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In recent years, calls for the return of objects from Africa currently housed in European and North American collections to the African continent have garnered increased attention among art professionals and broader publics worldwide.
The vivid and much-watched fictional museum scene in Black Panther, during which the character Killmonger challenges a curator’s information about an object on display, asks whether the object was fairly purchased or unjustly stolen, and then with help from his companions, leaves the museum with the object, has undoubtedly contributed to thinking on the topic of restitution and demands for action. Yet a single short scene in a fictional superhero film only begins to touch upon entangled histories and difficult power dynamics that calls for return seek to address.
Through this one-day virtual event organized by Emory University’s Institute of African Studies (IAS), we will hear from a broad range of university- and museum-based professionals—some located in African institutions and others in North American ones—to consider different power dynamics and other concerns at play. The aim is to listen carefully to a variety of informed perspectives, including ones that may unsettle, inconvenience, or otherwise prompt us to rethink what we thought we knew.
The event will not be recorded. Attendees are also not authorized to capture or circulate recordings of any kind, including still, video, or audio recordings.
This event is supported with generous co-sponsorships from the Departments of African American Studies, Anthropology, Art History, English, History, Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry.
10 AM (EST) | Opening conversation
Teju Cole, a celebrated thinker and author of numerous novels and articles, will participate in a conversation about his essay “The White-Savior Industrial Complex” (The Atlantic, 21 March 2012) and current debates regarding restitution.
11 AM to 12.30 PM (EST) | Roundtable: Power, Politics, and Art
Moyo Okediji, Delinda Collier, and Nelson Abiti will focus on specific case studies to examine the role of power and politics in the display or circulation of objects linked to the African continent.
2 PM to 3.30 PM (EST) | Roundtable: Museum Matters
Monica Hanna, Christa Clarke, Maurita Poole, and Constantine Petridis will draw on their various experiences as museum professionals to offer insights into day-to-day discussions about arts of Africa in museums.