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Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology


[Re:]Entanglements: Colonial collections in decolonial times

22 June 2021 – 20 April 2022

Li Ka Shing Gallery


An astonishing collection of African artwork collected during Britain's first anthropological surveys of early 20th-Century West Africa is on display for the very first time at MAA. The exhibition also features photographic portraits, archival materials, and contemporary artistic responses from Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

In this politically and emotionally charged exhibition, the curators pose difficult questions about the nature of colonialism at the time and its legacies today.

Click here to book your free tickets to the museum, which includes entry to the exhibition

The [Re:]Entanglements project

[Re:]Entanglements: Colonial collections in decolonial times is the culmination of the AHRC-funded Museum Affordances project led by Professor Paul Basu at SOAS University of London alongside Dr George Agbo of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and involving multiple partnerships in West Africa, the UK and beyond.  The project seeks to re-engage with the ethnographic archive assembled by the University of Cambridge-educated colonial anthropologist, Northcote Whitridge Thomas (1868-1936) in Southern Nigeria and Sierra Leone between 1909 and 1915.

The 'Thomas Collection' includes masks, drums, carved wooden figures and staffs, pottery, textiles, charms, dolls, photographs, sound recordings, botanical specimens, published work and field notes.

Click here to explore the project



Explore more


Get an insight into the [Re:]Entanglements exhibition, and hear what visitors have to say about it.

Watch a time-lapse of the reconstruction of an Akh'Olokun (Olokun pot), purchased by Northcote Thomas at a market in Benin City in 1909 and unfortunately broken, possibly in transit back to Britain.


African Object Lessons podcast

Hosted by Benjamina Efua Dadzie (MAA) and Chris Wingfield (Sainsbury Research Unit), this podcast asks: what lessons do African objects have for us in the twenty first century? What can we learn from them about Africa's long relationship with Europe? What can they teach us about being and becoming human? 

Explore all the episodes at the link above, or hear from the curator and exhibition designer of [Re:]Entanglements:

Episode 2: Paul Basu on [Re:]Entanglements

Episode 5: Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman on exhibition design

In the press

Apollo Magazine July 2021 - 'What should happen to colonial collections that weren't looted?'


University of Cambridge June 2021 - 'Colonial Encounters'


Tuesday, 22 June, 2021 - 10:00 to Sunday, 17 April, 2022 - 16:30
Event location: 
Li Ka Shing Gallery

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