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Film Screening + Discussion

Part of the symposium "We Are all the other"

14th August - 2pm

Alana Jelinek


HD, colour, sound, 48min

English Subtitles

What can museum collections tell us about people and their stories?

‘knowing’ was a project with Volkenkunde, Leiden. In 2014 Alana Jelinek invited a range of people from various backgrounds to talk about objects in the collection of Volkenkunde, Leiden, Netherlands, one of the partners in ‘Pacific Presences’, a research project led by anthropologist, Nicholas Thomas. Her aim was to explore the politics of occupation and colonialism through the historical objects from Papua in the Volkenkunde collection. The region now called Papua or West Papua has also been called Irian Jaya and Nederlands-Nieuw-Guinea reflecting the colonial past and present of the region. By inviting people from Papua, from Java and of Dutch origin to talk about the objects in the collection, including objects from their own cultures, the project collected stories about objects, some familiar, some chosen by other people, and always including some chosen by the participants themselves. Stories and knowledge were recorded on an audio recorder.The interaction with the objects was also filmed with only the hands and the objects in the frame. The reason for filming hands and objects only is because most people become self-conscious when their face is filmed and so, because I wanted to keep people feeling safe and open, filming was of hands and objects only. The other main reason for the choice centres on the final film.






I believe we make assumptions about a person, and therefore what they’re saying, based on their face. In order to increase parity of reception about the different stories, knowledge, across my ‘informants’, the participants, no faces are shown.

The film was edited by Marianne Holm Hansen and Alana Jelinek. Twenty two hours of footage was edited down to 48minutes.


Knowing was launched at the Centre for Material Research, Volkenkunde, Leiden in 2015 and can be seen currently in the Volkenkunde in the Oceania galleries. It was launched on 25 Oct 2015 in the UK at an event called 'Knowing West Papua' at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. It has been shown at Decad, Berlin, and various other anthropological and art venues.

Participants (in alphabetical order):

Oridek Ap
Martin Derey
Marie-Christine Engels
Fin Maya Hay
Insos Ireeuw
Max Ireeuw
Betty Ireeuw-Kaisiëpo
Gershon M. Kaigere
Oriana Pentury
Silvy Puntowati
Annette Schmidt
Margriet Siu-Lan Ireeuw
Ignatius Supriyanto
Niek Van Rijswijk
Eric Venbrux
Peter Waal
Benny Wenda


Alana Jelinek

Alana Jelinek is an artist with over 30 years’ experience exhibiting in Europe, Australia, and Asia. Her work encompasses a wide range of media and she chooses the medium that best serves the idea she wants to explore. Previous work has been in painting, novel writing, performance, curating and durational collaborative pieces. Her work often focuses on the legacies of colonialism and, more recently, relationships between humans and non-human others. In 2008 she was awarded her PhD in art practice and art history which explored Art as a Democratic Act. Since 2009 she has been working with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge on two consecutive, 5 year projects exploring the relationship between collections, collectors and the collected. Her book, 'This is Not Art' about the role and value of contemporary art in society was published in 2013 by I.B.Tauris

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