“The West is wrestling with its colonial heritage in the most literal sense: its museums teem with treasure taken on conquests abroad. Crowns and swords, books and bones. The breadth of culture ripped from its home is hard to comprehend, as is the sheer scale of it: ninety percent of Africa’s art is held on other continents.
Imagine the Liberty Bell gone, Versailles stripped of its Hall of Mirrors, the Roman Forum empty of columns and stones. To see them, you would have to travel across seas, deserts, mountains; apply for visas and buy a ticket for a glance at your people’s history behind glass. Spread that theft to Asia, the Americas, and even other corners of Europe. The scope is unimaginable, as are the emotional scars left by the absence of national treasures.
“This is not just about the return of African art,” Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III of Cameroon explains. “When someone’s stolen your soul, it’s very difficult to survive as a people.”Alexandra Haven, “Who Decides History’s Future?“
Story Editor Betsy Cornwell shares excerpts from Parabola‘s current issue, “Mercy and Forgiveness,” including Alexandra Haven’s incisive essay on museum ethics and colonialism “Who Decides History’s Future?” and the deeply humane, compassionate, and feminist Scandinavian fairy tale “The Woman Without a Shadow.”
The Parabola Podcast is a free, monthly twenty-minute exploration of excerpts from a current or archived issue of Parabola spanning the magazine’s entire forty-year history.