and Asia, and ‘Freak Shows’ which displayed examples of human beings who did not look like the European ‘norm’.  Doctors and scientists studied non-Western cultures to draw comparisons and distinctions between the races, looking particularly at the shapes and sizes of body parts, such as the skull.  Toi moko were collected as curiosities of natural history, and particularly because they were the closest thing to a living example of Māori culture.  Many Toi moko were exhibited in museums and galleries as part of ethnographic collections, and they were also collected by medical schools, universities, and private collectors. 


Blanchard, Pascal, Gilles Boëtsch and Nanette Jacomijn Snoep (Eds.), The Invention of the Savage: Human Zoos, Paris: Actes Sud (Musée du quai Branly), 2011.