WHAT'S BEEN RETURNED?
225 cultural artefacts of Papua New Guinean heritage.
WHAT'S THE ISSUE?
Deaccessioning and repatriation are long processes. In 2020 the transferral of 225 artefacts of Papua New Guinean heritage marked the completion of a long-term project between the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) and the National Museum & Art Gallery of Papua New Guinea (NMAG). The return was the biggest repatriation by an Australian institution to Papua New Guinea in 25 years.
The Pacific Arts collection at the NGA was established in 1968 to present the arts of Australia’s closest neighbours in the Pacific. Naturally it has a strong representation of works from Papua New Guinea reflecting the entwined historical and on-going relationships between our two countries.
In 2014 the Gallery entered a Memorandum of Understanding with NMAG leading to many supportive experiences for both institutions; skill set sharing between staff, workshops and collaboration on exhibitions at both institutions. In this spirit of collegial commitment, the repatriation evolved. The objects were mainly utilitarian cultural items as well as mid-20th century masks and sculptures. The group came from various provinces including New Ireland, East and West New Britain, Gulf, Milne Bay and East Sepik with all being identified in accordance with the National Gallery's Art Deaccessioning Policy.
WHAT WAS SAID?
Upon completion of the transferral in 2020, NMAG Director, Dr. Andrew Moutu said, 'We are delighted to receive some very stunning and powerful pieces of ethnographic objects that have been returned to us with remarkable care and respect. We expressed our gratitude to the National Gallery of Australia and its curatorial team.' He added, 'This repatriation is part of the spirit of reciprocating objects, skills, competencies and other kinds of support between our institutions.'