Africa

Restitution of African Artifacts

On November 28, 2017, inside a packed amphitheater at the University of Ouagadougou … under the watchful eye of the president Roch Kaboré and those of several hundred Burkinabé students, the President of the French Republic verbally confirmed his decision to break with several decades of longstanding French practices and official discourses in terms of cultural heritage and museums: “Starting today, and within the next five years, I want to see the conditions put in place so as to allow for the temporary or definitive restitution of African cultural heritage to Africa.” Applause and whistling ensued. On Twitter, the Élysée hammered down the nail of the proclamation in real-time, tossing out the age-old metaphor of the museum as carceral space: “African cultural heritage can no longer remain a prisoner of European Museums.”

— Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy, The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethics, 2018 (report)

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