Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture

The Return of the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp: A Tale of Cultural Heritage and Reparations with Dr. Shani Roper

May 15, 2024 Alexandria Miller Episode 83
The Return of the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp: A Tale of Cultural Heritage and Reparations with Dr. Shani Roper
Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
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Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
The Return of the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp: A Tale of Cultural Heritage and Reparations with Dr. Shani Roper
May 15, 2024 Episode 83
Alexandria Miller

Send us a text message and tell us your thoughts.

Join us for a riveting discussion with Dr. Shani Roper, Curator at the University of West Indies Museum, as we celebrate a monumental event—the homecoming of the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp from Scotland, an emblem of natural heritage that's been away since the 1850s. The stirring tale of this lizard's return is not only a first in the repatriation of natural history specimens to the Caribbean region but also a testament to the collaborative spirit between international institutions.

Embracing the complexities of international diplomacy and reparations, we recount the behind-the-scenes efforts that paved the way for the Giant Galliwasp's return. Dr. Roper and I dissect everything from the meticulous negotiations and logistics involving the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) conventions to the detailed protocols that ensured the specimen's safe journey back to the Natural History Museum of Jamaica. The impact of this successful transfer extends beyond the mere physical possession—it's a powerful acknowledgement of Caribbean heritage, shaping policies and legal frameworks essential for the preservation of historical narratives.

Weaving the social history of the galliwasp into our discussion, Dr. Roper showcases a creature steeped in the folklore & collective memory of Jamaica. The episode also casts a wider net on the topic of artifact repatriation, considering the roles of diasporic communities and the necessary steps Caribbean nations must take to protect and honor their repatriated cultural property. As we celebrate this significant chapter in Jamaica's story, we invite listeners to reflect on the broader implications of this homecoming for our shared global history.

Shani Roper is Curator of the UWI Museum and has worked for twenty years in the museum sector in Jamaica. She is also Co-President of Museums Association of the Caribbean and holds a PhD (Rice University) in Caribbean history with a focus on Caribbean childhoods. Dr Roper has published on histories of Caribbean childhoods, poor relief and Caribbean perspectives on the museums.

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Send us a text message and tell us your thoughts.

Join us for a riveting discussion with Dr. Shani Roper, Curator at the University of West Indies Museum, as we celebrate a monumental event—the homecoming of the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp from Scotland, an emblem of natural heritage that's been away since the 1850s. The stirring tale of this lizard's return is not only a first in the repatriation of natural history specimens to the Caribbean region but also a testament to the collaborative spirit between international institutions.

Embracing the complexities of international diplomacy and reparations, we recount the behind-the-scenes efforts that paved the way for the Giant Galliwasp's return. Dr. Roper and I dissect everything from the meticulous negotiations and logistics involving the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) conventions to the detailed protocols that ensured the specimen's safe journey back to the Natural History Museum of Jamaica. The impact of this successful transfer extends beyond the mere physical possession—it's a powerful acknowledgement of Caribbean heritage, shaping policies and legal frameworks essential for the preservation of historical narratives.

Weaving the social history of the galliwasp into our discussion, Dr. Roper showcases a creature steeped in the folklore & collective memory of Jamaica. The episode also casts a wider net on the topic of artifact repatriation, considering the roles of diasporic communities and the necessary steps Caribbean nations must take to protect and honor their repatriated cultural property. As we celebrate this significant chapter in Jamaica's story, we invite listeners to reflect on the broader implications of this homecoming for our shared global history.

Shani Roper is Curator of the UWI Museum and has worked for twenty years in the museum sector in Jamaica. She is also Co-President of Museums Association of the Caribbean and holds a PhD (Rice University) in Caribbean history with a focus on Caribbean childhoods. Dr Roper has published on histories of Caribbean childhoods, poor relief and Caribbean perspectives on the museums.

Support the Show.

Connect with Strictly Facts - Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube

Looking to read more about the topics covered in this episode? Subscribe to the newsletter at www.strictlyfactspod.com to get the Strictly Facts Syllabus to your email!

Want to Support Strictly Facts?

  • Rate the Show
  • Leave a review on your favorite podcast platform
  • Share this episode with someone who loves Caribbean history and culture
  • Send us a DM or voice note to have your thoughts featured on an upcoming episode
  • Share the episode on social media and tag us
  • Donate to help us continue empowering listeners with Caribbean history and education

Produced by Breadfruit Media

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture, hosted by me, alexandria Miller. Strictly Facts teaches the history, politics and activism of the Caribbean and connects these themes to contemporary music and popular culture. Wamp people. Welcome back to another episode of Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture. If this is your first time tuning in, I'm Alexandria Miller and here to discuss all things Caribbean stories, not only as connections to our past but, as evidenced from today's episode, as connections to who we are today and our evolving futures.

Speaker 1:

History is always happening all around us, and, in fact, in our most recent discussion with Mr Kevin Farmer from the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, he shared a brief tidbit with us about an artifact's repatriation back to the lands of the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica, and so in our discussion today, we're definitely continuing on that track, because I naturally had to learn more about this and share it with you all, and so joining me for this sort of continuation of our Caribbean Museum discussion is Dr Shani Roper, curator of the University of West Indies Mona Museum and a Caribbean historian with a special focus on Caribbean childhoods. Dr Roper, thank you so much for being here. Let's begin with you telling us a bit about yourself, your connection to the Caribbean and what inspired your passion for Caribbean history and museum education.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so I'm Jamaican, born and grown and lived in the States for grad school and came back, so I've been in Jamaica basically majority of my life. So I have always had, as my parents would put it, an affinity to dates and storylines, which really that's what history is a lot of is stories that are guided by dates as peripheries and our ability to compile multiple storylines that are developed from engaging the archive to come up with multiple perspectives and narratives. So I have always defaulted to history. All my degrees are in history and just everything in my schooling, surprisingly, has been history. And, of course, because I'm in Jamaica, your first history is the history of the island that you live in. And then, as you advance through your schooling, through your schooling, if you stay in the field, then it becomes more and more regional and more and more detailed and intense.

Speaker 2:

And because I also did my doctorate in history, I did world history, african-american history and Caribbean history in terms of non-Jamaican history. So I've always functioned like that. You know I'm not transitioning from a different field, but what was important is that, out of undergrad, my first job, my first and only job at the time, only interview I got actually was at the Museum of History and Ethnography at the Institute of Jamaica, and that environment really bridged the gap between my practice as a historian and functioning in a museum space, and so, even though I did leave to go do my doctorate in history, I've actually functioned in museum and heritage spaces for about 20 years, and so it has been a very important part of my understanding our own engagement, um and and some kind of like real skills, because museums require administration, museums require logistics planning, museums require policy development and grant writing and public education, and so it brings a more practical, non-academic component. In my life. I've been trying to struggle both, sometimes successfully, sometimes not as successfully during the course of my career.

Speaker 1:

Well, I think we can jump in from there right into our discussion. Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself. We can jump in from there right into our discussion. Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself. I want to, of course, talk about the repatriation of artifacts from you know some of these former in some cases, depending on where we're talking about, of course, colonizing bodies and their impact on our histories, right, and so, most recently, it was reported officially by sources like the Jamaica Observer, the Jamaica Gleaner, in late April and early May respectively, that a group of scientists and researchers, yourself included, from UWE, from the Institute of Jamaica and from the National History Museum of Jamaica, had recently returned home after repatriating the Jamaican giant galley wasp from Scotland, which is said to have been taken back in the 1850s, and so its return is said to be the first repatriated natural history specimen to the region. Could you tell us a bit more about the history of the galley wasp and how it even ended up in Scotland in the first place?

Speaker 2:

Okay, so the Giant Jamaican Galiwas. So let me put it first that I worked at the Institute of Jamaica and while we were at the Institute of Jamaica, the Natural History Museum of Jamaica is actually a division. It's one of the five divisions of the Institute of Jamaica which, for those who don't know the Institute of Jamaica is the equivalent of the Smithsonian but a significantly smaller scale, and the Institute was established in 1879 under Sir Anthony Musgrave. It has legislation in Jamaican government for the preservation of art, science and literature and it has five divisions and two departments. So the divisions would be Natural History, national Gallery of Jamaica, african Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, national Museum Jamaica, which used to be Museum of History and Ethnography, and what they call the Programs Division, and then the two departments was more like three Simone Bolivar, liberty Hall, legacy of Marcus Garvey and Jamaica Music Museum. When we think of a museum national collection, the national collection is actually housed in the Institute of Jamaica across all of those divisions and while I was there and I think they still have it we had what we call the researchers and curators committee and it was a committee where all of us from the different departments and divisions would talk about things that we were working on and some key things in the collection.

Speaker 2:

So I knew about the giant gallow wasp, I knew that there wasn't a specimen in the collection and I knew that there was an undated sketch of the Gally Wasp. So the Gally Wasp, the giant Jamaican Gally Wasp, is the largest of a scientific family that's referred to as Celestios Ossidios, right, jamaica has a very high level of endemism in the ecological environment and especially among reptiles, with lizards specifically. So, as my colleagues explained to me, they're like 40 something different families of lizards. 36 of those are endemic to Jamaica and four of them are extinct, one of which is a giant galley wasp, right. So the galley wasp. It doesn't look like a traditional lizard, it looks more like a snake with short legs. That's how I would interpret it from a non-scientific perspective. It's not a cute specimen, although the specimen has since grown on me. It's not cute, right? So it's not the most photogenic specimen, although I think the Hunterian has produced some amazingly beautiful photos of what we were trying to do. So this specific Galiwasp, jamaica has 10 of the 11 in the family. The Celestius Ossidus family is endemic to Jamaica, right, the Celestius Ossidus family is endemic to Jamaica, right, I think the 11th one is the one in Hispaniola that's called the Haitian giant galliwasp right, and that one, I think, is endangered. So the galliwasp, this specific one, is believed to have lived in swamp areas, specifically what we refer to today as the environs of the Black River Morass, which is like the largest protected I don't know what you want to call it, but it has a crocodile sanctuary there. So if you want, you bring your children and you do boat rides throughout the morass, and there are a whole set of other things that you would learn in like primary school about it. I don't remember now. So anyway, it believed to have been from that area and with the expansion of the plantation economy in the parishes of, like Clarendon and St Elizabeth, the clearing of swampland, the extraction of water to maintain the plantation economy really resulted in significant habitat loss. The secondary factor is the introduction of the mongoose, and the mongoose was introduced to deal with issues with rats and snakes in the sugar fields. But the mongoose Indian mongoose has no natural predators in Jamaica, so they have since evolved to function in the Jamaican ecological space and they're believed to kill, along with wild feral cats, a lot of the endemic species that are integral to the Jamaican ecological landscape.

Speaker 2:

But the giant galley wasp actually has not been reported as being collected since the 1840s and it's believed to have become extinct during the mid-19th century. This specific specimen, which we got from the Hunterian Museum, which is the for the University of Glasgow, was originally a part of the Andersonian collection and according to the metadata, it was collected in the 1850s. The Andersonian collection was absorbed into the Hunterian collection in the 1880s and the specimen remained in the collection from that time until it came out for exhibition purposes in the last two years. So this specimen we believe is 170 years old. But because the giant galliwasp has been extinct since the 1840s, we actually don't know what is the average lifespan of an adult giant galliwasp. So it's older than 170. It's just been dead for 170 years and living in ethanol.

Speaker 2:

So the University of the West Indies and the University of Glasgow have a MOU and that MOU is very often referred to as a reparations MOU. So one of the things is that we don't know who collected that specimen and we're not sure exactly where it came from. But one of the things that we have recognized as museum practitioners and as scholars of collections that a lot of Caribbean collections because they do not constitute looted collections moved as part of empire. So people came. They came, you know, when the Caribbean was considered the frontier. They came, they collected the flora and fauna because it didn't look like anything that they wanted and also where they're from, and also in the mid 19th century, being a naturalist was also part of the social activities that people had, and so what you ended up having is that a lot of the collections for the Caribbean, in the United Kingdom especially, are of natural origin, so they're either flora, fauna or cultural items made from natural components in the environment.

Speaker 1:

Wow, thank you, I think so much for, of course, for situating, you know, the history of the giant gallow wasp for us, but also providing, I think, a very needed background to why this is, you know, such an important and, as a result of a lot of increased conversations about repatriation, whether, that is, you know, on a global scale, museums in general. You know there are even more recent conversations I've seen about Portugal specifically in repatriation, but I think, for the case of our discussion today, particularly between UWE and the University of Glasgow, of our discussion today, particularly between UWE and the University of Glasgow, and so what was this process like in terms of coordinating for the artifacts return and the collaboration between scholars and the governments and, you know, the universities, of course, between the two countries?

Speaker 2:

Okay. So the University of the West Indies and the University of Glasgow have an MOU and it's usually they were signed in 2019, and it's usually referred to as the reparations MOU, and it's grown within this exchange, knowledge sharing process of MOUs kind of costed at 20 million pounds. So under the MOU, the Hunterian engaged in a project, an exhibition that they called Curating Discomfort, and the museums and the ways in which museums could engage each other was always a part of the discussion. However, when my colleague at the Hunterian, mike Mike also was a zoology curator at the St Augustine campus in Trinidad for several years before he returned to Scotland and he's Scottish he went to work at the Zoology Museum at the Hunterian. They had engaged community curators to go through the collection and one of them had identified the Gallywasp. As you know, they were just like why is this lizard in Scotland when you guys don't have any Gallywasp's hairs? So when it was put on display, mike wrote myself and another colleague who actually was retired so he never got the email to say, hey, we have a Galiwasp here. We know you guys don't have a Galiwasp. We think this is an ideal candidate for repatriation. Would you be interested in facilitating it?

Speaker 2:

And, of course, because I have my IOJ background, I knew immediately the significance of the request and said to him that I will reach out to my colleagues at the Institute of Jamaica. So what ended up happening was that we formed a committee. I remember one of the radio interviewers was like you formed an entire committee for Alizade. I was like, yes, we did so. I brought in my colleagues from the Institute of Jamaica, which I would have been known for all of this time, and colleagues from the Hunterian, and we sat down and we actually worked out what this repatriation could look like. And that's very important, right. And we committed to a set of values our own knowledge sharing and knowledge co-production. And then we worked out what does this look like? Do we go to Scotland? Do they come to Jamaica? Either way, where do we get the money to facilitate this process? And so we hosted, through UWE Museum platforms, a virtual program last year, june, called Repatriation, natural History Collections and Knowledge Co-Production. The case of the giant galiwasp it's on the museum's Facebook page case of the giant gallow has been it's on our, it's on the museum's facebook page and um, coming out of it. We agreed okay, what we will do is that we will have people from jamaica go to scotland rather than people from scotland come to jamaica. Um, the other thing is we decided that we would apply for funding for four persons to go, two from IOJ, two from the University of the West Indies and, in keeping with the MOU, we'd have to have a graduate student. We were successful in our request for funding and the Glasgow Caribbean Centre for Development Research funded majority of the trip and then the Office of Global Affairs at the University of the West Indies funded the student. And we had to you know, of course, through institutional engagement show an equal which is how universities work anyway show an equal contribution and investment in the project.

Speaker 2:

In order for us to go and get it, we had to put the specimen on CITES Jamaica appendices, and CITES is the international convention that deals with the illicit trafficking of endangered flora and fauna. Right, it's presumed extinct, but it had to go on the CITES appendices, so it goes on the appendix schedule. We had to apply for an import license, then we had to apply for a vet import license in order to walk the specimen back into the country, right, and so we left April 17. Well, we actually really left on the 18th. Our flight was delayed by several hours so we left like after midnight on the 18th.

Speaker 2:

We got to Glasgow that evening on the 18th, of course we dropped six hours and the specimen, by the Monday, was taken out of ethanol, because we can't travel with things in ethanol.

Speaker 2:

So it was taken out of ethanol, wrapped in cheesecloth, soaked, and that was then soaked in alcohol or in ethanol, and then it was vacuum sealed, right, so that they triple vacuum sealed, in fact, so that the fluid would stay in the bag, and then we put it in a clip box with a image over it and I brought it.

Speaker 2:

It was a put in my care as the non-scientist and I the only non-scientist actually in the group and I uh took it as my carry-on through all the security checkpoints on the Wednesday, because once we adhered to all the not security protocols like who has control of it? Well, I guess that's called security protocols um, and then I walked it. It traveled with me at my foot on the plane back to jamaica and there are all the security checkpoints and um, and once I got to jamaica I had to declare it right, um, using all the paperwork that we had used, including the official documentation, to say that the specimen was handed over, the transfer of ownership to the University of the West Indies, all the newspaper articles, everything you know. And once it was approved, I handed it over to the zoology curator who came with us, elizabeth Morrison, and it went into holdings at the Natural History Museum of Jamaica.

Speaker 1:

What a long journey. I'm sure that was.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the entire process took 19 months To the date that we collected it. It was 19 months, Wow, wow, wow. Yeah, and that was fairly quick because it's happening private institution to private institution, so it doesn't get wrapped up in the kind of diplomatic channels that normally happens for repatriated items. And this is what a lot of people, I think, don't understand that repatriation is actually a very complex legal policy thing. Right, you know, there is a notion that you know in Jamaica, we're like oh, if somebody teef your things, they must give it back to you. Yes, I totally agree, but the things that you're talking about are locked behind policy and law. Right, and when you have a legislative and policy framework that justifies former imperial nations keeping collections under the guise that they are part of their heritage, you're going to run into some issues.

Speaker 2:

Right Now, there's some standard things that no longer come off a debate. One of them is human remains, and so what you have happening in, generally speaking, globally, is that, without too much contestation, I think, human remains get repatriated and reinterred, and there are quite a few international conventions and there's also the kind of practice in the field of anthropology and other fields around how you engage human remains, and so it's a bad idea to fight to hold on to human remains unless you are doing medical research right. And even so the medical profession has developed a kind of complex ethics framework for handling human remains. The other one is works of art right, and I think one of the most popular debates we're aware of is the Benin bronzes out of West Africa and the looting of the city of Benin. While during military expansion of imperialists, you know, after the 1884 Berlin Convention, where Africa is really divided up in a room by some imperialists. Right, and when you deal with looted collections, especially after World War II, there are very clear ideas about how to handle looted collections. Now the problem is a lot of Benin branches if you scour the news, they're sent back on permanent loan.

Speaker 2:

There isn't a transfer of ownership. That is different from the illicit trafficking, for example, of pre-Columbian objects that happens out of Latin America, for example, when a lot of those get transferred through diplomatic channels. A museum might say, oh, I have these pre-Columbian artifacts in my collection and the provenance and provenance being the history of ownership is a little sketchy. We want to distance ourselves from it. Let me contact your embassy to see if we can get it back, and because the Mexican government and quite a few other Latin American governments Central American governments as well are very clear about their material heritage, things get transferred on the diplomatic channels right, and so one of the things that is clear is that, in order to have repatriation happen, there needs to be a process of giving over and a process of accepting, and you need the structure on both ends for it to work effectively.

Speaker 1:

And so, in that case, a natural artifact like the giant gallow functioned a little bit differently.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. It functioned differently because it was a private institution to a private institution, because we didn't know that the Ontarian had a galley wasp Right and in fact it was through this project that they realized that they had more than one Right. But it's still a university with a research and teaching collection. So the universities focus very heavily on research, teaching and engagement through knowledge production right. So at the end of the day, you still need your research collection. But because it was private to private, uwe retains the right to put it in permanent known in the national collection, because that is where it's most accessible and not at the University of the West Indies.

Speaker 1:

Right, interesting. Thank you so much again for that. I think on one hand aside, or in addition to it being a very long process, your point about knowledge production is also important. In what ways, or you know what, have researchers already begun to learn about its existence in Jamaica beyond what we already knew, sort of? What does the timeline even look like for it being available to the public?

Speaker 2:

OK, so in this case, we've classified it as a very rare specimen because it's the only one in the region and it's 170 years old, so the handling of it has to be reduced significantly.

Speaker 2:

However, it's only just returned, and so, basically, what we've done is that we've done the kind of public are persons who study lizards, so they've already been able to see it right, and for them it's things like counting the scales, the fact that, unless you went to the United Kingdom or went abroad to a collection that had a galliowasp in it, if you study lizards, you're never going to see one.

Speaker 2:

And in fact, what we found out by actually seeing this specimen was that the image, the sketch that the institution had which comes from Hans Sloan's account of galley wasps, because he was collecting things in the 1670s um was actually not drawn to scale and a poor representation of what a galley wasp looked like, right, and so, by the mere fact that people can see it right and that scientists can think about okay, these are the things that we need to think about when you look, for galley was to think about the evolution of the species itself.

Speaker 2:

And then also, we also took DNA profiling from it, because the galliwasp is actually, as the zoologist explained to me, retiring creatures, so it doesn't mean that it's completely extinct, and these specifically apparently used to only come out at night completely extinct, and these specifically apparently used to only come out at night. So it is possible, in the more dense areas, for example, of the morass, that it could be there and we just don't know, and so the DNA profiling is important. The next step that we're working on and my hope is that we can get funding for it is for artists to do sketches and to develop handling items that would give people an access to the Galiwas that doesn't require us disrupting its current state and then when it will be available.

Speaker 2:

So for right now. Initially we're hoping that it will be available May 22. But it looks like it's going to go into June, unfortunately. But we're working on it because a lot of Jamaicans, even though they have a really significant fear of lizards, are actually now interested and want to see it.

Speaker 1:

So yes, I think that is a very interesting point that you make. We're always talking about lizards and fear, right, but um, even within I mean, probably lots of you know, more recent generations don't know much about the gallow wasp, but it was definitely a part of our folklore, um, with even you know saying, saying that you know if a galley wasp stings you and reaches the water, yeah, they don't bite, yeah, but they don't bite and they're more likely to run away from you and in fact, because this specific one is in swampy areas, more than likely you'd run into another one while trying to get away from the one that you think bit you.

Speaker 2:

But it does present a quest and I've been thinking about it as a social historian. They the lore is based. In fact there must have been something that was happening that has resulted in this long recollection and long social memory. Because I grew up in kingston. I've never seen a gallivant, I've never grown lizard. You know the big, long green grown lizard. I've never grown lizard, I've never known gallivant, right, but I know about it. I know that if they bite you you run and go water. What is the basis for it? Because they don't sting.

Speaker 2:

We don't have any poisonous animals in our endemic group in in jamaica. So what is the basis of this? And it? It poses a very important social history question about how we understand the role of um. I want to have the better work. I'm not sure how I feel about the term folklore, but you know how do we engage this kind of collective memory? That is, it makes the lizard evil but right, because technically, if it bites you, you must trouble it Like I don't know, like you must trouble it. That's why it bites you. You know what I mean. So it requires some kind of thinking through, and you know you can't just exclude it because the thing has been gone since the 1840s. So what is the basis of it? And I think that's a legitimate question yeah, one may be its size.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I think to think of a 16 inch lizard well, that's, and that one was a young adult.

Speaker 2:

While we were in scotland we saw others that were bigger and the estimate is that they ran from 16 to 20 inches, because a grown lizard is still slim. Even your biggest grown lizard is, like, not big. The galley wasp is a full-figured lizard. Like it's not just that it is 16 inches, is that it ticked too right? So I can can see why it would be a problem, right, but still not so sure. Like I think we need some better accounts to tell us what the underlying cause was you know.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, that, I think, brings me to a general point in terms of our discussion. Just what are your thoughts in terms of the repatriation of artifacts, be they natural history oriented or otherwise, back to the region generally, and how do you see the return of the giant gallow wasps being a catalyst for other artifacts throughout the region?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think if it can return, that is that it can return anything. So I think it is a toe in the door Right. So I think it is a toe in the door right. But we have a responsibility as Caribbean nations to and I'm speaking very broadly in terms of Caribbean I'm not only talking about the English speaking Caribbean, because the Dutch, especially, have been very focused on provenance research.

Speaker 2:

The French have been involved in the return of items, and there is a lot of conversation between the Dutch kingdom and the Caribbean countries in the Dutch kingdom about repatriation and there are these variations of repatriation like digital repatriation, and digital repatriation to me makes no sense. But sure, if that's the language that we're using, then it is a component of the debates within repatriation. But Caribbean countries actually have a responsibility to not only ensure that they become signatories of conventions that deal with repatriation even if it cannot be applied retroactively Because those conventions actually require us to develop a very effective infrastructure to receive, and it requires us to put in legislation to ensure that we are in positions to protect the things that come back if we decide to go back for it. So I think it's a toe in the door. It broadens our idea of what cultural property is right, because very often we don't think of a lizard as part of our cultural property, ecological and cultural environment, then things flora and fauna are also considered material culture and should be strategically requested because it may not be everything that you needed, in this case the giant galliwasp. It actually helps to complete the national collection because it's a massive gap in the collection and also, based on some research that was done, the Institute of Jamaica did actually have giant galliwasps in its collection but with the 1907 earthquake it's either that it's during the 1907 earthquake or around the time of the 1907 earthquake where they moved some of the collections.

Speaker 2:

The specimens were lost, but definitely during the earthquake because the building that the Institute occupied because it's been on East Street the entire 145 years that's been functioning, the building that they occupied was destroyed. So the current building that exists as the main plant well, the first of several main plants of the Institute of Jamaica was built in 1911 in the aftermath of the earthquake. Then brings into this question about theft. Right, because if we are a part of the colonial empire and we didn't steal it and you know we're just, you know they're not having a war, you know, because people just came and went as they pleased and there was no legislation preventing the mobility of cultural items. I think the first thing it does is also demand us to have some transparency about what is out there, because the Caribbean museums don't know what's out there. And then, secondly, it requires us to set up the infrastructure and to develop relationships that allow us to think through the process of return.

Speaker 1:

I think, to that point, definitely necessary, as we're, for Jamaica, particularly thinking about, you know, and shifting towards republicanism and, you know, dealing with these aftermaths of imperialism even today and continually moving forward. So thank you for sharing that as well. Um, my penultimate question of every strictly facts episode, um is always looking for ways that we connect these stories and these histories to our popular culture, and so what is one or a few even of your favorite examples of it doesn't have to be the Galiwas specifically, but the ways that, you know, our education and even repatriation show up in history and popular culture.

Speaker 2:

Ah, the popular culture is going to kill me, parrot. You know, I don't know if I have a favorite. I really don't know if I have a favorite. I really don't know if I have a favorite, and that may be because I function in a multidisciplinary environment, right? Um, the things that matter most to me is the ways in which the engagement of history and culture creates opportunity for public engagement. So I think, you know, I always come back to the Kingston Art Walk and the murals on Water Lane and the relationship between Kingston Creative and the National Gallery of Jamaica. So those are the things that I actually cannot.

Speaker 1:

I think it counts.

Speaker 2:

I would yeah right or or or increasing um tours of downtown Kingston, those those history tours. For me, because Kingston has such a phenomenal history right, and I think because of Kingston's life as a space in Jamaican society and in the contemporary context, a lot of that history gets lost. And so we have beautiful historic buildings but they're not maintained because we don't do urban tourism in the same way that urban tourism occurs in, like Cuba, for example. So you know, it's just one of those things that we have to work through, but I'm excited about the new trends that have been happening.

Speaker 1:

Me as well, and so, finally, I think, in addition to the sort of artifact repatriation that we've been specifically talking about today, what do you hope to see for other universities and those who you know may even have some of these artifacts in their own private collections? What do you hope to?

Speaker 2:

see in terms of continuing to right these wrongs of colonialism, increased transparency. I think what worked for us was that the Hunterian is committed and actually Scotland, as opposed to England, is more committed to repatriation. And one of the lessons I've had to learn is that even within the United Kingdom I've had to learn that even within the United Kingdom it's a very nuanced space and what we found because Scotland is more receptive and because they're engaging there's a series of programs coming out of national museums Scotland around collection, exploring what objects are in collection, and the current focus is African Caribbean collections, which we wrap up in the next year or two. That transparency allows us to know exactly what's out there right, and once we know exactly what's out there, then we can reevaluate what's in our collections and start to ask for things right. So in Jamaica Jamaica the most popular collection is a Carpenter's Mountain collection, but there's so many other and Carpenter's Mountain is part of the Hans Sloan collection. So these are things Hans Sloan took during the 1670s that became the basis of the British Museum and the Natural History Museum and one other space in the UK. But it is that transparency that will allow us to get a sense of what is out there Because, more importantly, quite a few museums have collections that they would have inherited from the days of empire that they don't actually even have proper metadata for.

Speaker 2:

So the notion of rep that they don't actually even have proper metadata for, so the the notion of repatriation, is also about how do we get the information that you need, because you can't ask for something for which you don't have an accompanying archive. That's the first thing, and the second thing is there are these large diasporic communities in Europe. Do we take everything or do we build bridges? And I do believe that we have to think about our current capacity, we have to think about our diasporic communities and we also have to think about how do we get access to knowledge, because it's not just only objects, it's things like film footage that you have to pay copyright and intellectual property fees on.

Speaker 2:

That belong to the caribbean, they were filmed in the caribbean, but they are located elsewhere. The owner is probably some dude that happened to be in the right place at the right time, for which they're now charging you like 110 pounds a second. Yeah, so repatriation is not just that, it's any cultural material, and it's also thinking about intellectual property and copyright, and that's one of the things I also learned by being in Scotland Like what are the implications for digital repatriation in light of the evolving legislations around intellectual property and copyright? So it requires very much a bird's eye view of what's happening in the heritage sector.

Speaker 1:

Well, I think with that I will close this out, because I'm really excited to definitely see the Jamaican giant gallow wasps when it's available. So thank you for the work that you've done, as well as the entire team on both sides, and I hope we all take into account this really tremendously historic moment. I to your earlier point.

Speaker 1:

Right, we might think, oh, you know, it would have, could have been cooler if it was an old painting or an old yeah, not a 16 inch lizard um, but I think it's a start and one that hopefully continues to transcend um and shape future generations. So thank you again. Thank you, thank you for having me. Yes, thank you, dr roper um, and to our strictly facts family. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'll be sure to include links about what's going on across universities, the measures for repatriation that are occurring, a picture I can you know. Try to find that sketch of one so you all can see what it looks like. In the meantime, until next time, little more. Thanks for tuning in to Strictly Facts. Visit strictlyfactspodcastcom for more information from each episode. Follow us at Strictly Facts Pod on Instagram and Facebook and at Strictly Facts PD on Twitter.

Repatriating Jamaican History
Repatriation of Gallywasp
Repatriation and Importance of Galliwasp
Repatriation of Cultural Artifacts

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