Decolonizing The Narrative

The first in a series of 3 documentaries, DECOLONIZING THE NARRATIVE: Africa Galleries From Maker to Museum is a 33 minute exploration of the debates about Museums, Reparations; Restitution; and Race (with sub-titles in English, Spanish, and Portuguese).

My redesign of the Penn Museum Africa galleries is part of a project to engage in critically creative intervention in the way Africa objects have been exhibited. Essential objective in this redesign and various video productions seek to connect African stolen material culture with the African Diaspora resulting from the great European and Arab trades in enslaved African bodies. The way to de-fetishize African material culture in the West is to make this connection. It is not enough to simply discuss restitution without making this connection.

The 850 million visitors to American museums need a better representation of Black Culture. The first installment of Decolonizing the Narrative focuses on my redesigned of the Penn Museum Africa Galleries — “From the Maker to Museum”. We do so in conversation with African Museum Directors, curators, and contemporary artist in the Diaspora and Africa. In this series we will trace, the histories created by African classical culture (i.e. Benin cultural artifacts) and African Diaspora culture in the United States, Latin America and Europe. Current debates about reparations and restitution, have led to a political conversation about the return of artifacts to Africa, and resulted in the realization of national museums in the United States and Brazil. This documentary is part one of a three part series on Decolonizing the Narrative.

Decolonizing the Narrative is a documentary reflection on African artistry and design, and the debate about decolonizing the exhibition of African material culture in Western museums. With Penn Museum as our experimental case, we tell a story of how the objects arrived at the museum, and why viewers are invited to consider these objects in a new context. We turn the exhibition back onto the Penn Museum itself. In Decolonizing the Narrative, Tukufu Zuberi, the lead curator, takes us on a journey with museum directors and curators from African institutions, and contemporary artists in Africa and the African Diaspora as they respond to the exhibiting of African material culture in western museums. The redesign of the new Penn Museum Galleries is a practical response to this intellectual debate on race, culture and the future.