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Anita Cannibal !!LINK!!

Museums tend to present a simple, reductive narrative about the individual objects or types of object on display within a sometimes conscious and explicit, sometimes unacknowledged and implicit, over-arching narrative or politics. This paper by artist Alana Jelinek describes one art intervention done in 2010 at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge, that highlights the uncertainty, multiple narratives and layers of interpretation behind one contested object in the collection, namely, nineteenth century Fijian cannibal forks.

anita cannibal

Historically, the Museum presented a narrative of evolutionary progress across its archaeological and anthropological displays. This theme and the politics that surround it was dismantled or disrupted more than 20 years ago with the new set of Museum curators who together share different ideas about 'race' and evolution. Nevertheless, the current display for Fiji contains 3 'cannibal forks' which are described as 'Cannibal Forks, used by High Chiefs and Priests, Nineteenth Century Fiji'. In other words, these objects are presented without reference to current interpretation and scholarship which renders problematic such an easy or simple understanding of the object, its use and history. Describing the 150 year long history of contested interpretation around 'cannibal forks', Museum curator Dr Anita Herle remarks on the 'stickiness' of the term, saying she can think of no other object with a name that so inaccurately reflects its use that has remained current or so universally applied. All other museums with 'cannibal forks' in their collections name them as such, including the Fiji Museum in Suva. 041b061a72


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