Frequently Asked Questions

What is Open Restitution Africa?

Open Restitution Africa is an African-restitution-centred project founded by Molemo Moiloa of Andani.Africa (RSA) and Chao Tayiana Maina of African Digital Heritage (Kenya).

The project is premised on facilitating better access to information about restitution of African material culture and human ancestors from museums across the world back to the African continent.

Open Restitution Africa is fully committed to three main founding principles:

  • Transparency
  • Access to information
  • Centralisation

What activities are you undertaking?

By collating existing data relating to restitution debates, ongoing issues and progress, Open Restitution Africa offers valuable insights into current debates on restitution.

While addressing the lack of opinions and positions of Africans about this process, Open Restitution Africa seeks to create room for equitable exchange of ideas.

Our main focus areas are: 

  • Research
  • Advocacy 
  • Database and platform development

Why is this work important?

The agenda of attempting to frame the range of discourse on restitution emerging from the African continent, is to make a claim not only for the prominence of African voices in any discourse on the restitution of material heritage that rightfully belongs to Africans themselves, but also to make a claim for the need to recognise the deep, entangled complexity of ethics, relation, history and futurity that restitution inevitably summons from the depths of our collective silences and repressions.

 

One of the key imbalances that has had an impact on the process of understanding restitution has been a questionable culture of extractivism by European media houses when working with African media. This creates a problematic precedent which dishonours equitable terms of engagement between African voices and European ones. 

Western media has failed to adequately critically dissect the various issues within the restitution debates by supporting and engaging leading African media initiatives.

What needs to be restituted?

Restitution advocates for the return of objects, human remains and archives.

he confluence of items that need to be restituted and returned by European institutions has presented a complex challenge for African thinkers, activists and proponents of restitution.The reductive conversations framed around preferential restitutive actions are harmful for the broader restitution mission. The popularity of some items and biased readings and understanding of their significance, through the lens of European institutions, erodes efforts made to foreground the vital information contained within various other items. 

In the case of the return of human remains being prioritised by European institutions, various other items which served as inanimate witnesses to the profound agendas of colonial enterprise which also provide proof of the magnitude and extent of colonial atrocities – such as archives – are not receiving the due equal prominence they should be receiving.

This denial of complexity with regards to African objects, artifacts and archives is a failure of recognition of knowledge systems that are not within the locus of understanding of Western thought and scholarship. This limits opportunities for engagement and education within restitution debates.

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