I was so lucky to be invited to the Museum Collections in Motion conference in Cologne last month. It was incredibly interesting to witness the confrontation between the discourse of (some) members of the European museum staff and some African researchers and museum staff.
To not go into long descriptions of the lively discussions, I want to briefly say that it was palpable how high the stakes for the African culture heritage defenders were and are. The question of recuperating the artworks that left their territories in today unlawful circumstances is a very important one for the knowledge and the future of the continent. And for future relations between Europe and Africa.
Felwine Sarr was present as a keynote speaker. He is an angel of peace and patience. Together with Bénédicte Savoy, he wrote the terrific study Restituer le patrimoine africain. Vers une nouvelle éthique relationelle.
A must read if you are interested. This widely translated book stems from a study ordered by the french president Emmanuel Macron, after his decision to restitute all unlawfully taken objects and manuscripts to the rightful owners. The authors were asked to research how to realize this. They made an overview of the issues at stake, of the actual situation (numbers of objects, their provenance), a legal study and propositions of how to restitute.
I happened to have my libraries’ copy in my bag when I met Felwine Sarr, so I asked him to sign it for all Brussels’ readers. He obliged – see picture. So I am happy to offer this upgraded copy to the library and the Brussels’ readers. It makes me really happy to do so: I am a big fan of the principle of a library. To have all the books you want because you share them (and the knowledge) with a large group of people… is it not a dream come true?
I will present the library with the return of the signed copy today. I am curious how they will react… I sure hope they do not fine me for making an author scribble in their book!