How France restored the head of Kanak leader, Ataï, decapitated by the French colonial army

The head of the Grand Chief Atai now rests in New Caledonia. Photo : RR

ar fr

VIDEO – Trenched with an ax, then stolen, gaunt and sawn, the head of Grand Chief Ataï long poisoned relations between the former French colony of New Caledonia and France.

In 1878, 25 years after France took possession of the archipelago, the Grand Chief Ataï had led, in the La Foa region, on the west coast, a major revolt against the colonial administration, which was stealing lands of the indigenous tribes and was committing numerous violations against the native people.

To subdue the revolt, which made more than a thousand dead Kanak and some 200 among the settlers, the French colonial army has appealed to Kanak tribemen of Canala (East) to neutralize the separatist. September 1, 1878, Ataï was killed and then beheaded. Placed in a jar of phenolic alcohol, his head was then shipped to France.

After decades of combat, the skull and the death mask of this New Caledonian hero, hidden in the collections of the Musée de l’Homme, in Paris, were finally returned to his tribe on September 1, 2014. The story of a state of barbarism which the former African colonies also experienced – particularly Algeria and Cameroon.

© Bur-csa – N.A – African Daily Voice (ADV)