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Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Golden necklace with red beads.

Join us in the 4th Devolving Restitution session, addressing provenances and restitution of African collections at MAA Cambridge.

Wednesday 23 February 2022
10am - 3pm
Tickets free. 
Online event

Click here to register for this one-day event

In this session, the fourth in the series sponsored by the Pitt Rivers & the Open Society Foundation, and hosted by AFFORD, we will be opening up the collections we care for from across Africa, exploring possibilities for repositioning, re-presentation and return.

 ì Opitiri. Asante chief’s gold ring in the shape of a mudfish or catfish. Purchased from a goldsmith in Kumasi, Ghana. It is made using the lost wax casting process. Purchased by Mr Arthur Spooner, donated by the Spooner Family. MAA 2015.288.

As MAA works towards the permanent return of artefacts to countries from which they were taken, our attention is on how the African collections in Cambridge came to be here, how they have been treated and understood since, and how a different future can be realised. In collaboration with the Cambridge African & Caribbean Society, the session draws on work currently being done in the fields of collections care, archival research, and restitution projects, that are collectively striving towards greater access to, and transparency relating to, artefacts from Africa, and helping to make processes of restitution possible. 

Our theme Objects of Sovereignty is a jumping off point from which to examine and challenge narratives of prior use, ownership and acquisition that are recorded – or hidden – in museum documentation. It speaks to the authority and status of objects, of owners and of the forms of evidence and knowledge available to us in reconstructing histories of objects and collections. 


We will hear from colleagues working on provenances and collection histories of artefacts from West and East Africa, and integrating this work into their processes and the stories we tell about objects, from Britain’s so-called ‘small wars’ in West Africa to punitive expeditions, armed conflicts and expansion of colonial and missionary authority in East Africa. 

Programme includes:

  • 10:00 - 10:30 - Introductions
  • 10:30 - 11:10 - Session 1: Researching and Curating African Collections at MAA
    Join colleagues from MAA and beyond as they explore and introduce the African collections cared for by the Museum
  • 11:10 - 12:30 - Session 2: Shifting the Focus - Objects, Belongings, Memories
    Led by students from the Cambridge African & Carribean Society (Cambridge ACS)
  • 12:30 - 13:30 - Lunch Break
  • 13:30 - 14:00 - Session 3: Repositioning the Uganda Museum
    Nelson Abiti (Uganda Museum) in conversation with Mark Elliott (MAA)
  • 14:00 - 14:45 - Session 4: Student-led panel: Challenging Curatorial Practice
  • 14:50 - 15:00 - Closing: Poetic Minutes
    Nick Makoha (Poet in the City)


 Royal Baganda drum from Uganda. It is decorated with cowries and triangular designs in red and black glass beads. Around the top is a beaded band with four beaded vertical projections, terminating in hair tufts. 540.0mm. Collected and donated by Reverend John Roscoe. MAA ROS 1920.316.

Book your free tickets to this one-day session

Top image: Gold necklace looted from the treasure house of the Asantehene in Kumasi, Ghana and purchased at a Prize Sale of looted artefacts in London. It is made of thirteen gold pendants of conical lutinella shells, twenty-five v-shaped gold beads and sixty ornate gold discs, strung on a length of red cotton. 18cm x 19 cm. Purchased by Miss Mabel Taylor, donated by Mrs Helen Taylor. MAA 1918.83.

Wednesday, 23 February, 2022 - 10:00 to 15:00
Event location: 
Online event

Two million years of human history. One million artefacts. Countless astonishing stories.