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B09
Decolonizing African heritage inside and outside the African continent [initiated by the University of Mainz, with Leiden University/Anthropology, University of Rwanda]
Convenors:
Marieke van Winden (conference organiser) (African Studies Centre Leiden)
Anna-Maria Brandstetter (Universität Mainz)
Peter Pels (Leiden University)
Ciraj Rassool (University of the Western Cape)
Stream:
B: Decolonising knowledge

Abstract:

In a report commissioned by Emmanuel Macron, Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy argue that the return of African heritage also implies “that the model of a centralized museum for all objects of cultural heritage is only one possible example among many others” for projects of restitution (2018: 32). Going beyond the mere return of objects, one should ask which models of museums and heritage are being used by Africans (on the continent as well as in the diaspora), which European models are viable, and which have become obsolete. Who needs museums of Africa, and why? While international organizations continue to insist on forms of heritage that too rarely benefit the inhabitants of the African continent, curators in Africa have been and are experimenting with different models of national and community museums since the start of the long (and still unfinished) process of decolonization. But decolonization also implies that one asks to what extent certain basic assumptions of ‘musealization’ and heritage – such as the need for preservation, and the assumption that objects and images are dead – are necessary and true in the present. A more radical notion of restitution, one that departs from the model of European museums, may restitute not (only) the object itself, but restitute to the object “forms of knowledge at the heart of participative ecosystems” (Achille Mbembe, cited in Sarr & Savoy 2018: 34) – forms of knowledge that may question both the museum model and its roots in nationalism. This panel asks what knowledge can be and is culled from the longue durée of the history of heritage care in Africa, and how its precolonial and colonial relationships affect and should affect postcolonial relationships in both Africa, Europe and beyond. This panel invites papers that deal with this renegotiation process.