Spaces for Re-membering : Narratives of Return

In-conversation with Talaandig women elders using high resolution photos to spark moments of recognition and remembering. Lantapan, Bukidnon,April 2023.

Narratives of Return is a section in this site that documents a series of co-curated interactions between material culture  and their source communities, culture-bearers and descendants of Philippine ethnolinguistic groups, whether in the Philippines or in diaspora.

When the Mapping Project was launched in January 2021, we had always planned to go beyond the aggregated data of what would be a growing global inventory of Philippine Material Culture in ex-patria collections. We had committed to an interdisciplinary, decolonising examination of the baseline numbers of what was out there and where  and saw it as just a fundamental first step towards any kind of restitutive/reparative work with orphaned collections in alien institutions -- ninety-nine percent of which languish in storage rooms, not only absent from view but also undervalued, under-researched and without any type of human connection.

So the Mapping project, along with a cohort of like-minded curators, funding bodies and empowered source communities, has been seeking to actively develop alternative ways for accessing and re-valuing Philippine material culture stored in institutions outside of the country. Using both epistemic and localized reparative responses to the loss, dispersal and fragmentation of cultural memory, the following narratives may be seen as different case studies for pragmatic decolonizing practices for curatorship, scholarship and engagement that bend towards the benefit of the othered.

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