Museums, indigenous art, ethnographic objects. Stories beyond colonialism

Facoltà di Lettere, Aula “Manlio Simonetti”
Sapienza Università di Roma
30-31 May 2024

This conference organised by the SARAS Department of Sapienza University of Rome and scheduled for May 30-31 revolves around three main themes: museums – indigenous art – object/person. By articulating these themes of contemporary anthropological reflection within as many sections, the conference aims to discuss them from an Oceanian perspective in order to point out the similarities and differences between the English-speaking, French-speaking and independent island contexts. The invitation to participants is to dwell on how native art and objects of material culture are today at the core of multiple practices of musealisation, circularity and performance through which various native contexts (not only Oceanian) claim their renewed prominence in the regional identity scene. Through these artistic and heritage elements, the Pacific archipelagos in different ways express identity values and try to manifest new ‘decolonising’ attitudes towards traditional symbols and repertoires belonging to their cultural past. Building on an earlier debate entitled Museum Spaces.

Materiality and decolonial practices (Sapienza University of Rome, May 2, 2023) centred precisely on the nexus between museums and decolonisation, this second moment of debate aims to link the reflections developed in Oceania with those concerning the relationship between people and things and, finally, to open up to those related to indigenous art. Ethnographic objects and forms of expression in the artistic sense bear witness to important examples through which Oceanian (and other) communities are currently engaged in asserting their voice both internally within the nation-states to which they belong and by addressing museum institutions that hold their material heritage elsewhere. Within such a framework and by placing Oceania and Europe in dialogue, the conference seeks to reflect on multiple approaches devoted to museum conservation and exhibition (first section); entangled objects, objets ambassadeurs and oggetti-persona (second section); native performances and contemporary artistic expressions (third section).

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