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Chiara Linsalata on The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage
8 November, 2023
In the context of the Rietberg Museum in Zurich, one cannot overlook the compelling discourse on cultural heritage articulated by Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy in their text The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage: Toward a New Relational Ethics. I am particularly intrigued by their argumentation regarding the ethical dimensions of acquiring and exhibiting African artifacts. The Rietberg Museum, with its extensive collection, raises inevitable questions about the provenance and narratives of the objects it curates.
Sarr and Savoy urge us to adopt a more ethical and relational stance towards cultural heritage, advocating for the repatriation of such artifacts to their places of origin. As architects, we are tasked with designing spaces that house culturally significant collections, much like those found within the Rietberg Museum.
This discourse reflects the responsibility of institutions like the Rietberg Museum in addressing the complex history of colonial acquisitions. As architecture students, we have a unique role in shaping spaces that respect the relational ethics advocated by Sarr and Savoy, ensuring that cultural heritage is preserved with dignity and integrity.
The audio guide, made for the reading circle was very interesting to follow, I never knew what artifact I laid my eyes on next, and I was surprised which ones got my attention. The comment about young Africans not being aware of the richness of their own culture got me thinking. Does it make sense for us to see and experience these artifacts and gain knowledge from them, which at the same time means that the original population can’t? For me, it is important to make cultural knowledge and individual heritage accessible, which could be possible by lending and sharing artifacts all over the world.