Documentary film: “Decolonising the Curatorial Process” (Duration: c. 40 minutes).
Orson Nava’s documentary film “Decolonising the Curatorial Process” features conference footage and recordings of individual interviews with a range of contributors who examine ways that decolonial activists, museologists, political scientists, historians and other scholar-activists from South Africa, Kenya and the UK are working with radical museum curators to challenge Eurocentric approaches to the study of history.
These important museum-based consultations, research narratives and conference discussions also foreground the lived experiences (and collective memories) of communities from the global South who have been severely impacted by the racialised violence, cultural conflicts and legacies of the colonial past. Consequently, issues of restitution and legislative activism (involving legal requests for the rightful return – or “repatriation” – of stolen artworks and heritage artefacts back to their countries and communities of origin) are a significant aspect of the decolonial de-accessioning process.
Two of the key case study institutions featured in the film include:
- Museum of London in Docklands, West India Quay – where scholars such as Dr Melisa Bennett (Museum of London staff) and Dr Kirsty Warren (University of Leicester, UK) reflect on the recent consultation strategies and knowledge production approaches undertaken in 2018 to revise and update displays about enslavement, resistance and emancipation featured in the “London, Sugar and Slavery” galleries.
- Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford – where Maasai scholar-activists and rights campaigners from Kenya – Scholastica Ene Kukutia, Kuweya Timan Mollel, Yannick Ndoinyo, Samuel Nangira and Francis Shomet Ole – worked with curators to reinterpret and revise the catalogue descriptions and display labels for colonially sourced holdings within the Maasai artefact collections. A key aspect of this curatorial co-production of knowledge involved acknowledging the sacred and spiritual contexts to handling cultural objects.
When discussing ancestral objects taken from Maasai communities during the colonial era, women’s rights activist Scholastica Ene Kukutia said:
“Maasai culture is a living culture. When a person dies, the item is still alive.”Quotation from Scholastica Ene Kukutia
Further information and web links:
Nava, Orson (2019) “Decolonising the Curatorial Process.” Link to view the full documentary film, via Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/464558806
Related blog posts:
Dixon, Carol Ann (2020) Call for Papers (CfP): “Museums as Spaces for Anti-Racism” – SIEF 2021 International Congress: Breaking the Rules? Power, Participation, Transgression. Closing date for abstracts = November 26th, 2020. https://www.siefhome.org/congresses/sief2021/panels#9657
Dixon, Carol Ann (2020) “Decolonial Campaigns and Activism in Museums.” Blog post, published via Decolonial Dialogues on March 8th, 2020.
Dixon, Carol Ann (2017) “Decolonising and Diversifying Institutions: Creating Inclusive Spaces where Difference is Respected.” Blog post, published via Museum Geographies, September 2nd, 2017.