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The Africa Institute Receives Grant for African Cultural Heritage Program

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The Africa Institute at Global Studies University (GSU) in Sharjah, UAE, has received a substantial multi-year grant of $180,000 from the Open Society Foundations. This generous support will fund a new fellowship program until September 2026, aimed at addressing the complex and ongoing debate surrounding African cultural heritage and repatriation.

Salah M. Hassan, panel hosted by The Africa Institute, 2022. (Image courtesy: The Africa Institute.)
Salah M. Hassan, panel hosted by The Africa Institute, 2022. (Image courtesy: The Africa Institute.)

Expressing gratitude for the grant, Hoor Al Qasimi, President of The Africa Institute (GSU), stated, “We are incredibly thankful for the generous support of the Open Society Foundations. This grant will enable us to launch a vital fellowship program that brings together scholars and practitioners to explore complex issues surrounding cultural restitution and reparation, specifically related to African art and artifacts.”

The debate over restitution and repatriation of artifacts looted during colonial occupation has been ongoing since the 1970s, with limited progress. According to Professor Salah M. Hassan, Director of The Africa Institute, “The Fellowship will help enhance and refocus the debate on restitution and repatriation, which seems to have stalled despite limited progress in repatriation gestures by several Western-based museums. It will move the discourse beyond appeals by political groups into critically grounded scholarship and public engagement.”

Currently, a wealth of art and artifacts pillaged by European and North American colonial regimes remain in the possession of Western museums and other collectors, who argue their roles as custodians using claims such as lack of specific provenance, insufficient display spaces, and inadequate storage conditions. This refusal to return such artifacts to their Global South origins persists despite international debates and advocacy for repatriation.

In response to this, the annual fellowship program, themed “Restitution and Reparation: Africa and the Post-Colonial Condition,” will convene scholars and practitioners interested in restitution and repatriation issues related to African art and artifacts. By fostering dialogue and research, the program aims to shed light on this critical issue and contribute to meaningful progress in returning looted artifacts to their rightful homes in Africa.

This fellowship program aligns with The Africa Institute’s broader mission to foster critical thinking and dialogue around African and African diaspora studies. By bringing together diverse voices and perspectives, the program promises to advance crucial conversations about cultural heritage, historical accountability, and the path toward a more just future.

Moreover, in addition to the Open Society Grant fellowship, The Africa Institute’s Research Fellowships Program offers opportunities for established and emerging scholars to engage in research on Africa and its diaspora. The program includes senior fellowships named after literary icon Toni Morrison and renowned scholar Ali A. Mazrui, honoring their significant contributions to understanding Africa’s global connections.

Furthermore, the program features postdoctoral fellowships dedicated to the memory of scholar, curator, and art critic Okwui Enwezor and world-renowned Moroccan scholar Fatema Mernissi. These fellowships support emerging researchers exploring diverse aspects of African and African diaspora cultures, enriching the depth and diversity of intellectual inquiry.

The first cohort of fellows will join in September 2024, with the open call for applications beginning in June 2024. For more information, visit the Fellowship pages on The Africa Institute’s website to stay updated on this exciting initiative.


Derrick Chidumebi is a creative writer and growth marketer hailing from Lagos, Nigeria. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Chemistry from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria, and is the founder of The Eko Place, a media/marketing agency based in Lagos, Nigeria. Currently, he serves as a writer for Art Network Africa.

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