April 11, 2006

The British Museum goes to Africa

Posted at 12:45 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

For a while now, the British Museum has been talking about the creation of an exhibitions of African artefacts held within Africa rather than just at the museum itself.
Unfortunately many of the artefacts that will be displayed in this exhibition are of questionable provenance & many in Africa are campaigning for their permanent return. The British Museum has however engineered it such that temporarily lending looted artefacts back to their original countries is seen as a grand philanthropic gesture, whereas the reality is that some of the pieces should never have left Africa.

The East African

April 10, 2006
Exhibition mooted to link Africa with UK
By FRED OLUOCH Special Correspondent

THE CONCEPT OF AN “Africa in Africa” exhibition was mooted in 2003 during celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of the British Museum.

It was conceived two years earlier when leading Western museums – such as the British Museum and the Louvre Museum in France – declared themselves universal museums, and broached the issue of partnership and collaboration with countries where their exhibits came from, especially in Africa.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a special grant for the British Museum to fund projects celebrating the link between the UK and Africa. The government had offered £500,000 ($800,000) for the collaboration project with Africa.

The British Council also gave a similar amount.

The grant intended to fund a portfolio of events taking place in London around the “Africa 2005” programme and enable the museum to collaborate with institutions across Africa, with a view to working together to increase the understanding of African culture throughout the UK.

To let London host all events without others taking place in Africa was viewed as unfair as it would only benefit people in the UK, while those in Africa would never be involved in celebrating this link.

Therefore, the “Africa in Africa” programme was conceived with the aim of having some events taking place in Africa under collaborative projects involving Africa-based institutions.

A number of institutions from each of Africa’s four geographical divisions namely: East Africa; West Africa; North Africa; Central Africa; and Southern Africa were selected.

In East Africa, the National Museums of Kenya was identified as one of the collaborating institutions.

The conceptual framework and implementation modalities chosen for this exhibition are expected to be a model for development of the permanent exhibition displays of the Nairobi Museum. Its accompanying interactive education and public programmes will be used as templates for the new museum.

The exhibition intends to present new dimensions of East Africa and its cultures by evoking material evidence of the richness, diversity and resilience in the ways of life of its people built over the years through contacts and exchange. Through this, it is hoped that a new appreciation of the region will be engendered and a true respect of the cultures developed, thus, giving its people an East African identity to be proud of. For instance, the harmonious co-existence that has survived over thousands of years and understanding of the cultural dynamics of co-existence among different communities can be utilized to forge a stronger union; especially at this time that an East African confederation is still at its nascent stages.

The exhibition targets educational institutions mainly primary and secondary schools, as the themes explored in it touch on topics spread in their art, history, religion, and social science syllabi.

Similarly, it is expected that these themes will have a wider appeal to the general public, both East African residents and non-residents.

Kiprop Lagat, who was in London on secondment to the British Museum, went through the entire collection from Eastern Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.

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