Manchester Museum returns Aboriginal artefacts in special ceremony

The Aboriginal Anindilyakwa community of Australia’s Northern Territory celebrated the return of 174 cultural heritage items, as part of a landmark repatriation project organised with Manchester Museum.

A handover ceremony took place on Tuesday, 5 September, when the cultural heritage material was formally returned to representatives of the Anindilyakwa community who travelled from Groote Eylandt.

The process of returning these items is already supporting Anindilyakwa cultural strengthening and revitalisation. Descendant generations are using the items to connect with their heritage and revive traditions.

This is most powerfully demonstrated through a group of dolls made from shells - Dadikwakwa-kwa in the Anindilyakwa language - which have unlocked a rich cultural history and inspired the Dadikwakwa-kwa Project, a contemporary art project led by ten talented women artists from Anindilyakwa Art Centre.

This project was named a finalist in the 2023 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and you can vote for it to win the People’s Choice Award.

Manchester Museum worked collaboratively with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the Anindilyakwa Land Council over a three-year period, with support from UNESCO, to determine where the collection of items should live and could best inspire future generations. For the first time, Manchester Museum staff were present in person for part of the consultation process, visiting Groote Eylandt at the invitation of the Anindilyakwa People.

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