Press Release, 11/26/2019

Can there be any restitution of lost meaning?
Achille Mbembe on African objects in western museums

The lecture given by the political scientist on the occasion of his receipt of the Gerda Henkel Prize has now come out

“Africa will have paid the world a heavy tribute, and it is far from being over.” (Achille Mbembe)

Achille Mbembe is quite simply considered one of the leading representatives of post-colonial theory. Last year the political scientist was honoured with the Gerda Henkel Prize in recognition of his research work. As part of the awards ceremony he gave a lecture “On African objects in western museums.” The exhaustive version of his lecture is now available in English and in German.

Achille Mbembe investigates the question of what the West intends with its offer to return the art objects to their countries of origin in Africa. He calls for a capacity for truth in the policies on restitution. For him, this also means that any restitution that does not simultaneously involve recognition of the damage done and the injustice perpetrated is not an option. Instead, a real and comprehensive debate is required. "The risk is that by failing to give an account of itself while restituting our objects, it concludes that, with the restitution complete, our right to remind it of the truth is removed. But for new ties to be woven, it must honour the truth.”

The speech in honour of Prof. Mbembe was given by State Minister for International Cultural Policy in the German Federal Foreign Office, Michelle Müntefering. Other articles include an interview with Achille Mbembe conducted by Berlin-based African historian Prof. Dr. Andreas Eckert and the Welcoming Address by the German Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek.

Achille Mbembe
Of African Objects in Western Museums
Über afrikanische Objekte in westlichen Museen
Verleihung des Gerda Henkel Preises 2018
Award of the Gerda Henkel Prize 2018
Gerda Henkel Lecture
Published by Gerda Henkel Foundation
2019, 116 pages, 6 articles, 15 illustrations
All articles in English and in German,
Soft-cover/stitched binding, EUR 14.20
Rhema-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-86887-047-3

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Dr. h.c. Achille Mbembe ist Research Professor for History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) der Witwatersrand-University, Johannesburg (South Africa).

We will gladly send you a review copy.

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