Recovering A Looted Past ~ “Repatriating” African History: Old Artifacts + Technology ~ New Communities + New Narratives in African History

There are three main realms of concern included in the concept of “repatriation” in reference to Africa. One has to do principally with the return or “repatriation” of individuals or groups of people from the African diaspora community to Africa itself, often in a search of a recovery of a real or reputed historical link to particular communities of origin in Africa. A second realm of concern has focused instead on the “repatriation” of specific artifacts or treasures looted from African cultures and peoples during the years of trade or military conquest that preceded or accompanied the colonial moment in African history.

QR-TS-Landing-Repat-ntA third realm of concern relates to the other two concepts of “repatriation” but shifts attention toward the “repatriation” or “reappropriation” of an historical narrative that is vital for understanding or reconstructing a sense of self and group identity in the larger global context of human history. People need to know “where they came from” in order to construct a meaningful sense of where they are going. In this sense all peoples – whether from indigenous communities, migrant communities or diaspora communities of all sorts – need to “repatriate” their own sense of history in order to affirm a credible narrative for their own lives.

This brief video demonstrates and discusses some recent digital technologies and techniques that have been developed for “repatriating” African history for both African communities themselves and for the numerous African diasporas from all over the world. Moreover, in the future we will seek to explore some important implications of these digital innovations for any other non-African diaspora and indigenous communities seeking to relocate their sense of self and identity in a rapidly changing world.

New digital techniques for scanning and replicating old maps of Africa can be deployed with QR Codes and Zoom conferencing for a new kind of education experience on a global basis.  Students of all ages and on all levels from elementary school through college and graduate students as well as post-doctoral scholars can now study and analyze rare and delicate maps as primary documents in constructing new narratives of history based on historical cartography.

High school instructors and college professors do not need to “teach” students how to use an iPhone in our day. Most teenagers and now have mastered that “skill set” long before their formal “teachers” and professors. In fact, it is most often the case that the students need to instruct their teachers on how to use these new phones — complete with the QR codes that can be scanned now with many widely-available photo-aps built-in to contemporary phones.

What needs to be undertaken now is the educational task of mobilizing the student’s skills and inviting them to become the architects of their own education. Students who already possess the requisite skills need to be challenged to create meaningful and moving documentaries on their own from new sets of digitized historical material.

To examine further the concept of “repatriation” see: “Call for Papers” for forthcoming online Conference



For related news and information concerning the Benin Bronze “restitution” see:

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