This doctoral project focuses on the Abelam/Wosera (East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea) collections preserved in European ethnographic museums (mainly in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland), all collected in a relatively short time period during the second half of the 20th century.
I wish to create a fresh perspective on the cultural biographies of these Abelam assemblages, taking into consideration the interacting agencies of the collectors and the collected, and how local processes may have influenced the collecting enterprise. The specific time frame during which these collections were assembled, around the Independence of Papua New Guinea in 1975, raises further questions as to the possible reasons for such a momentum in both the Abelam artistic production and the concomitant collecting enterprises.
This project also aims to highlight the different phases of existence of these objects within multiple contexts, from Papua New Guinea to Europe, as well as the ongoing journey of these collections within museum institutions, i.e. their documentation, preservation and display, and the further possible reconnection with the Abelam people.
Finally, from the perspective of these Abelam collections, I intend to investigate how broader ethnographic museums’ roles and practices can be questioned and re-envisioned.