Clémentine Poiret

In 2009, Clémentine Poiret began her studies in art history at the Université de Montréal. Her master’s thesis was written under Élise Dubuc’s supervision. Her main research interests are the exhibition and interpretation of extra-European objects in Western institutional settings. Having recently settled in New Caledonia, she hopes to appease her curiosity and develop her knowledge of Kanak art by becoming involved in one of the local museum institutions.

Withinthe virtual collection of objects from the Ilnu of Mashteuiatsh and the Anishinabeg of Kitigan Zibi, she has noted similarities with another now completed project about Kanak objects. The Inventory of Dispersed Kanak Heritage (Inventaire du Patrimoine Kanak Dispersé (IPKD)), an essential factor in her research, is presented in Clémentine’s thesis.

Thesis summary

The interpretation of immaterial cultural heritage at the quai Branly museum. The (re)discovery of the “other” in the “Kanak. L’art est une parole” (“Kanak. Art is speech”) exhibit.

The objective of Clémentine’s thesis is to gaze critically at the exhibit on Kanak immaterial cultural heritage, recently presented at the quai Branly museum. Its objective being to correct the elitism of Eurocentrism, postcolonialism is a school of thought, which aims to reposition marginalized agents and stakes.

Interdisciplinary, postcolonial discourse prompts a pluridisciplinarity of perspectives in order to include the voices of “others.” In her study, Clémentine chose to address the proposition in a particular setting. Her approach centres on the quai Branly museum’s interpretation of the “other,” in order to understand how the particularity of Kanak heritage is presented today. This thesis proposes to reflect on the quai Branly museum’s approach concerning some recurring problems related to the perception and treatment of non Western objects, a reflection that seems necessary in order to establish a review of exhibition practices around immaterial cultural heritage in the « Kanak. L’art est une parole » exhibit. In order to do this, raised stakes are addressed through art historical, anthropological and museological perspectives.

Through the museography it sets up, the museum shares its bias with the public with regard to the didactic discourse it transmits. The choices made regarding the exhibit and its contextualization demonstrate how the museum defines the objects it contains. The quai Branly museum is a specific case. Promoted as a “tribal art” museum at its opening, it exhibits ethnographic objects from Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Asia for their aesthetic qualities. Clémentine maintains that far from our Western precepts, the museum’s challenge is to chart the history of these objects. For example, Kanak artistic expression raises the root of the problem, insofar as it takes shape through oral resources.