A Polyphony of Repatriations

Conversation with Daniel Browning, Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll and Azu Nwagbogu

  • Date:
Location Ocean Space
Admission fee Free of charge

A Polyphony of Repatriations is a conversation about the return of fragile materials and ceremonies in Oceanic and African communities. This will be a polyvocal discussion of artistic approaches to the notion of fragility from West African, Latin American and Pacific perspectives. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll will host the session as part of her artistic research project Repatriates, which comprises a collective of artists from stakeholder communities involved in creating solidarity through repatriation processes. Azu Nwagbogu will introduce his work as the curator of the first Benin Pavilion in Venice Biennale history, focussing on the restitution of cultural property made from France to the Republic of Benin.

Australian broadcaster Daniel Browning will present his research:

Repatriating cultural memory is the term I use to describe the literary project I am undertaking to recover the non-material effects of two First Nations Aboriginal men who travelled to Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The intertwined stories of the human zoo performer Bonangera (1864-?) and the Aboriginal rights activist Anthony Martin Fernando (1864-1949) explode the mythos of a defeated, isolated and incurious people while challenging perceptions of Australian and transnational history and the place of First Nations people within those discourses. According to this mythos, most Aboriginal people in eastern Australia were disenfranchised colonial subjects living under state control confined to missions and reserves. Through the trajectory of their lives in Europe I offer a counternarrative to this mythos and the one-sided history taught in many Australian schools. This new reading of history uses documentary evidence from the European archive, artefacts ranging from firsthand accounts, newspaper reports, anthropological data, a cache of photographs and an extremely rare museum object to establish the role of both men as empowered historical actors who, by travelling, living and working overseas, not only deployed their labour but exercised free will, personal sovereignty, political agency and transnational mobility. As a work of repatriation, the aim of the project is to effectively create a cultural memory where none exists.”

Together the panel will think about restitutions beyond the individual negotiations between nation states to focus on the artistic strategies for returning the material and intellectual properties of indigenous people taken during colonialization.

Azu Henry Nwagbogu is an internationally acclaimed curator, interested in evolving new models of engagement with questions of decolonization, restitution, and repatriation. In his practice, the exhibition becomes an experimental site for reflection, civic engagement, ecology and repatriation – both tangible and symbolic. Nwagbogu is the Founder and Director of African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), a non- profit organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria. He also serves as Founder and Director of LagosPhoto Festival, an annual international arts festival of photography held in Lagos. He is the publisher of Art Base Africa, a virtual space to discover and learn about contemporary art from Africa and its diasporas. In 2023, he was named an Explorer at Large by the National Geographic Society, recognizing his commitment to exploring and documenting the world’s diverse cultures and environments. Nwagbogu’s primary interest is in reinventing the idea of the museum and its role as a civic space for engagement for society at large.


Daniel Browning is an Aboriginal writer, radio journalist, broadcaster, documentary maker and sound artist. Currently, he is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Editor Indigenous Radio overseeing Awaye! and Speaking Out as well the language revival podcast Word Up. A visual arts graduate, Daniel also presents The Art Show podcast and is widely-published as a freelance writer on the arts and culture. His first book, Close to the Subject: Selected Works won the Indigenous Writing Prize at the 2024 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and is shortlisted for the 2024 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. In 2023 he was the first Laureate to undertake the galang First Nations Residency Program at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris, where he began researching his second book, a narrative history/double biography/memoir in the literary non-fiction genre. Daniel belongs to the Bundjalung people of the Lower Tweed River on his dad’s side, and the Danggan Balun (Five Rivers) and Kullilli people of southeast and southwestern Queensland through his mum.