每日英語跟讀 Ep.829: Are African Artifacts Safer in Europe?
Is Africa’s cultural heritage better off in Europe or in Africa?
That is the question at the heart of a yearslong debate that has gripped museums in Europe, where many officials say they support the idea of repatriating artifacts, but worry that African museums cannot compare to state-of-the-art facilities in Britain, France or Germany.
That debate has been given new life in recent months after an investigation by the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper found that many of the artifacts that will be on display in the Humboldt Forum, a huge new museum under construction in a rebuilt Berlin palace, had for years been stored in less-than-ideal conditions. The report featured searing depictions of flooded storage rooms and depots choked with toxic dust.
The Humboldt Forum will bring together the collections of several existing museums in the city under one roof, but reports in German news media have focused on the storage facilities of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, which will be the Forum’s largest single contributor.
Officials at the museum, which closed to the public in 2017 to prepare for the move to its new home, have responded with what observers call an unusual degree of openness.
They have denied some of the reports, in particular the claim of flooded storerooms, but said their depots were beset with problems common to museums across Germany. Those included outdated facilities, a lack of staff members, and a sense of disarray that dates to moments of crisis in German history.
Despite all that, they steadfastly rejected that those conditions might call into question their stewardship of the artifacts, many of which were collected during the era of European imperialism.
Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese art collector who runs a foundation that has organized the return of artifacts to Congo and Angola, said it was true that “a whole generation” of museum professionals, like curators and conservationists, needed to be trained “in most of the African countries.” But while that new generation was being trained, he said, it is European museums’ responsibility to make sure African audiences had access to the artifacts in their possession.
It is up to them to create the conditions that would let African artifacts "play their role where they need to be right now, in Africa," he added.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/345221/web/