Remembering removal: Indigenous narratives of colonial collecting practices in the Gulf of Papua (Papua New Guinea)

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During the early colonial era, collectors from Australia, Europe, and North America descended on the Gulf of Papua (Papua New Guinea) in a rush to ac-
quire ‘primitive’ artefacts for Western markets and institutions. The object hunters had a variety of intentions and approaches to acquiring artefacts from local Indigenous people. Field diaries, colonial records, and early ethnographic publications offer Western perspectives on the cross-cultural interactions that took place. In this essay, I explore contemporary Indigenous perspectives on the removal of material culture in the early 1900s. Narratives (oral and textual) told by the Kaivakovu and Larihairu village communities of Orokolo Bay in the Gulf of Papua describe a traumatic event: the extraction of a preserved ceremonial longhouse post (ive) at gunpoint by the anthropologist Francis Edgar Williams. I unpack these stories and relevant archival sources with reference to notions of remembering, trauma, and telescoping. For the inhabitants of Orokolo Bay, the silencing of materials of ancestral communal importance some 80–90 years ago has not caused forgetting. Rather, social memories of the now-absent ive and of violent acts of removal endure and inform Indigenous conceptions of museum institutions today.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Global Indigenous History
EditorsAnn McGrath, Lynette Russell
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781315181929
ISBN (Print)9781138743106, 9781032077406
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameRoutledge Companion


  • Remembering
  • Social memory
  • Archaeology
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Materiality
  • Pacific history
  • Social anthropology

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