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Talk / Lecture

Curator’s Choice: Provenance Research and Repatriation to African Communities

May 24, 2021 | 11:00AM - 12:15PM

Repatriation, provenance, and collaboration with community partners are among the pressing issues facing museums with collections of African objects. These conversations have entered public discourse through discussions of the objects looted from Benin City in 1897. Yet, questions of African collections extend beyond the Benin case. Each collection has its own specific histories and presents unique challenges for museum professionals. 

Join curators from the Fowler, New Orleans Museum of Art, and University of Michigan Museum of Art for presentations and a panel discussion about current approaches and examples of work happening in museums today. The program will be moderated by Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie.

This program is generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Laura De Becker is the Interim Chief Curator and the Helmut and Candis Stern Curator of African Art at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). A specialist in Central African art, she joined UMMA after a fellowship at Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa. De Becker has been working for many years with a team to reinstall UMMA’s permanent African collection, which will double the footprint of the African gallery and has prompted a separate project grappling with issues of restitution entitled, Wish You Were Here. 

Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba is the Francois Billion Richardson curator of African art at the New Orleans Museum of Art. He received his doctorate in Art History from the University of Florida, Gainesville, and specializes in the visual cultures of shrines, having contributed articles and book chapters on the topic to various publications. He also writes on the museum and the politics of acquisition. 

Carlee S. Forbes is the Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Fowler Museum, where she researches the African objects donated by the Wellcome Trust in 1965. Forbes received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked with the Ackland Art Museum, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. Her research focuses on art produced during the colonial period in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, museum and collecting histories, and issues of provenance. 

Erica P. Jones is Curator of African Arts at the Fowler Museum. She received her Ph.D. in Art History from UCLA. Since joining the Fowler Museum in 2015, Jones has organized several exhibitions. In 2018, she curated a solo exhibition of Botswana-born painter Meleko Mokgosi, Bread, Butter, and Power, and authored the accompanying publication. Her 2019 exhibition, On Display in the Walled City: Nigeria at the British Empire Exhibition, 1924–1925, directly relates to the research conducted by the Fowler’s Mellon team. 

Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie is Professor of African and African Diaspora Arts in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara. His research focuses on modern and contemporary African art, cultural informatics, and the arts and cultural patrimony of Africa and the African diaspora in the age of globalization. He is the author of Ben Enwonwu: The Making of An African Modernist (2008), Making History: African Collectors and the Canon of African Art (2011), and founder-editor of Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture

Curator’s Choice
Join curators for lively conversations about their passions and projects that inspire audiences to engage with different worldviews and find joy in the diversity of human experiences.

Image credit: From left to right:
Artist unidentified (Sherbro-Bullom peoples, Sierra Leone), Mask for Sowei Society, before 1925; Fowler Museum, X65.4778; Gift of the Wellcome Trust.
Salampasu artist (Democratic Republic of Congo), Kasangu mask, 19th century; wood, paint, rattan, feathers; 37 x 16 1/2 x 19 in (93.98 x 41.91 x 48.26 cm); New Orleans Museum of Art purchase, 82.93
Artist unrecorded (Yombe group, Kongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo or Angola), Scepter, late 18th century; ivory. Former collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Art



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