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Monday, 13 October 2008

Give them Back their Art!?!

Repatriation of Art, is this a good idea? What would the consequence for this be?

Photograph credit: Franko Khoury

I have been in Nigeria for approximately Two Months but I'm only on week three at work. I'm on the second stage of my youth service which is comprised of Eleven Months work experience in a national company (so no big multi-national companies can benefit from our cheap labour, only our government). I was posted to Ocean Beach Golf and Leisure Resort where I am programming the public and educational programme for Awo House ( a cultural centre) and they have offered me two days free to work with Bisi Silva (curator and Artistic Director) at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. Its an interesting Mix as half my week is spent focusing on Historic Culture while the other half is focused on Contemporary Art. No complaints!

So while looking through the papers here I fell across an article about Colonial Africa. Highlighted was Namibia, a country who's people faced genocide under its German colonizers (it was a horrific read but so is the majority of this type of history). More research produced a similar article where the focus was on the repatriation of the remains of 47 Namibians currently being held at a German museum ( I realised that a lot of what is on display in the West as 'African Art' may slowly but surely find there way home, and what will replace it?

The struggle we as arts professionals/ artists (promoting contemporary Africa) have faced for such a long time has been this image portrayed as our art in the rigid form of 'Masks' 'Wood-carving' and 'Cloth'. To be fair there is truth to this, however there is a need to include post-colonial art to theses permanent displays/ collections. It was the Africa Remix exhibition at the Hayward that not only made me fall in love with art, but caused me to rethink my career goals of working in health, to promoting art and African art in particular.

Perhaps Arts organisations around the world need to re-think and re-invest in their Africa collection or fight to retain ownership of these pieces. What do you guys think?

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