Why local engagement is key in repatriating cultural artifacts

Community-based initiatives in culture and heritage help break down colonial power structures at home and abroad, say Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown and Sylvia Batty.

The Smithsonian Museum of African Art recently announced its intent to repatriate Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. Similar news stories of returning “stolen” or “removed” items of historical and cultural value are becoming more common.

Stories covering repatriation of belongings by colonial institutions back to their communities of origin tend to go two ways. They contemplate the opinions surrounding and the legal frameworks involved in returning such belongings. Or they challenge our perceptions of colonial institutions like museums.

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