Who Owns Africa's Cultural Patrimony? (Call for Papers)

[I don't know what’s up but I’m currently experiencing problems with the editing. That’s a bit nerving … I sometimes joke that mine might be a mild form of Dyslexia because it just drives me mad if the layout’s not well organised and clearly arranged. I can’t focus on the content if the text’s not aligned … or rather, I find that difficult if I’m even the slightest bit tired. So, my apologies to everybody if the editing’s running riot again (and of course to everybody who actually has Dyslexia for trivialising the condition).]

I found that on S. Okwundodu Ogbechie's blog and was wondering whether it might be of interest to anybody …


Call For Papers

Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture

Fall 2010

Critical Interventions invites submissions for a special issue on the question of Africa’s cultural patrimony in Western museums, especially in the context of recent international debates about repatriation of historical artworks relocated from one culture to another through conquest, colonization or looting. In the first decade of the 21st Century, demands by various countries for repatriations of significant artworks and cultural objects have shaken up established ideas about the ownership and location of historical cultural objects. While many Western museums have been willing to reach agreements about repatriating or compensating for culturally important artworks in their collections claimed by other Western countries, there has been no acknowledgment of the right of Africans to ownership of African artworks looted from Africa during colonialism, which are now held in the so-called “Universal Museums” of the West. Aside from the fact that Western museums hold large quantities of looted African artworks (the case of the British Museum’s holding of the Benin bronzes being a canonical case in point), these museums also appear to claim ownership of the cultural patrimony of these objects by enforcing copyright claims to the artworks. Since African artworks emerged as part of complex knowledge systems in various indigenous African cultures, such claims deprive Africans of any share in the economic value produced by these objects as a result of their redefinition as a canon of artworks with discursive and financial value. Western countries also routinely deny Africans access to these artworks through enforced localization (no Western country will grant an African a visa merely to visit any museum in Europe or America), which invalidates their claim of housing the artworks in “universal museums”.

To paraphrase Ivan Karp (1991) demands for recognition of Africa’s ownership of its cultural patrimony in Western museums assert the social, political, and economic claims of African producers in the larger world and challenge the right of established Western institutions to control representation of African cultures. In this regard, the proposed issue of Critical Interventions posits a fundamental question: who owns Africa’s cultural patrimony and why are African claims to their looted cultural objects held in Western museums denied in contemporary discourses of repatriation and reparations?

We seek papers that posit or contest African ownership of its cultural patrimony in the dual contexts of the relationship between African artworks in their contemporary locations (Western museums, Western private collections, the art historical construction of meanings), and the history of their origins as part of communities of objects, whose use in religious, ritual, secular, and social space formed part of knowledge systems and cultural heritage of particular African peoples. We particularly encourage submissions that interrogate the commodification of African cultural patrimony and cultural identities in the context of global capital, and examine the representational, legal, political, and cultural positions that support or deny African claims to ownership of historical art objects as relevant aspects of contemporary African cultural patrimony.

Please send articles (5000 to 9000 words preferred) and CV, by December 10, 2009, to the editors:

Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie (ogbechie@arthistory.ucsb.edu) [find his blog here]

John Peffer (j_peffer@yahoo.com)

Critical Interventions is a peer-reviewed journal of advanced research and writing on African art history and visual culture. Submission and subscription information can be found at


P.S. can somebody pls. explain to me why my library doesn’t have that journal? There was an article by Asonzeh Ukah about Pentecostal advertising in Lagos in the Spring 2008 issue I’d have loved to read as background to my own chapter on religious posters:

Roadside Pentecostalism Religious Advertising in Nigeria and the Marketing of Charisma

Since the liberalization of the Nigerian economy in the 1980s, the media marketplace has interpenetrated with an increasingly plural religious space to give rise to new contingencies of urban religiosity and commerce. Nowhere is this state of affairs more visible than in Lagos, which, according to Allan Anderson, is “arguably the most Pentecostal city in the world.” Over the last decade the urban centers of Nigeria have been transformed into sacred galleries, giving rise to what I call “roadside Pentecostalism,” that is, the signage produced by independent Christian Pentecostalist churches that is displayed on urban roads, streets, and driveways. These signs take form as billboards; posters displayed on pedestrian bridges, utility pole, and walls of buildings; banners that straddle roads; and signboards. They relay the messages of Nigeria’s new Pentecostal churches, for whom we could say, following Chris Lehman (with a nod to Marshall McLuhan): “the medium is the messiah.” In this essay I describe the key ways that the public presence of Nigerian Pentecostalism has been constituted through advertisement. The images are diverse, and they form an ever-expanding image economy. As I will show, the image economy of Pentecostal advertising has played a significant role in the construction of niches of appeal for churches and their leaders. Advertising is a central mediatory institution of modern market economies—it is the means whereby commercial interests create a mass public for their goods. Through this capacity of advertisement to create a mass public, Nigerian Pentecostal churches have asserted themselves, dominated their environment, mediated a modern, corporate, and “successful” character, and recruited new members. This essay examines how roadside Pentecostalism constructs social visibility, sells personalities, goods, and ideas, and, above all, mobilizes the public in support of the new charsimatic churches.

… And, this is not the only one …


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