New Project seeking to highlight African voices on restitution of African artifacts launches with webinar series.

Press Release: OpenResitution.Africa launches online platform and webinar series with Africa-led conversations on museum restitution of African heritage


  • Launch of Open Restitution Africa project which will collate open data on restitution debates, issues and progress
  • Project seeks to bring African positions on restitution to the forefront of the debate, which has until now, been dominated by european positions
  • The project is technology oriented to serve as an aggregator, open data portal and data analysis platform for debates on restitution emerging from the African continent.
  • Launch will start with a monthly webinar series introducing restitution themes and issues to a popular audience in clear, accessible ways and will spotlight important voices from the African continent on this issue

Much fanfare has been made within Europe regarding the restitution of African artefacts from European museums. The debate has been especially heightened since a highly publicised announcement in 2017 by President Emmanual Macron of France, that they would be returning artefacts to Africa. However within this debate, there is an absence of the opinions and positions of Africans about restitution, how it should be done, and what its impact should be for the African continent. Open Restitution Africa is a new project launching this month that seeks to remedy the lack of representation of African voices by enabling a debate on restitution for Africans and by Africans.

Open Restitution Africa is an open data project for better access to information about restitution of African material culture and human ancestors, from museums across the world back to the African continent.

Driven by a commitment to the impact of knowledge and transparency for debate and decision making, ORA aims  to ensure more Africans are equipped with information for more equitable restitution. Launching with a webinar by Nairobi based The Nest Collective, who are one of three founding partners of the International Inventories Programme (IIP) — an artistic, research and curatorial project that investigates Kenyan objects held in cultural institutions outside of Kenya. The Webinar launches on 26 August and will continue on the last Wednesday of each month, with discussions led by African practitioners working on restitution issues.

The project is an initiative of Chao Tayiana and Molemo Moiloa of African Digital Heritage, based in Nairobi and Andani.Africa, based in Johannesburg respectively. Tayiana and Moiloa are practitioners working within the broader cultural and creative sector, and with African museums specifically. They were struck by how much of the restitution debate and even actual returns of ‘objects’ and ‘human remains’ back to Africa, happen behind closed doors. This means the public are kept out of the conversation and it is very difficult to get access to information about this issue. with very little access to information by the broader public, particularly in Africa.

 Commenting on the importance of these debates, Chao Tayiana, Co-Founder of Open Restitution Africa said

“Open Restitution allows us to define in contemporary times what restitution means to us, as Africans. We see this is an opportunity to unpack the cultural, hierarchical, emotional and power complexities that African practitioners are facing. For us, restitution isn’t just another issue, it’s a reality that we live everyday and it’s time that the discussion was centered around the African experience.”

While some movements have been made by individual African countries towards individual requests to museums, and the African Union has recently identified a need for more coordinated approaches, there is much to be done to ensure a collective voice on restitution from the African continent. Open Restitution is committed to the principle that more transparency, openness and access to information in clear and easy to understand language can enable a more in depth and nuanced discussion among Africans.

The project is also looking to technology to change the debate on restitution. The project is based on an online platform that aggregates data on restitution and makes this open to the public. Open Data also means that the project will make the data they use accessible to data analysts who want to use the data in other ways. This process has just begun as they begin the long process of gathering the data in order to make it accessible. According to Taiyana,

“Open Restitution is founded on three main pillars, transparency, access and centralization. We believe that opening up data around restitution will allow African practitioners to make data informed decisions, while working across geographical differences to learn from and collaborate with each other.”

Webinar Series

To launch the project, Open Restitution Africa will be hosting a series of webinar discussions with practitioners from across the African continent to introduce key themes in restitution and explain some of the intricacies of the challenges and processes of restitution. The first webinar will be in discussion with Njoki Ngumi, from the Nest Collective based in Nairobi. Njoki will give a broad introduction to some of the key hurdles and complexities of restitution based on The Nest’s work with the International Inventories Programme.

Date: 26 August 2020: Time: 5 PM Central African Time

The following webinar will feature the Co-Founders of the Women’s History Museum Zambia, who also developed the Leading Ladies podcast and wikipedia project on Historical African Women Heroes.

Date: 30 September 2020: Time: 5 PM Central African Time

About Open Restitution Africa

The Open Restitution Africa project is driven by two young and women led entities based on the African Continent. Andani.Africa is an insights company that has emerged out of a need to address the knowledge gaps that can inform better, more informed practice in the creative and cultural industries, particularly through digital research approaches. African Digital Heritage encourages a more critical, holistic and knowledge based approach to the design and implementation of digital solutions within African cultural heritage. Both have worked with African museums to seek solutions to their own practice, and have engaged with local and international debates on the question of restitution.

Chao Tayiana is a digital heritage specialist and digital humanities scholar.  She is the founder of African Digital Heritage and is a co-founder at the Museum of British Colonialism where she leads digital engagement and documentation.

Molemo Moiloa leads research at Andani.Africa. Based in Johannesburg, she has been involved in various projects engaging with museum practice, including in South Africa, as well as experience in Namibia, Tanzania, Congo (DRC) and broader Pan-African projects such as serving as advisor to the current MuseumFutures:Africa project.

About The Nest Collective and IIP

Founded in 2012, the Nest Collective has created works in film, music, fashion, visual arts and literature such as the critically-acclaimed queer anthology film Stories of Our Lives, which has so far screened in over 80 countries and won numerous awards, and Tuko Macho—a groundbreaking interactive crime web series widely considered to be one of the best African TV series. The Nest Collective also founded HEVA—Africa’s first creative business fund of its kind—to strengthen the livelihoods of East Africa’s creative entrepreneurs.

The International Inventories Programme (IIP) is an artistic, research and curatorial project that investigates Kenyan objects held in cultural institutions outside of Kenya. Formalized in 2019 with the support of the Goethe-Institut, the programme brings together a constellation of cultural entities, including The Nest Collective, the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi; the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne; the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt; SHIFT, an art/research collective (Germany/France).


Molemo Moiloa : Molemo@Andani.Africa


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