Friday, October 15, 2021

Berlin Breakthrough on Benin Bronzes

 

Germany and Nigeria have signed an agreement setting out a timetable for the restitution of artefacts looted from the royal palace of Benin in a British military raid in 1897.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Africa Update Honours Indefatigable Ghanaian scholar-activist, Dr. Kwame Opoku

 


Africa Update 
Vol. XXVIII. Issue 3. Summer 2021

Editorial

This issue of Africa Update is a tribute to the indefatigable Ghanaian scholar-activist,  Dr. Kwame Opoku, who has spent decades enlightening the public, and the academic community, about the innumerable African Antiquities confiscated by the colonial powers, after their invasions of Africa in the 19th and 20th century.  Dr. Opoku has written more than two hundred and seventy articles on the subject, to date.

Dr. Opoku continues to give us specific details on the location of these artifacts, and what should be done to recover them. His presentations at high profile international conferences, and his careful documentation of individual and generic misappropriated items, continue to stir the conscience of diverse peoples across the globe who recognize the injustice done to Africa during the colonial era.  In addition to significant losses of population as a result of colonial invasions during the European expansionist rampage of 1884 and after, significant loss of treasure occurred.

This issue of Africa Update includes six of the numerous articles that Dr. Opoku has written, on the issue, including his commentary on the recent decision by Germany to repatriate some Benin bronzes, originally looted by the British and then sold by the latter to German museums. Special thanks go to www.modernghana.com for permitting the publication of these articles.

Ciku Kimeria, in an article entitled “The battle to get Europe to return thousand of Africa’s stolen artifacts is getting complicated,” comments on the plunder of over a thousand pieces of cultural artifacts by the French, during the capture of the city of Oussebougou that brought down the Toucouleur Empire in 1890 (QZ.com/Africa/1758619). In that issue we are also reminded that at least seventy thousand African artifacts are lodged in the Musee du Quai, in France; one hundred and eighty thousand African artifacts, in the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium; seventy-five thousand African artifacts in the Humboldt Forum Germany; and sixty-nine thousand African artifacts in the British Museum.  Most of these artifacts were plundered or obtained suspiciously. In the case of Ethiopia, ancient manuscripts are scattered among hundreds of museums. Many were seized by the British at the Battle of Magdala, 1868.  Dr. Kwame Opoku’s passionate quest for the repatriation of stolen artifacts has been driven by his informed awareness of the past and present.

Africa Update thanks Dr. Kwame Opoku for his illuminating analyses and intellectual contributions to the discourse on looted African artifacts.

Professor Gloria Emeagwali

Chief Editor, Africa Update

www2.ccsu.edu/africaupdate


Table of Contents

African Treasures -  Kwame Opoku's Quest for Justice

 Kwame Opoku:   Berlin decision on Benin restitution

Kwame Opoku:    Church of England  wishes to return two Benin artefacts to Nigeria. Is that enough?

Kwame Opoku:    Is the British Museum outmaneuvering Nigeria?

Kwame Opoku:    Talking about Benin Artifacts is not Enough 

Kwame Opoku:    Benin

Kwame Opoku:    From Restitution to Digitalization: Looted Benin treasures to go online



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,
Wikipedia



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.