Issues bordering on the demands for repatriation and restitution of looted and illegally acquired African cultural objects in European museums back to their African source communities are gaining currency. Though scholars have shied away from intellectually debating these issues on the African continent, French President Macron’s speech on his promise to return such objects in French museums to their respective countries in Africa has provided an impetus.
A workshop on restitution convened by Dr Wazi Apoh of the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, University of Ghana, on the 13th and 14th of December 2018, was hosted and sponsored by the newly inaugurated University of Ghana Institute, the Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) on the University of Ghana campus. The theme of the workshop was‘Issues of Restitution and Repatriation of Looted and Illegally Acquired African Objects in European Museums.’ The specially invited sixteen participants from Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Namibia, Switzerland and Germany were all experts with varied backgrounds in the fields of archaeology, heritage studies, political science, history and museology. The two-day presentations cut across regional and country experiences, the role of African and European Museums in Restitution issues, international law versus colonial law of appropriation, in addition to two keynote addresses, one of which was transmitted live to the University of Freiburg, Germany.
Final deliberations, held at the MIASA building on the University of Ghana campus, culminated in a collective statement by the workshop participants (please click here for the statement). Among other future projects, applications will be made for funds to host an Interdisciplinary Fellows Group (IFG) on Restitution Issues to foster this dialogue and to attain some practical deliverables from this partnership project.