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‘We are glad to see this material come back to Australia from America, but we need more help for all our material to come back. We need help make a keeping place for all our material coming home. their final resting place is on Country.’

Mr Geoffrey Jagamara Mathews and Mr Warren Purnpajardu Williams Japanangka, Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Warlpiri Project Men’s Group.

Warlpiri returns

Number of objects Return destination Institution Dates

8 men's restricted items

Warlpiri, Yuendumu, NT Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collections, University of Virginia, USA

Request submitted:
February 2021

Return celebration:
Private return event June 2022

15 men's restricted items

Warlpiri, Yuendumu, NT Private Collector, the late Professor Nancy Munn (1931-2020), Emerita Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago

10 November 2023

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia, USA.

The Covid pandemic disrupted the returns process for the eight objects from the Warlpiri community. The items were flown to Adelaide and temporarily held by the South Australian Museum. In June 2022 the Warlpiri project men’s group travelled to Adelaide to pick up the material and return it to Yuendumu. A private ceremony marked the return in Yuendumu.

‘We’re opening the gates for other tribes as well, to help people in other places to get their things back. Showing a way for other tribes.’ 

Geoffrey Jagamara Mathews and Warren Purnpajardu Williams Japanangka, Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Warlpiri Project Men’s Group. 

Warlpiri men’s group with their cultural heritage material at the Alice Springs airport. Left to right: Karl Japaltjarri Hampton, Tommy Jangala Watson, Geoffrey Jagamara Mathews and Warren Purnpajardu Williams Japanangka. Photo: S Angeles, AIATSIS.

Senior Warlpiri men Warren Purnpajardu Williams Japanangka, Simon Japangardi Fisher, Otto Jungarrayi Sims during the official return of their material. Photo: S Angeles, AIATSIS. 

Private collection of the late Professor Nancy Munn

The return of this material was a collaboration between AIATSIS, the Warlpiri Project and Professor Françoise Dussart, Professor of Anthropology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Connecticut, a close friend and colleague of Professor Munn’s.

 'I’m lost for words. It’s just been so much happiness in us. We cried. It’s our cultural stuff that was been taken away from us.

‘We sing out – that’s a signal that we are coming to pick you up. We’re taking you back to a warmer place, back home. Back to the communities where you belong.’ 

Robin Japanangka Granites, Senior Warlpiri knowledge holder

Jamie Jungaryyi Hampton, Robin Japanangka Granites, Dr Iain G. Johnston (AIATSIS), Darren Jakamarra Talbot, Ned Jampitjinpa Hargraves, Lazarus Jangala Hargraves, Simon Japangardi Fisher, Freddie Japanangka Williams, Sebastian Jampitjinpa Watson, Curtly Jungaryyi Hampton, Warren Japanangka Williams, Mike Jungaryyi Doolan, Derek Japangardi Williams and Karl Japaltjarri Hampton - Photo: J Hampton, Warlpiri Project 2023 

The Warlpiri Project’s visit to AIATSIS to discuss the return of the material collected by Munn: standing (left to right): Derek Japangardi Williams, Dr Iain Johnston, Karl Japaltjarri Hampton, Sebastian Jampijinpa Watson; sitting (left to right): Warren Japanangka Williams, Simon Japangarti Fisher, Robyn Japanangka Granites, Francis Jupurrurla Kelly and Jamie Jungarrayi Hampton. - Photo: I Johnston, AIATSIS 

The Warlpiri Project

The Warlpiri Project is an initiative created and led by the Warlpiri community to repatriate and reconnect Warlpiri people with their cultural heritage that has been displaced across museums, institutions and personal collections around the world.

Warlpiri Elder Robyn Japanangka Granites and Darren Jakamarra Talbot examining Warlpiri material recorded by Nancy Munn in the 1950s. - Photo: I Johnston, AIATSIS 

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Last updated: 15 February 2024