In February, Iziko Museums – in partnership with UWC – hosted Professors Dan Hicks and Ciraj Rassool for a discussion on museum restitution
On Monday, 28 February, Iziko Museums of South Africa, in partnership with the University of the Western Cape, hosted a public discussion titled Advancing Restitution at the Iziko South African Museum. The conversation, held between visiting Professor Dan Hicks and South African Professor Ciraj Rassool, highlighted the need for cultural restitution and the decolonisation of museums. Professor Hicks is the Curator of World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum and is a Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Professor Rassool leads the project Action for restitution to Africa at the University of the Western Cape, where he is a Professor in the Department of History.
Iziko’s Dr Wendy Black and Dr Paul Tichmann engaged Hicks and Rassool on how museum collections may be legacies of colonial or racist practices – and how the museum must, as Hicks writes in his book The Brutish Museums, “dismantle, repurpose, disperse, return, re-imagine, and rebuild itself”.
Dr Paul Tichmann opened the discussion by reminding guests that the Iziko South African Museum was established in 1825, and “as the first museum in Southern Africa, was also a part of the colonial, and later apartheid, era.” Tichmann went on to say that “this of course has significant implications in terms of the collecting practices, cataloguing, documentation, archives, and interpretations associated with, in particular, [Iziko Museums’] ethnographic collections.” Furthermore, it demonstrates the urgent need for museums – in South Africa too – to take meaningful action towards cultural restitution.
For Rassool, the importance of community engagement and meaningful participation are critical components of the process: “There are important social aspects to restitution. It will only succeed if it happens through community work; if it happens through a consultative process; if it happens through a much wider process of consultation.”
The discussion was recorded – and you can access it online here: