A Unique Artifact of Tasmanian Aborigines Returns to Australia after 230 Years

A Unique Artifact of Tasmanian Aborigines Freezes to Australia Years Later
A Unique Artifact of Tasmanian Aborigines Returns to Australia after 230 Years

After spending 230 years overseas, a unique algae water carrier named rikawa by the Palawa tribe in Tasmania is returning to Australia. Spotted at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris in 2019, the rikawa is now on display as part of a two-year borrowing of the painting at the Museum and Art Gallery of Tasmania's (TMAG) new exhibition, taipani milaythina-tu.

Rikawa was made from bull moss, wooden skewers and plant fibers in the late 18th century. These ships served to store and transport water, a life-giving resource to the people of Palawa. This object was found near the Recherche Bay in 1792 by Bruni d'Entrecasteaux's expedition group. Records of its existence in a private collection date from the 1820s, when it was depicted in a catalogue. Rikawa later entered the French public collections, exhibited in the Louvre and other museum collections in Paris over the years, but its description in terms of material and country of origin is uncertain.

It is one of the two historical rikavs whose existence has been proven. The latter was found around 1850 and was subsequently displayed at the Greater London Exhibition of 1851 before being donated to the British Museum along with other Tasmanian Aboriginal objects. It is now part of the exhibition at TMAG.

In 2019 the Paris rikawa was rediscovered and displayed at the Musée du quai Branly as part of the Jacques Chirac African collection. Dr. Gaye Sculthorpe, a representative of the Palawa tribe and a veteran museum curator working at the British Museum and researching her family's history, came across her drawing from the 1890s while it was on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Dr. Gaye Sculthorpe, Professor of Heritage and Museum Studies at Deakin University, said: “It's one of the most important Aboriginal objects in museum collections, and it's incredibly important for the Palawa people to see it back in their country. Congratulations to everyone who contributed and deserved it.”

Going home to Lutruwita/Tasmania

As a proud sponsor of the exhibition at TMAG, Emirates transported the rare and precious rikawa under the care and supervision of the curators of the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac. Rikawa was checked in at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, then stopped at Dubai International Airport before heading to Melbourne, Australia. He continued his journey to Hobart Airport on a codeshare flight with Qantas.

Before the flight from Paris, Rikawa's condition was properly checked and then packed into an air-conditioned suitcase specially designed for the trip. Curators accompanying Rikawa can conduct checks throughout the flight and at the borders to make sure it is completely safe. Throughout the trip, the curators were in direct contact with the Emirates cabin crew to monitor the smooth progress of Rikawa's journey. Upon arrival in Tasmania, the item was again subjected to a detailed condition check and confirmed no damage, and then placed in a specially designed air-conditioned display case.

Stéphanie Leclerc-Caffarel, Pacific Collections Curator of the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac accompanying Rikawa, said: “It's incredible to think that 230 years ago a French expedition team researched these shores and transported the rikawa. crossing several oceans to France. We now stand in the same place as part of his return home centuries later. This rare water carrier is a national treasure of France and a cultural treasure of the Tasmanian people. It's great that this little piece of art has brought so many people from around the world together in such a remote place as Tasmania.”

Traveling with Emirates

Emirates has extensive experience in transporting valuable and rare items, including prestigious sports trophies such as the FA Cup, Web Ellis Cup, ICC Cricket World Cup, and other historical artifacts that it transports around the world.

“We are very honored to be able to take part in the transport of this unique item of Tasmanian Aboriginal history and safely transport it from one end of the world to the other and return this unique water carrier to its original owners. “We will continue to do our best to connect Australians around the world through places, people or cultural objects that mean so much to them,” said Barry Brown, Emirates Vice President Australasia.

Emirates has been flying to Australia since 1996 and has carried more than 40 million passengers on its routes to and from the destination. The airline has a long history of supporting arts, cultural and sporting institutions and has invested more than $100 million in a variety of cultural events, including the Sydney and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras.

Exhibition taypani milaythina-tu: Return to homeland

The TMAG Museum opened a new temporary exhibition titled taypani milaythina-tu: Return to the Fatherland on 1 October 2022. The exhibition aims to provide the Tasmanian Aboriginal community access to historical cultural objects borrowed from selected institutions around the world.

Zoe Rimmer, former TMAG Chief Curator and Palawa Tribal Representative for First Nations Arts and Culture, welcomed the transfer of this rare water carrier with great enthusiasm. His rikawa niyakara, which he created for the exhibition with another Palawa woman, Theresa Sainty, is a call to both rikawa to return home.

“Rikawa is more than just a museum piece, it is a carrier of the knowledge and presence of our ancestors. Their return home is an incredible opportunity for reconnection and cultural revival. It is also an opportunity to build respectful and collaborative relationships between the Palawan community and the international institutions that protect our cultural assets,” says Zoe Rimmer.

TMAG Director Mary Mulcahy adds that the museum is very pleased with Rikawa's return. This piece of history combines twelve other items that are part of the Coming Home from the UK exhibit. The exhibition will run until May 7, 2023, but the objects themselves are on loan for two years, during which time the community will continue to have access to them.

“It's rare for an institution like TMAG to have an item borrowed for two years, and we're very pleased that the Tasmanian Aboriginal community will finally have enough time to re-experience the rikawa and other items they borrowed from their ancestors. Of course, all this comes with huge costs, including international shipping fees for museum objects, which are often high due to logistics. We are therefore grateful to Emirates Airlines for their assistance in allowing us to transfer rikawa back to Tasmania,” adds Mulcahy.

Günceleme: 22/02/2023 10:19

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