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

May 15 2024 • 45 mins

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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 Car

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