Open Society Pledges Support for African Cultural Heritage Restitution
NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today announced a $15 million initiative to strengthen efforts to restore cultural objects looted from the African continent. Over four years, the initiative will support networks and organizations working to return Africa’s heritage to its rightful home.
“The legacy of colonial violence has deep implications for the ways that racism and imbalances of power are perpetuated today. This isn’t just about returning pieces of art, but about restoring the very essence of these cultures,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of Open Society. “We are proud to support this movement towards reconciling historical wrongs, as part of our mission to advance true justice.”
For decades, Africans have advocated for the return of this heritage—including not only art and ceremonial objects, but also human remains, natural history specimens, archives, and intangible cultural heritage like sound recordings and photographs. Entire collections have been made from material looted during military raids and atrocities at Maqdala and in Namibia and Nigeria, among many others.
“With so much of Africa’s precolonial cultural legacy housed in European museums, these artifacts are out of reach for millions on the African continent, who have a right to their own knowledge and cultural production,” said Rashida Bumbray, director of Culture and Art at Open Society...