25 Jan 2012

Australian curator working with PNG ritual sculptures in Dunedin

9:12 pm on 25 January 2012

A museum curator says there is no need to re-patriate artworks from New Ireland province in Papua New Guinea held at the Otago Museum in Dunedin.

Dr Michael Gunn is the senior curator of Pacific art at the National Gallery of Australia, and is currently working with the museum's collection of 300 pieces of Malagan ritual sculptures.

He says the artworks were created to honour people who had died, and were generally destroyed or sold to outsiders soon after.

"They've got their own land, they've still got their own culture, they don't feel threatened. So, the art objects from the past, for them, they belong to somebody else, and it's a past they don't want back, because of the associations with dead people. These objects were made just to finish a person's life, not to drag the past along with them."

Dr Michael Gunn from the National Gallery of Australia.