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Black History Month: A diorama of dispossession - Colonial injustice told through three cultural objects

Posted on 4 November 2020

"These objects were not a random, accidental side effect of Empire. Their display… was a central part of an infrastructure to naturalise, celebrate and endure violence and the removal of sovereignty."

In the final, pre-recorded event as part of Mishcon de Reya's Black History Month programme, Art Law Partner Amanda Gray chaired a panel comprised of Dr. Errol Francis (CEO Culture&), Eyob Derillo (curator, British Library) and Professor Dan Hicks (University of Oxford and curator, Pitt Rivers Museum).

They explored the complex interplay of issues that arise when considering the restitution of African cultural heritage through a discussion of the provenance of three African cultural artefacts currently housed in British museums and other institutions.

The session also looks at artefacts including, the Maqdala manuscripts from Ethiopia in the British Library and the Benin Bronzes in the British Museum.

About Mishcon de Reya's Black History Month programme:

The programme, entitled "Colonial Amnesia: A Legal and Historical Review of the Afterlife of Britain's Rule in Africa", takes a critical look at the history and legacy of over two centuries of Britain's colonial rule in Africa. It explores alternative perspectives to the celebration of the British imperial age that our building, Africa House, represents. 

We are proud to welcome a range of impressive speakers and experts to help us embark on a process of recovering lost memories of a frequently overlooked and misunderstood period, in doing so we hope to tap into a vibrant and dynamic intellectual space where history, law, race and culture combine to produce fresh ideas to challenge the toxic legacy of colonial injustice.

Research references:

Mary Roberts (2018) The Resistant Materiality of Frederic Leighton's Arab Hall. British Art Studies, Issue 9. Paul Mellon Centre.

David Brett (2005) Rethinking Decoration: Pleasure and Ideology in the Visual Arts. Cambridge University Press.

Visit the Mishcon Academy for more learning, events, videos, podcasts and reports.

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