Reclaiming Restitution Report

The restitution of African heritage – artefacts and human remains – is one of the vital social justice issues of our times. It is about recognising centuries of devastation of the African continent, and taking a step towards social, historical and cultural repair for Africans themselves.

Its therefore without question that Africans should be – and have historically been – at the forefront of narratives on restitution of African heritage. And yet, this report, which tracks the presence of Africans in the global narrative, indicates an intolerable erasure of Africans across academia, online media and social networks.

Two hundred years of records indicate that Africans have driven multifaceted strategies for their return; over this time, they have built a corpus of knowledge and narratives around heritage restitution. There are many reasons for the lack of African representation on the platforms available to the world for narrative creation and knowledge generation. However, it remains important to understand the impact of this lack, and to seek strategies to address it.

The push for the return of African heritage to the African continent has been driven
by Africans. As a result, the development of how we speak about return, its ethics
and global implications has been spearheaded by Africans.

This report discusses in some detail the range and political influence of African narratives over many decades as the leading impetus behind heritage restitution. It tracks the fact that demands for return were already being made at the point of initial theft, but that this call was never heeded, up until the present.

We see a heightened narrative drive by African heritage professionals and by independence leaders such as Mobutu Seseko, who argued for the role of restitution in enabling newly independent countries to define their identities and build their societies anew. We also see the defence by Africans to their rightful heritage and their frustration at the petty and often racist denials made by those outside of the continent, who were (and are) in possession of African heritage. This report also tracks some of the current academic research and narrative construction by African thinkers.

“The push for the return of African heritage to the African continent has been driven by Africans”

Based on the findings of our research, we have compiled a list of African scholars and cultural practitioners working in restitution.

Access here

Sign up for our Newsletter

Subscribe to receive updates about the project.

* indicates required