The Open Society Foundations has announced the launch of a four-year, $15 million initiative aimed at returning cultural objects looted from the African continent.
The initiative will support networks and organizations working to return not only art and ceremonial objects but also human remains, natural history specimens, archives, and cultural heritage artifacts to their rightful homes. To that end, OSF will partner with museums, governments, artists, academics, and civil society to support research and initiatives focused on the restitution of African cultural heritage, including recommendations from economist and Open Society Initiative for West Africa chair Felwine Sarr and art historian Bénédicte Savoy for the full restitution of works in French museum collections that were plundered from former African colonies.
"With so much of Africa's precolonial cultural legacy housed in European museums, these artifacts are out of reach for millions on the African continent, who have a right to their own knowledge and cultural production," said OSF director of culture and art Rashida Bumbray. "Restitution is not only about rightsizing the past, but about access to one's own heritage and a necessity to maintain this connection for future generations."
"The legacy of colonial violence has deep implications for the ways that racism and imbalances of power are perpetuated today," said OSF president Patrick Gaspard. "This isn't just about returning pieces of art but about restoring the very essence of these cultures. We are proud to support this movement towards reconciling historical wrongs, as part of our mission to advance true justice."