As a museum curator, I am always looking for new ways to interpret our collection. My PhD research is an extension of this objective—creating a narrative about the Indian Ocean world using art, objects and personal experiences over time.
The project is inspired by archival and archaeological work undertaken by the Western Australian Museum and our other project partners including the British Museum. My first foray into the collections at the British Museum was part of our co-collaborated exhibition ‘Travellers and Traders in the Indian Ocean’(2016). That was a ‘dip in the ocean' and my current project is an upscaling of some of the concepts we explored, supplemented with the museum’s archival records and 'hinterland of knowledge’ (thank you Mark Nesbitt). Also, as part of this trip, I was fortunate to be guided through collections at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and the Rijksmuseum, Scheepvaartmusuem and Tropenmuseum in the Netherlands. There are so many ways in which to tell the story of an ocean and it's littoral people. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges with story telling in a Museum setting(and on an ocean-wide scale) is the identification of interpretive strategies that push boundaries as much as they inspire.
This is just the beginning of my PhD journey and at this stage an exhibit with which I take inspiration is “Planets in my Head” (below), an installation by Yinka Shinibare on display in the
Tropenmuseum. His work raises questions about the legacy of colonialism. This piece depicts the opposing world views of a child of that time. His head is full of thinkers from all four corners of the earth. But only the Western canon was taught at schools in the colonies. The value of the other knowledge was not recognized. In this way, European powers claimed a monopoly not only on trade but also on ideas.
Below:“Planets in my Head”, an installation by Yinka Shinibare on display in the Tropenmuseum, Netherlands. The child has scratched “You can’t trust nobody” into his desk.'