LagosPhoto Festival is delighted to present the eleventh edition of the annual LagosPhoto Festival. This year it follows the theme of “Rapid Response Restitution”, a concept developed by Azu Nwagbogu and Dr. Clémentine Deliss, with Guest Curator and Nigerian cultural historian Dr. Oluwatoyin Sogbesan.
On 7 November, 17:00 WAT/CET there will be the online launch of the digital “Home Museum”.
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With “Rapid Response Restitution” LagosPhoto20 takes an unusual and participatory approach to current discussions on the return of Africa’s cultural heritage back to the continent. Central to this year’s edition is the “Home Museum”, an inclusive digital exhibition co-created by citizens in Nigeria and internationally who are invited to produce a fast shutter retrieval of their personal and family’s cultural heritage. 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, stressingthat 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
LagosPhoto20: Rapid Response Restitution
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. Here photographic sequences of diverse and sometimes unrelated objects from different collections past and future are brought into a visual conversation with one another. This process helps to remediate the absence of the original object. Remediation reflects the current COVID-19 conditions within which we live and that require both healing, restoration and transformation.
Cultural heritage begins in 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. These 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.
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.
LagosPhoto20 Public Programs
LagosPhoto20 aims to situate itself as a host for discussions that relate to the debates on restitution. Too often these talks are held in situations that are unfamiliar to communities and individuals for whom the topics are particularly relevant. The concept of restitution may have very different connotations depending on where one is located. LagosPhoto2020 will develop a series of online public discussions on different understandings of restitution, unpacking the connotations of the terms, and its reference to reparation as well as to the different types of artefacts it can denote, ranging from material objects to human remains. Digitization, open-source visual libraries, and various methodologies for the active restitution of memories and knowledge from the past will be explored by leading practitioners. Discussions on Rapid Response Restitution will be disseminated through local and international radio and digital television. Media partners are to include Beat FM, Nigeria Info, Wazobia, Arise TV and other stations.
LagosPhoto20 Educational Programme
The 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.
For more information please visit: lagosphotofestival.com