Clan leaders from remote villages in Papua New Guinea have made their first journey to Australia to meet with the University of Southern Queensland archaeologists who have been exploring and excavating their clan lands.
The special guests travelled to USQ’s research laboratories in Toowoomba to participate in the analysis of archaeological material excavated from their land, while also taking part in a unique and symbolic repatriation project.
The rare visit was part of two collaborative research projects involving staff from USQ’s School of Humanities and Communications.
Mr Kenneth Korakai and Mr Andrew Dieri are Kerewo Clan leaders from the Kikori River Delta in the south western Gulf of Papua.
They visited the Faculty of Arts at USQ’s Toowoomba campus not only to take part in the laboratory work but also to discuss a visual repatriation project which involves photographic images taken by the legendry Australian adventurer and photographer, Frank Hurley.
The archeological work is part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded multi-disciplinary research project led by Dr Bruno David from Monash University.
USQ researchers Professor Bryce Barker and Dr Lara Lamb, along with Professor Jean-Michel Geneste from the Centre National de Préhistoire in France, have been working with the Monash team for the last five years documenting the oral and material heritage of the Kerewo people.
The visual repatriation work is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between Professor Chris Lee, Professor Barker, Dr Lamb and the Kerewo elders.
Generously facilitated by the Monash team but independently funded, this project is documenting Kerewo knowledge of the photographs, artifacts and cinematography which Hurley brought back to Australia in the 1920s.
“The project includes a symbolic and a physical repatriation of the photographs, which were taken without their subjects’ permission nearly 100 years ago,” Professor Barker said.
“Both these projects will document, archive and facilitate the Kerewo community’s access to their rich cultural heritage.
“This is community based research conducted cooperatively under the supervision of the local clans. The results are real world outcomes of direct benefit to the local people and new knowledge in the fields of anthropology, archeology, and cultural studies.”
The visit by Mr Koraki and Mr Deiri also included a trip to the Australian Museum in Sydney and Monash University in Melbourne.
They were accompanied by PNG National Cathy Alex from the NGO, Community Development Initiative, with whom the research team has worked in close cooperation over the duration of the project.
Jim Campbell, USQ Media, +617 4631 2977, firstname.lastname@example.org
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