Archives (English)

British Museum 'has head in sand' over return of artefacts

Title: British Museum 'has head in sand' over return of artefacts
Author: Lanre Bakare
Media Outlet: The Guardian
Publish Date: June 21, 2019

The authors of an influential report on colonial-era artefacts, which recommended a restitution programme to transfer hundreds of items from European institutions to Africa, have criticised the British Museum for acting like “an ostrich with its head in the sand”.

(…) “There’s a symbolic dimension around property rights,” added Savoy. “If you can loan your objects you are respected in the museum world because you can impose your will and conditions. In the capitalist sphere being able to loan gives you power and it means you can impose your own rights.”

Tunisians struggle to prevent archaeological looting

Title: Tunisians struggle to prevent archaeological looting
Media Outlet: Reuters
Publish Date: June 19, 2019

“The western region of Kasserine, where the shrine of Sidi Boughanem is located, is one of the most marginalised parts of the country – with government figures showing about one in four people unemployed, far higher than the 15 per cent unemployment rate for the country as a whole.

It is also one of the most archaeologically rich. There are four major sites located in an area of 8,000 square kilometres, and the land is peppered with architectural ruins and antique stones.

Bigger sites are guarded around the clock, according to the National Heritage Institute, while less significant sites have security guards during the day. But the sheer number of small sites makes it impossible to keep an eye on all of them, said Mr Nejma.”

Bringing African Artifacts Home

Title: Bringing African Artifacts Home
Author: Damola Durosomo
Media Outlet: OkayAfrica
Publish Date: June 10, 2019

Niama Safia Sandy: (…) Restitution should not just be about returning an object, but also supporting a discourse that acknowledges the role of colonization, power and the history of how it happened, while also building a system of equity such that global cultural heritage items can be shared by all humanity in a manner that does not prevent indigenous peoples of the world from having control over their cultural artifacts and assets.

(…) I can't help but see irony in European institutions fighting to hold on to the very history it was claimed we do not have.”

Restitution Alone is Not the Answer

Title: Restitution Alone is Not the Answer
Author: Tikam Liese Sall
Media Outlet: Contemporary And
Publish Date: May 29, 2019

“Hearing that the gigantic Museum of Black Civilisations was being inaugurated in my hometown, Dakar – in December 2018 – made me very proud; especially after the boiling debate around the restitution of African artifacts from Europe. It could be the perfect answer to the stigma imposed upon African countries of lacking enough modernity and efficiency to showcase art and enhance its value. When I walked through the museum a few months ago, I found myself wondering what the aim behind this giant project was, and if it could be a promising option for the art and heritage that has to be restituted.”

Renovating the AfricaMuseum

Title: Renovating the AfricaMuseum
Authors: Margot Luyckfasseel, Sarah Van Beurden, Gillian Mathys, Tracy Tansia
Media Outlet: Africa is a Country

“The effort to decolonize, repeatedly acclaimed in the Directors’ discourses, is not only hard to reconcile with the idea of the museum as an impartial forum, it is also too invisible in practice. The integration of work by contemporary Congolese artists is an illustration of that same principle. If their work is not capable of negating the effects of colonial propaganda engrained in the building it is not because their work is not strong enough, but because there are not enough efforts to physically “decolonize” the building. The museum building is indeed protected heritage, which complicates such attempts, and which is why some voices argue that the building should serve as a museum of Western and Belgian colonization of Africa, including its propaganda apparatus, its daily practices, and its ways of representation, instead of as a museum of Africa.”

Activists Return to the British Museum to Lead Another “Stolen Goods” Tour

Title: Activists Return to the British Museum to Lead Another “Stolen Goods” Tour
Author: Naomi Polonsky
Media Outlet: Hyperallergic
Publish Date: May 8, 2019

“On the Facebook event, the tour’s organizers wrote: “Refusing to return colonially-stolen artefacts is bad enough, depriving cultures around the world of vital parts of their history and glossing over the violence of colonialism. But to make things even worse the British Museum is also promoting BP, an oil company that’s threatening the lands and livelihoods of many of the same communities that those looted artefacts came from.”

Venice Biennale 2019 - Giovanna Esposito Yussif: Changing Structures Closest to Home

Title: Venice Biennale 2019 - Giovanna Esposito Yussif: Changing Structures Closest to Home
Author: Theresa Sigmund
Media Outlet: C&
Publish Date: May 3, 2019

"(...) in our Berlin Iteration I worked closely with artist Outi Pieski and researcher Eeva-Kristiina Harlin to bring forward the case of rematriation of the Sámi cultural belongings that are in German collections. We requested on loan three Sámi horn hats that are part of the collection of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Outi and Eeva presented a powerful lecture on four voices. It was important to take their research to Berlin because only few of these hats are in Sámi territory and the majority are in European museums, such as those in Berlin. And due to the ongoing discourse concerning the Humboldt Forum, and increasing claims for repatriation of belongings taken by various means from their societies. It was necessary to bring these questions forward while challenging the notion of repatriation, by proposing rematriation as a different form of relation with and activation of cultural belongings."

Antiquities looted in Syria and Iraq are sold on Facebook

Title: Antiquities looted in Syria and Iraq are sold on Facebook
Author: Steve Swann
Media Outlet: The Guardian
Publish Date: May 2, 2019

“Facebook is being used by networks of traffickers to buy and sell looted antiquities, the BBC has learned.

Private groups also discuss how to illegally excavate ancient tombs, according to research by academics.

Facebook says it has removed 49 groups following the BBC's investigation.”

‘They’re not property’: the people who want their ancestors back from British museums

Title: ‘They’re not property’: the people who want their ancestors back from British museums
Author: David Shariatmadari
Media Outlet: The Guardian
Publish Date: April 23, 2019

“Jonathan Mazower, a campaigner with Survival International, which has intervened on behalf of indigenous people to halt the auction of objects of spiritual significance, isn’t convinced. “I think for these items that were collected during the colonial era, you can’t imagine that people were in a genuine position to give their free consent in a way we would think adequately met the definition of the term.”

What would a humane policy look like to him? “Museums should commit themselves to the return of objects if the people who own them want them back. And where they are human remains, they should treat them as those of people who have died recently and simply honour the wishes of their descendants. It’s impossible to think that if the boot were on the other foot, and they were remains of western people who were held in foreign museums, that we’d be happy to see them either on display or just in a box or cupboard.”

The Indigenous Repatriation Handbook Is Out Now, and Ready to Grow

Title: The Indigenous Repatriation Handbook Is Out Now, and Ready to Grow
Author: Leah Sandals
Media Outlet: Canadianart
Publish Date: April 22, 2019

“In February 2019, a new bill toward a national strategy for repatriation of Indigenous human remains and cultural property passed its third reading in Canada’s House of Commons, and moved on to the Senate. In March 2019, German cultural authorities agreed on a new set of guidelines for repatriating colonially looted artifacts. And in November 2018, a report commissioned by Emmanuel Macron announced France would “allow full repatriation of African artworks taken without consent from their countries of origin.”

Yet how does repatriation actually happen in practice? How can Indigenous communities locate and advocate for repatriation of their specific cultural treasures? (…) “Communities were saying, we don’t know how to begin begin to talk to museums…. and then museums were in the exact same situation,” says Lou-ann Neel. These vital questions, among others, are addressed in the new Indigenous Repatriation Handbook.

(…) “When you are talking about repatriation, yes, it’s about ceremony. Yes, it’s about our right to our own heritage and our own material culture. It’s about the fact that colonial processes have removed things of great significance from our own communities in ways that have been painful,” says Pash. “But it’s also about more practical issues, like how do we find out what’s in museum? And who’s going to pay for all these things to come home?””