African  Museums/Galleries and Contemporary Art

Okeke-Agulu: Clive, one can only wish Tiffany Jenkins good luck in her desire for a return of museums to the time when no one had the voice to question the their narrow-minded, and culturally and insensitive foundational missions, long before the necessary discursive insurgencies of postcolonial critique of the unreflexive universal museum’s imperial assumptions. My suspicion though is that the old days are really gone and museums will and must have to deal with the fact that they are by their nature a space for forms of political practice through art and expressive cultures.

But let me return to Chris’s last comment, which in a way reminds us that one of the important aspects recent international museum relations has been cooperation between “First” and “Developing/Third World” museums in anything ranging from co-organizing traveling exhibitions, to program and institutional development. But in relations to Africa these engagements often occur among ethnographic/ethnological museums. One can here think of the Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria exhibition of the Nigerian Museum’s collection currently traveling in Europe and the United States, or the Valleys of the Niger co-organized by ethnological museums from five West African countries in collaborations with their counterparts in France and the Netherlands in the 1990s. But such projects between African and Western modern/contemporary art museums/galleries are virtually non-existent, and I wonder if this is a statement about international/Western perception of the quality of African collections—that is, where they exist—and their relevance to the discourse of modern/contemporary art? Or, might there be some other reasons for this?

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