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International Observatory for Cultural Heritage

The Restitution Debate: African Art in a Global Society

In November 2018, Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy released a report that had been prepared for the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, entitled The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethics. This report has set in motion a debate that could have a profound impact on the status of African art held in collections around the world.

During the full-day international symposium, the authors of the report will present their recommendations and reflect on the response that they have received over the past year. A panel of curators, scholars, and cultural entrepreneurs will respond to the issues, which have broad ramifications resonating well beyond Africa and Europe.


Erica P. Jones (Fowler Museum, University of California, Los Angeles);
Daouda Keïta (Musée National du Mali, Bamako);
Pap Ndiaye (Institut d’études politiques de Paris);
Alain Patrice Nganang (Stony Brook University, New York);
Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi (The Museum of Modern Art, New York);
​​​Ciraj ​​Rassool (University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa);
Felwine Sarr (Université Gaston Berger, Saint-Louis, Senegal);
Bénédicte Savoy (Technische Universität Berlin; Collège de France);
Z. S. Strother (Columbia University);
and Marie-Cécile Zinsou (Fondation Zinsou, Cotonou, Bénin).

Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Columbia University) will serve as moderator and philosopher Paulin J. Hountondji (Université Nationale du Bénin, Cotonou) will act as respondent and lead the final discussion. David Freedberg (Columbia University) will open the symposium.

This event is part of the Academy's International Observatory for Cultural Heritage.

Presented by:
Institute of African Studies, Columbia University
With the generous support of:
The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University
Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
Department of Art History, Barnard College
Maison Française, Columbia University
And with a grant from:
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Image: Royal Statues from Abomey seized in 1892 by French soldiers, exhibited at Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris. Photo by Z. S. Strother.

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Event Date 
Fri, Oct 18, 2019, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Free and open to the public.
Walk-ins are welcome.