[On repatriation of artifacts seized as war booty by colonial powers]

“The V&A’s position seems to be that we have these items with a complicated history, and we have a responsibility to display them, and to teach you this history.

There’s an implied generosity, an implied benevolence behind those words, but actually what they are saying is we’re not going to give this back.

When I’m looking at this as an Ethiopian, as someone who cares very deeply about the significance of art objects, of artefacts and the history that they contain – as well as the religious importance for people – what I’m hearing is a very nicely worded no.

I think it’s the responsibility of all those who care about the erasures that continue to happen in history and historical memory, to fight back against that no; no matter how well coded it is in gentle language.

We have to consider this an ongoing erasure of historical memory. We have to ask what the role of a museum is if it is also taking part in this erasure of memory, and of a people’s history.”


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