In recent years, following social justice movements, the question of the place of stolen African art in European museums has become increasingly urgent. In France, a reassessment of French universalism has brought the question of restitution to a possible turning point: Macron’s headline-making 2017 declaration that France must recognize its colonial past was followed by an equally landmark report on the restitution of stolen African art, written by art historians Bénédicte Savoy and Felewine Sarr. In conversation with journalist Rachel Donadio, Sarr will discuss the monumental report and its consequences. What were the consequences of its publication? Were Macron’s words just empty speech? What happens now? From the Smithsonian to the Louvre, Sarr will explain how substantial change, from the contents of permanent collections to the ways we define art, is coming for major cultural institutions.
About the speakers:
Felwine Sarr is a Senegalese writer and academic. He is Anne-Marie Bryan Distinguished Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University in North Carolina, after having taught at University Gaston Berger at Saint-Louis in Senegal, where he is adjunct professor of Economics. In 2018, the French president commissioned him to write a report, with the art historian Benedicte Savoy, on the restitution of African heritage present in French museums. He has authored thirteen works and is the co-publisher with his publishing house Jimsaan of the Prix Goncourt 2021, La plus secrète mémoire des hommes by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr.
Rachel Donadio is a Paris-based writer and journalist, a contributing writer for the Atlantic, and a former Rome Bureau Chief and European Culture correspondent for the New York Times. She regularly publishes textured profiles and features at the intersection of culture and politics, as well as literary criticism. Since 2022 she has been the administrator of the American Library in Paris annual Book Award.
Important information: The discussion will be available both online and in person. While the conversation will happen in person (Sarr and Donadio will appear in the Reading Room), the Library will stream the conversation on Zoom for a live viewing experience. Both in-person and online attendees will be able to pose questions.
This event requires advance registration.
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