International Conference Provenance Research on Collections from Colonial Contexts. Principles, Approaches, Challenges

Von Montag, 21.06.2021 bis Mittwoch, 23.06.2021

The last decade has witnessed a growing debate about the handling and restitution of collections from colonial contexts in European museums. Numerous research projects and publications have outlined the dynamic field of postcolonial provenance research, in which the international conference held by the PAESE joint project is located.

The conference is inspired by research conducted in the PAESE sub-projects, and its focus will be on principles, challenges and approaches of provenance research on objects from colonial contexts. What is postcolonial provenance research? What moral and ethical principles (should) guide us in our work? Which methodological approaches can be profitably used for this kind of work? How can historical, ethnological and regional studies as well as legal and other approaches be reconciled? How can we take account of the polyphony of historical sources, both from the so-called societies of origin and from European perspectives? What challenges arise in a multidisciplinary approach or in a dialogue with representatives of the so-called countries of origin? How can cooperative provenance research be arranged? What norms, procedures and negotiation processes are used to assess the legal status of colonial collections? How can hard and soft law be further developed in the field of tension between law and intercultural justice? What principles do we wish to establish both for future cooperative work with the objects and for their future handling? And what challenges are involved in dealing with the collections in the future?

The PAESE project is a network of six collections and nine sub-projects that have been jointly conducting basic research on the origins and acquisition paths of ethnological collections in Lower Saxony at museums and universities since 2018. The focus is on networking and cooperation with representatives of the so-called societies of origin in Namibia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Australia as well as on creating transparency and opening a dialogue about the objects and their future handling.

The conference will be held online. There will be no recording of the event. If you would like to attend, please register under with your name, institution and email address to receive further information. Participation is free of charge.

Monday, 21 June 2021

10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (CET)
Welcome Panel
Björn Thümler, Minister for Science and Culture Lower Saxony
Katja Lembke, Spokeswomen PAESE Joint Project
Adelheid Wessler, Head of Team Societal Transformations, Volkswagen Foundation
Volker Epping, President of the Leibniz University Hannover

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (CET)
Michael Mel

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. (CET)
Lunch Break

1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (CET)
Dialogues between Theory and Practice. Theoretical Approaches and Case Studies of Postcolonial
Provenance Research
Chair: Brigitte Reinwald
Bianca Bauman: What is it all about? Attempts to Interpret the Biography of a Portrait Figure from the West Region of Cameroon
Drossilia Dikegue Igouwe: The Question of the Emic and Etic Categorisation of Fang Objects
Sara Müller: Finding Shards and Pieces – Traces of the Sepik-Expedition in Institutions of the Global North
Comments: Oswald Masebo & Alexis Th. von Poser

3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. (CET)
Coffee Break

3:15 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. (CET)
Collecting Strategies and Collectors‘ Networks in European Colonies
Chair: Jennifer Tadge
Nzodo Awono: Colonial Collecting Strategies
Jamie Dau: On Provenance Research within Hamburg’s Colonial World Trade Networks
Olaf Geerken: Museums, Missionaries and Middlemen. German Ethnographic Museums and their Lutheran Missionary Collectors in Central Australia – 1890s to 1914
Sabine Lang: The World in Showcases. The Collectors’ Networks of the Roemer-Museum Hildesheim and the Growth of the Ethnographic Collection, 1844–1914

Tuesday, 22 June

9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (CET)
Managing, Using and Researching Objects in Collections
Chair: Hannah Stieglitz
Tommy Buga: Insides into Museum Practices at the National Museum and Art Gallery PNG
Martin Nadarzinski: Lost Objects, Missing Documentation. Challenges of Provenance Research in the Ethnographic Collection of the German Institute of Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture, Witzenhausen
Paule-Clisthène Dassi Koudjou: Conservation of African Cultural Heritage. A Comparative Study between Europe and Africa: The Case of Cameroon and Germany
Katharina Nowak: Colonial Entanglement, ‘South Sea’ Imaginations and Knowledge Production

11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. (CET)
Coffee Break

11:15 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. (CET)
Transdisciplinary Provenance Research on Objects from Colonial Contexts
Chair: Sabine Lang
Abiti Nelson: tba
Katja Kaiser: The Coloniality of Natural History Collections
Jennifer Tadge: Same Provenances in Different Disciplines. Impulses for a Transdisciplinary Approach

Miranda Lowe: tba

12:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (CET)
Lunch Break

2:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. (CET)
Cases of Restitution
Chair: Larissa Förster
Rainer Hatoum: Towards Restitution and Beyond – Reflections on a Multi-layered Dialogue Regarding the Cartridge Belt of Kahimemua at the Brunswick Municipal Museum
Werner Hillebrecht & Freddy Nguvauva: Kahimemua Nguvauva, his Belt and the Colonial War of 1896
Nzila M. Libanda-Mubusisi & Claudia Andratschke: Recent Cases of Restitution to Namibia – from two Perspectives
Sylvie Njobati: A People’s Identity in Captive – The Continuous Ruins of German Colonial Rule in Present Day on the Nso People

3:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (CET)
Coffee Break

4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (CET)
Cooperation Projects on Cameroonian Collections. Experiences and Perspectives
Chair: Thomas Laely
Rachel Mariembe & Isabella Bozsa: Re-engaging with an Ethnographic Collection from Colonial Cameroon through Collaborative Provenance Research
Silvia Forni & Hervé Youmbi: Serendipitous Intersections and Long Term-Dialogue. Art Making and Research as Collaborative Exchanges
Joseph Ebune & Ngome Elvis Nkome & Karin Guggeis: tba

Wednesday, 23 June

9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (CET)
Hidden Objects – Sensitive and Restricted Objects in Museum Collections. Issues Surrounding their Storage, Access, Consultations, and Potential Repatriation
Chair: Mareike Späth
Michael Pickering: First Principles
Ian Johnson & Shaun Angelis: tba
Ngitir Victor Bayena: Exhibiting Grassfields Restricted Objects in Museums. Ruptures, Dilemmas and Challenges of Restitution

11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. (CET)
Coffee Break

11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. (CET)
Law versus Justice? An Intercultural Approach to the Problem of European Collections of Colonial Provenance
Chair: Christoph-Eric Mecke
Chief Charles A. Taku: The Legal and Moral Conscience of Justice in the European Collection of Colonial Provenance. The Bangwa Quest for Restitution and Reparations
Evelien Campfens: Whose Cultural Objects? A Human Rights Law Approach to Claims
Naazima Kamardeen: The Shifting Goalpost. A Colonial Perspective on Cultural Property
Matthias Goldmann: Imperial Law’s Ambiguity

12:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (CET)
Lunch Break

2:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. (CET)
Closing Session
Chair: Richard Tsogang Fossi
Flower Manase (National Museum Tanzania)
Nzila M. Libanda-Mubusisi (National Museum of Namibia, Windhoek)
Albert Gouaffo (University Dschang)
Tommy Buga (Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery, Port Moresby)
N.N. (Australia)