Monday, April 5, 2021

Anthropologists' Private Collection Auctioned by Sotheby's

                            Tlingit robe                        

The ethnographic object collection of distinguished anthropologists Abe Rosman and Paula Rubel is being sold off by their heirs and in a few days will be going to auction and not kept together or returned to communities Sothebys "The Scholar's Feast: The Rosman Rubel Collection" 8 April 2021

Friday, April 2, 2021

"Indeterminacy in the Cultural Property Restitution Debate"

            Statue from Nigeria                   |
in the Musée du
Quai Branly,

Article by Helsinki University doctoral researcher Pauno Soirila: Indeterminacy in the cultural property restitution debate

The debate over the restitution of cultural property is usually framed as the dispute between what John Henry Merryman defined as ‘cultural nationalism’ and ‘cultural internationalism’: the opposite viewpoints that argue whether cultural heritage objects should be returned to their countries of origin or spread around the world as determined by other principles. I argue, however, that the concepts are problematic both in their definition and their perception as two dialectically opposed sides of a dispute. This article analyses the restitution debate by examining some of the most important arguments and counterarguments used in the debate and by comparing them to the international law ‘New Stream’ theory. It is revealed that a similar indeterminacy which defines international law in the theory also defines the restitution debate, and that cultural nationalism and internationalism do not in fact provide answers to the debate but only function as two entry points that echo each other without a way to end the debate. Therefore, it is necessary to see beyond the two concepts in order to find solutions to the disputes.

"Therefore, it is necessary to see beyond the two concepts in order to find solutions to the disputes".... If somebody takes the bike my kid left in my front garden and I want it back, why are we quoting labels of "Merryman" and where is the "dispute"? Whose bike is it? Any "dispute" is not because I want back what was taken, but that the taker tries to find excuses for not giving it back.

What's really unclear is that this text refers throughout to the "indeterminacy of international law" without citing a single clear of example of the existence of any international laws (conventions are not legal instruments) at all referring to "restitution" (which actually also is not defined, is she talking about the Parthenon Marbles or/and the Euphronios Crater? How can you discuss a vague undefined concept according to non-eistent laws that dont apply to much of what is involved in this "debate"?)
This loop is maintained by the persistent notion of the oppositeness of cultural nationalism and internationalism, as the failure to recognise the nature of the argumentation has misled the participants and those attempting to find new solutions.
Who is using these labels these days? I really do not see how it is helpful to centre the whole argument on some equally vague labelling of the mid 1980s, which is basically what Pauno Soirila does.

The document Rapport sur la restitution du patrimoine culturel africain. Vers une nouvelle éthique relationnelle by Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy, does not use these notions, but arguments based on ethics concerning the relations between groups and past power imbalances. In Germany, the return of African objects is taking place not within a framework of opposing object-centred models, but in the spirit of dialogue between nations.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Researcher gets Grant for Research into Artefact Repatriation from Europe

University of Birmingham academic gets £1.8 million grant to research into artefacts repatriation from Europe 14 Dec 2020
A researcher from the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant as part of €655 million (£591 million) funding of the EU’s current research and innovation programme called Horizon 2020. Professor Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, who specialises in global histories and contemporary art from the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies secured a grant of €2 million (£1.8 million) to explore 'Artistic Research in Museums and Communities in the process of Repatriation from Europe.' Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll said: The release in 2018 of the Sarr Savoy Report crystalised the debates that had been moving with increasing urgency in museums and international relations of restitution and repatriation. The REPATRIATES project is important as it will bring together internationally art-based research actions that respond to repatriation, to learn from exchanges between French, German, Austrian and British institutions and stakeholder indigenous communities. REPATRIATES examines how contested objects - whose ownership may remain unclear - can be exhibited sensitively. It develops strategies for making artistic responses to this material, to propose ways forward for the decolonization of cultural property. This research hopefully will aspire to shape a pan-European response to the complex political, historical, legal, and affective dimensions of the repatriation of cultural assets."


Friday, November 20, 2020

Stolen statue from Canadian University’s art collection officially repatriated to India


               Stolen statue of the Hindu               
 goddess Annapoorna.

The Annapoorna, a statue from the University of Regina’s collection that for the last 70 years has been in the MacKenzie Art Gallery there, will soon be repatriated to India (Stolen statue from the University of Regina’s art collection officially repatriated to India  Battlefords News-Optimist Nov 20, 2020).
The statue was part of the original 1936 bequest by Norman MacKenzie, the gallery’s namesake [...] MacKenzie had noticed the statue while on a trip to India in 1913. A stranger had overheard MacKenzie’s desire to have the statue, and stole it for him from its original location – a shrine at stone steps on the riverbank of the Ganges at Varanasi, India.
The statue is of the Hindu goddess Annapoorna, who is the goddess of food and the queen of the city of Varanasi. She holds a bowl of kheer (rice pudding) in one hand and a spoon in the other. 

When the current administration at the University and the MacKenzie Art Gallery were alerted to the documentation which revealed the statue as an object of culture theft, both institutions committed to take taking appropriate action.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

France’s Benin Bronze Bill Approved

Cassie Packard 'After Years of Repatriation Debates, France’s Benin Bronze Bill Approved' Hyperallergic 10th Nov 2020
This month, France and the Netherlands took significant steps toward the restitution of looted colonial artifacts. In the Netherlands, the Dutch minister of culture promised policy changes in response to an official report recommending the restitution of stolen cultural property to former Dutch colonies. And in France, two years after a government-commissioned report called for sweeping restitution, the French legislature unanimously passed a landmark bill that would allow for the return of 27 important looted artifacts to Benin and Senegal. In 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron publicly promised that the country would return all looted artifacts to sub-Saharan Africa within five years. Macron’s pledge, and the 252-page restitution report that followed, were at odds with French laws and attitudes regarding the inalienability of the country’s cultural property.[...] The bill, which the French government fast-tracked in July, was unanimously approved by the National Assembly on October 6 and then by the Senate on November 4. The new law will enable the permanent return of the sword to Senegal. It will also allow for the permanent return of 26 of the Benin Bronzes, important royal artifacts that were looted from the Abomey Palace in modern-day Benin in the 19th century. The select 27 objects will be restituted within one year. The Senate additionally advocated for the formation of a national council dedicated to future restitution cases.
In the Netherlands, one day after the draft law passed through the French National Assembly, a special advisory committee on the national policy framework for colonial collections released a report commissioned by Dutch culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven that has advised that the Netherlands recognize the injustices of owning stolen artifacts and unconditionally return “any cultural objects looted in former Dutch colonies if the source country so requests.”

Jamaica To British Museum: Hand Back Taino Sculptures.

  The Jamaica Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport is moving to retrieve precolonial indigenous sculptures held in the British Museum (Jonathan Mason, 'Jamaica To British Museum: Hand Back Taino Sculptures', The St Kitts Nevis Observer November 10, 2020).

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, said that “as Minister, I am determined to ensure the repatriation of cultural objects taken from Jamaica, which constitute our rich cultural heritage,” [...] Minister Grange said the return of the artefacts “will fill the gaps in our history that are critical to the process of understanding ourselves and fostering greater cultural awareness”. [...] She noted that in 1981, the British High Commission in Jamaica had identified approximately 137 objects from Jamaica that were housed at the British Museum.[...] the Taino sculptures were removed from a cave in Carpenter’s Mountain in the parish of Vere, now known as Manchester, during the 18th century. Those objects are also called Carpenter’s Mountain carvings. “The objects are slated to have been acquired by the British Museum in the period between 1799 and 1803. They were formally entered into the Museum’s collection in 1977,” the document says further.[...] Hopefully some kind of arrangement can be worked out between the Jamaica National Museum and the British Museum over the future of these historically important objects. Perhaps a time-share arrangement by which the originals and replicas are swapped back and forth would allow for the artefacts to be viewed and studied by the largest number of people on both sides of the Atlantic.