Accepted Paper:

Decolonizing museums and rethinking restitution processes in Rwanda  


Charles Mulinda Kabwete (University of Rwanda)

Paper long abstract:

The post-Macron trend towards restitution of African heritage collections has initiated a double process in Rwandan museums and humanities. On the one hand, the new claim for restitution of Rwandans’ ancestors human remains taken by German ethnographers in 1907-1909 has brought to our attention the fact that ethnographic museums need new decolonized exhibitions. The existing permanent exhibition at the Huye Ethnographic Museum followed exactly the same schemata that colonial German and Belgian ethnographers have chosen. It has lasted 30 years. I argue that Rwandan collections that will be restituted by German and Belgian museums must join an already decolonized museum in Rwanda. On the other hand, the restitution of human remains from German museums will have to be done in manners that depart from the logic of their travel to Europe in colonial times. This means that restitution must be followed by an honoured return, and rehumanization processes. This rehumanization process requires among other things that our museums be decolonized.

Panel B09
Decolonizing African heritage inside and outside the African continent [initiated by the University of Mainz, with Leiden University/Anthropology, University of Rwanda]