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Africans challenged to take pride in own history, culture

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BY TENDAI SAUTA
TANZANIAN archaeologist and educationalist Nancy Rushohora has challenged African governments to support curators, historians and communities in the repatriation of artefacts, human remains, objects and archives from an African perspective.

Rushohora made the remarks on Tuesday at the opening of the hybrid International Conference of African Cultures (ICAC) 2021 at the Theatre in the Park in Harare.

The conference ran concurrently with an exhibition on some objects and artefacts that need repatriation.

In her presentation titled The Africa We Want, How Do We Get There, Rushohora suggested that while repatriation and restitution debates were taking place all over the world, it was better to start the conversations from Africa.

“The truth about African history needs respect for human dignity and observance of human rights.

“Tanzania is in the process of repatriating stone artefacts, human remains of Chief Hassam Omari Makunganya from Berlin Museums,” she said.

Speaking at the same event, Mukwae Wabei Siyolwe from Zambia, who dedicated her presentation to the Barotsi people in Zambia through a ritual, said Africans should be more fluent in communicating in their own languages and telling their own stories.

“African is operating on a time’s up agenda in terms of being capable of telling its own story and, therefore, there is need to believe in the true ubuntu spirit and revitalisation of spiritual connections for the purpose of invoking the power to make it happen,” Siyolwe said.

“The Barotsi symbolism was destroyed back in 1964 and efforts to retrace and rebuild history can only be made through repatriation and telling our own story.

“Names are binding and the change from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe brought a lot of changes and restoration to identity in its own right.”

Bernard Kusena from University of Zimbabwe’s department of history, who chaired the first discussion said the conference was a step in the right direction.

“Establishment of schools of cultural heritage and history at University of Zimbabwe, Great Zimbabwe and Barotsa in Zambia are milestones in archiving and continuity in repatriation and restitution,” he said.

A senior curator of Ethnography with the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe Farai Chabata said many heroines were hanged and their remains were yet to be retrieved.

“The Africa we want is not going to just happen. The Africa we desire is one that tells the truth about ills like victimhood, colonialism, racism and so on,” he said.

National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) executive director Raphel Chikukwa in his opening remarks said the ICAC owed its success to an initiative by the gallery’s founder Frank Mac Ewen in 1962.

Chikukwa encouraged Africans to take part in the reconstruction and telling of their own history as he refuted the perception that museums are a Western concept.

“We cannot remain passengers of our own history, museums are African concepts as exemplified by Natale, Mapungubwe and the Zimbabwe Ruins.

“Their purpose was to curate history and preserve important artefacts,” he said.

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