President implores West to return African artefacts

Staff Reporter

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has implored the West to urgently return Africa’s cultural heritage as they are symbols of the continent’s heritage and identity.

Speaking at the official opening of the International Conference on African Cultures yesterday, President Mnangagwa said the urgent repatriation of expropriated archives and human remains was the Zimbabwe’s unequivocal demand.

“On its part, Zimbabwe stands ready to receive its cultural heritage estranged to the West. The urgent repatriation of expropriated archives, museum objects and human remains, is our unequivocal demand. These include national artefacts and materials which relate to our heroes such as Chief Chinengundu Mashayamombe, Chief Chingaira Makoni and Chief Chiwashira, among others. These are sacred and feed into our broader national collective heritage,” said President Mnangagwa.

President Mnangagwa said that the people’s heritage should be freed from the hostage of Western museums, public spaces and private institutions. He added that cultural rights were human and people’s rights too and Africa should reunite with that which belongs to her.

The President added that the concerned museums and institutions in the West should facilitate and cooperate with Africa in the on-going repatriation and restitution efforts. He further challenged the academia, heritage experts and professional institutions across Africa to resolutely pursue ‘Chimurenga Chepfungwa’ / ‘the liberation of the mind’ informed by strong African cultural belief systems and identity.

President Mnangagwa added that traditional leaders should be wary of some civic society organisations that are bent on capturing Africa’s traditional systems to enable perpetual pilferage of the continent’s rich heritage, while curtailing the economic growth prospects of the local communities.

The President implored conference delegates to continue to unapologetically speak about and amplify the ideals and ideologies of the continent’s founding fathers. He said that it would propel the restoration and preservation of Africa’s rich heritage as well as advance the modernisation, industrialisation and prosperity of the continent.

The conference, running under the theme, “Africa Speaks: Confronting Restitution and Repatriation of Artefacts, Human Remains, Objects and Archives from an African Perspective”, was meant to showcase African culture and rally the continent  on the demand of repatriation of colonial artefacts so as to restore Africa’s integrity.