Sunday 28 June 2020

LagosPhoto20 of 'Rapid Response Restitution'

'Minimal Republics', one of the exhibits at LagosPhoto 2019 described as the artificial nature of borders.PIC: C/O AAF.
The eleventh edition of yearly LagosPhoto Festival themed 'Rapid Response Restitution', is a concept developed by Azu Nwagbogu and Dr. Clémentine Deliss, with Guest Curator, Dr. Oluwatoyin Sogbesan.

Debuted in October, 2010, LagosPhoto Festival, in its 2020 edition, which holds virtually, from October 24-December 19, takes an unusual and participatory approach to current discussions on the return of Africa’s cultural heritage back to the continent, the organisers, African Artistse' Foundation (AAF) stated. Central to this year’s edition is what they called the 'Home Museum', a digital exhibition of inclusive format. Co-created by Nigeria-based professionals and others from the  international community, the exhibition include inputs of participants who are invited to produce what AAF described as "a fast shutter retrieval of their personal and family’s cultural heritage."
br /> Excépts from a Press statement:
"Through high-speed photography, fleeting moments from the past are captured, helping to restore lost memories and demonstrate that the African continent is not trapped within an endless process of waiting for its heirlooms to be returned. On the contrary, the awareness created by Home Museum and the educational platforms set up by LagosPhoto20 will help to stimulate leverage and awareness of the issues around the restitution of cultural heritage in Africa.

 "What is Restitution?
Demands for the returns of iconic cultural artefacts back to African states have been made repeatedly, in particular in the 1970s, not only through UNESCO but in Nigeria through the cultural initiatives of FESTAC, the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. Today, we are witnessing an acceleration and democratisation of these debates.

"Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and historian Bénédicte Savoy speak of the urgent need to enable Africa’s youth to access the knowledge embodied in these cultural artefacts which are still held in European museums. They insist that there should be no “monopoly of control”, but a “radical practice of sharing”. This ecology of restitution can benefit greatly from photographic digitization and Sarr/Savoy speak of the value of a shared portal with free access as well as the unconditional rights to image reproductions. Rather than claim individual state ownership, they emphasise a dialogue between cultures, stressing that today artefacts no longer originate from one place but – like the younger generations – are inherently diasporic. Awareness of the restitution of cultural heritage can help to initiate a new “relational ethics” between past experience and future lives. Here, digital technology and new media play a central role in evoking cultural memories and remediating the pain of history embodied in the collections of African art still held in European museums."

The curatorial contents explained that LagosPhoto believes it is important to begin constructively sensitizing the Nigerian public to the debates on restitution and to do this online through visual thinking and the medium of photography. The format include photographic sequences of diverse and sometimes unrelated objects from different collections past and future are brought into a visual conversation with one another.

The process, AAF said helps to remediate the absence of the original object. Remediation, it was argued, reflects the current COVID-19 conditions within which we live and that require both healing, restoration and transformation.

Part of the contents include Home Museum, a window described as promoting cultural heritage from the home. "Each household harbours its ancestors and cosmogonies. LagosPhoto20 kicks off with an Open Call to citizens of all ages and backgrounds inviting them to engage in the discussion on restitution, and contribute images of artefacts and belongings that represent their personal idea of heritage. Thes  may include traditional objects, personal collections, and cherished possessions, which evoke significant individual and communal histories. Home Museum will be predominantly online in order to ensure a wide and safe circulation of content. Central to its method is inclusive participation. It sees this edition as a potential model for a broader diasporic and pan-African engagement with questions of restitution and repatriation. Collections of historical African art held in museums are hard to access and often difficult to decipher for the outsider. Meanwhile, each artist and each citizen have their own imaginary visual collection built from personal belongings and experiences, including subjective responses to the differing flows of history.

 "All are invited to participate and LagoPhoto20 has drafted the Open Call in Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Pidgin, Swahili, English, French and Russian. Further information can be found on our website at
LagosPhoto20 Exhibitions In addition, LagosPhoto20 will stage extensive exhibitions both on site and online in collaboration with its long-standing institutional partners for example, the Alliance Française (Mike Adenuga Centre). This exhibition, which will feature both historical and contemporary works, seeks to address object photography both past present.

"Photographs of artefacts can include creative still-lifes, scientific and documentary forms of museum imaging with its changing styles of photography, artists’ interpretations of historical artefacts, and new juxtapositions of past objects within the context of Afrofuturism, post-ethnography, and decolonial practices." Media partners for LagosPhoto20  "are to include Beat FM, Nigeria Info, Wazobia, Arise TV and other stations."

LagosPhoto20 Educational Programme will include activating temporary regional Home Museums in collaboration with local venues, programmes with schools in Lagos and the regions, workshops with photographers (both professional and amateur), drama performances illustrating restitution, and educational collaborations with Nigeria’s museums.

Curatorial Team:
Azu Nwagbogu, Dr. Clémentine Deliss - Curatorial Concept and Direction; Dr. Oluwatoyin Sogbesan, Maria Pia Bernardoni -Guest Curators; and Philip Fagbeyiro, Asya Yaghmurian, Feranmi Olukosi - Curatorial Assistants.

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