The public debate around repatriation has been gaining ground, partly following a report commissioned by the French president Emmanuel Macron which recommended the full restitution of looted objects to Africa. To explore this issue, MBC convened a panel on repatriation at our Changing the Narrative event at The Africa Centre in January. You can listen to an audio recording of the panel here.

From left to right; Chao Tayiana, Charlotte Joy, Princess Eugene Majuru, Geoffrey Robertson and Josiah Kimani (Informer East Africa) preparing to discuss repatriation at ‘Changing the Narrative’ in London, January 2020.

Panellists; Charlotte Joy – Horniman Museum and Goldsmiths Lecturer in Anthropology; Chao Tayiana – Founder African Digital Heritage, Co-Founder Museum of British Colonialism; Geoffrey Robertson QC – Human Rights Barrister, Academic, Author and Broadcaster, Founder and Joint Head of Doughty Street Chambers; Princess Eugene Majuru – Princess of Harare and African Cultural Ambassador.

Discussion highlights:

The panellists unanimously agreed that, despite the increased attention, the process of repatriation has so far been frustratingly slow. Geoffrey Robertson QC explained that this is partly a result of the lack of a legal constitutional framework for property stolen before 1970. Meanwhile, Chao Tayiana emphasised the need to ‘humanise’ objects and recognise their connection to lived histories, and Princess Eugene of Harare spoke about her struggle to repatriate her ancestors’ skulls which are kept in the British Museum. Charlotte Joy stated that repatriation “really isn’t that complicated” that to not repatriate objects is simply ethically untenable.

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