Professor Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll's ‘Restitution and Institutional Change’ project is analysing how European institutions obtained, curate and display non-Western intellectual property and material culture, and making a case for its repatriation.
Carroll's projects seek to lay bare the systemic racism and intolerance of British national museums and developed strategies for exhibiting Empire, including scientific facts and their materialisation in art, the difference between Institutional critique and infrastructural activism, transparency, movement, performance and experimentation, and the mobilisation of shame and embarrassment about Empire.
In 2014 Professor Khadija Carroll published her landmark book ‘Art in the Time of Colony’. It demonstrated the political importance of material culture to the much-contested 19th Century colonial period, during which colonial nations such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand were brought into being with their own cultural and legal-political systems.
In 2016 Professor Carroll followed ‘Art in the Time of Colony’ with ‘The Importance of Being Anachronistic: Museum Reparation and Contemporary Aboriginal Art’. Working with the senior Aboriginal scholar and artist, Julie Gough, she explored the topic of repatriation of items that had been 'collected' during the 19th Century and after.
Professor Carroll continues to investigate how this era, and the items that ended up in collections and museums across the western world, are viewed, curated and displayed. To inform this work, she is undertaking a two-year full time research fellowship at the Royal Museums Greenwich (2017 - present) and, as editor of the flagship journal ‘Third Text’, she is focusing on ’30 years of Decolonising the Canon’.
Working in partnership with the British Museum, she is publishing in the journal on an ongoing basis the proceedings of conferences critically assessing how art and objects from the colonial era are represented and contextualised.
Cook’s new clothes
A key focus for Professor Carroll’s work is the 250th Anniversary of Captain James Cook’s discovery of New Zealand, which takes place is 2019.
To commemorate and explore the 250th anniversary of Cook's leaving on the ‘Endeavour’ on his first voyage of discovery, Professor Carroll has developed ‘Cook's New Clothes’. This was performed for the first time at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich, the site of the ship’s departure from London.
The piece is based on procession and uses music, regalia, dance, drawings and spoken words. It was developed to articulate Professor Carroll’s research’s findings, themes and objectives and is therefore a vital component of her work. It allows viewers and participants to critically reimagine and reconfigure the departure of the Endeavour in new colours and stories. When it launched on the 22 September 2018 it took the form of a procession from the Queen's House in Greenwich to exchange with the boats on the water.
To develop the piece, Professor Carroll worked with Keren Ruki, Simon Layton, Ruby Hoette, Ludovica Fales, Nikolaus Gansterer, Kirill Burlov, Mo'ong and friends. This group of international artists will join the general public participating in the actions and mediation between museum and communities.
The performance featured two cloaked characters, Captain Cook and Tupaia, a priest of Tahiti who used his extensive knowledge of Pacific language to help Cook negotiate in Aotearoa/New Zealand. His time on the Endeavour ends in Batavia, today Jakarta, Indonesia, where Tupaia died on Cook's first voyage back from the Pacific. Tupaia is represented as Cook's shadow, two hundred and fifty years long and gaining. Many of the performance’s costumes, props and even musical instruments are made from recycled materials from the Pacific Ocean.
Cloaks made from recycled plastic that comes from the Pacific were worn to represent a shrouding of credit to Tupaia in the historical records following Cook's partial reporting. The cloaks have been made as part of the project and Tupaia’s is made from the most valuable materials in the pattern of lieutenant’s at the time (based on the Maritime Museum's collections) to show respect for his important role on board the Endeavour in the first voyage, and his translating and navigating meetings with Maori.
It was performed at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, ‘Cook’s New Clothes’ and at The Atlantic Project, Plymouth, from 28 September 2018. The eminent naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences Sir Joseph Banks and the voyage’s artist Daniel Solander joined the ship when it docked in the city and this performance reflected these other elements of the story of Cook’s first voyage.
Most recently Cook's New Clothes was chosen as a contribution to the Palace of Ritual exhibition in Venice
The processional performance commemorates Tupaia the Tahitian priest, navigator and translator that boarded the Endeavour, which departed Plymouth in 1768. This group of international artists were joined by the general public at the National Maritime Museum in an event that turned recycled materials from the Pacific Ocean into performance and sound. Assembled to critically reimagine and reconfigure the departure of Captain Cook's Endeavour 250 years ago in a processional performance on the banks of the river, the participatory performance in this video began in the Queens House. The installation includes the collateral of these performances, including the dingo sound and uniform in the first rooms, the cloak for Tupaia, and trash instruments to interact with.
Maori artefacts returned to Gisborne from UK museums
In October 2019, 32 Taonga treasures held across four UK museums arrived back to Gisborne, New Zealand, following a request made by Māori representatives. Collaborative research into colonial collections – including the Cook’s New Clothes project - facilitated these returns and the new art works responding to them. Taonga is the Māori word for cultural treasures that play a vital role within their culture and society. These 32 Taonga, which include items such as wooden Hoe paddles, represent key ancestral artefacts from communities in Tūranganui, Gisborne, which were taken by Lieutenant James Cook from Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1769. The Taonga that have been returned to their source communities are from the British Museum, Pitt Rivers Oxford, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Cambridge, and the Great North Museum in Newcastle. Kay Robin of Rangiiwaho Marae, from one of the Māori community receiving the artefacts said “the Taonga bring with them the power to shift and transform relationships locally and across the Pacific and through the exchange that the translator, navigator and priest Tupaia made from onboard the Endeavour in 1769”. “Na reira ko te taonga he tuku iho, ko te taonga he tuku haa, ko te taonga he oho I a taatou - It is our shared treasures that inspire, breathe life and awaken us all.” The artistic research - funded and supported by the TB21-Academy and the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) - uses the museum’s material to confront and rethink the legacy of Tupaia from a ‘decolonial’ and environmental perspective. Stuart Bligh, Head of Research and Information at Royal Museums Greenwich said: “Carroll’s project ‘Cook’s New Clothes’ and ‘Processions for Tupaia’ have helped to inform our approach to Pacific histories and heritage, as well as aiding us in bringing external groups and communities into RMG to foster productive dialogues around sensitive histories.”