The African Sites of Conscience Network includes members from East, West, Central and Southern Africa. Many of these sites are in countries emerging from recent conflict while others remember histories of colonialism and slavery; together they work to connect these pasts to their contemporary legacies.
The African Regional Network will meet from December 14-15, 2020 to discuss their strategic plan for 2021-2024. Please check this page regularly as more information on the meeting will be available soon.
In advance of the December meeting, the region will host four thematic workshops between September and December 2020 that are open to the public and explore topics including memorialization and peace-building; xenophobia and migration; and repatriation of cultural artifacts.
Workshops will be held in English with simultaneous translation into French. Pre-registration is required for all sessions. Descriptions and links are below.
All sessions will be held at 12-2 pm West Africa time, 2-4 pm SAST, and 3-5 pm East Africa time.
Thematic workshop 1:
Decolonizing Narratives to Promote Inclusion, Peace-building, and Democracy
Date: August 28, 2020
Member Host: Manene Cultural Trust
In many African countries, historic narratives have been partly or completely suppressed, neglected in formal education, or nearly extinguished in favor of grand narratives. This slow process of memory erasure and denial of past trauma has contributed to societies distancing from core traditional values, eroding the fabric of communities and laying fertile ground for extremism and intolerance to take root in the region. This lack of cohesion threatens democracies in the continent, peaceful coexistence, and is at the heart of violence motivated by religion, ideology, gender and intergenerational differences.
In this session, Sites of Conscience shared their work foregrounding the silent narratives of vulnerable groups (women, children, youth, the elderly and other unacknowledged victims of violence) and shifting grand narratives. Among the topics explored were how memory work can lead to inclusion, dialogue and peace-building; how decolonial approaches to memory work can help us reimagine African justice and democracy; and future plans that can be pursued as a network to combat this problem.
To watch this session, click here.
Thematic Workshop 2:
Regional Migration and Xenophobia: A Pressing Crisis
Date: September 25, 2020
Member Host: Remembering the Ones We Lost
Regional migrations in Africa, prompted by conflict, political persecution, environmental changes, economic reasons, and work, among other reasons, represent a larger movement of people than those crossing from the Middle East and Africa to Europe. This neglected phenomenon has long placed strain on receiving countries, leading to prejudice and violence against this vulnerable group. In addition, a lack of clear regional agreements between countries leads to further economic and social hardships for migrants and refugees.
In this session, Sites of Conscience from the Gambia, Guinea, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Brazil will come together to explore how memory can be used as a framework to support regional migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Panelists will also lead a discussion of how the network can take a lead on this urgent issue.
Thematic Workshop 3:
Repatriation of Cultural Assets: A Regional Approach
It has been widely acknowledged that the vast majority of Sub-Saharan cultural and artistic heritage assets have been taken from Africa, impairing the ability of communities, and especially youth, to have – as the economist Felwine Sarr and the art historian Bénédicte Savoy have stated – “access to their own culture, creativity, and spirituality from other eras.” As the only worldwide network of historic sites, museums and memory initiatives dedicated to remembering past struggles and addressing their contemporary legacies, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) has long advocated for the rights of those seeking access to their artistic and cultural heritage as a matter of reparations, and when carried out through broad community consultation and engagement this process can help to create a new future for all. In response to the looting of cultural assets illegally taken in the past from their places of origin in colonised African countries, Sites of Conscience in Africa are taking a leading role in ensuring that local communities in Africa have a voice in the process of regaining control over these artifacts and of framing their significance within local culture and heritage. This would finally allow African communities to benefit from these assets as those in Western countries have now for centuries.
As part of their efforts, the African Regional Sites of Conscience Network will host a workshop on November 11, 2020 to raise awareness of this growing global movement advocating for the restitution of cultural and artistic heritage, and to frame the movement within larger conversations about justice, accountability and reparations.
This workshop will be divided into 2 sessions:
In the first session (1h30), open to the general public and featuring introductory remarks by ICSC Board Chair and former UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and intolerance, Dr. Doudou Diene, two leading African experts, Dr. Felwine Sarr (Senegal) and Professor Wazi Apoh (Ghana), will share their views on the restitution of cultural and artistic heritage from a global and Pan-African perspective, and seek to identify guiding principles to navigate this complex, controversial and essential topic.
In the second session (1h), open for members of the African Regional Sites of Conscience Network, members will explore in three roundtable discussions possible conceptual and practical approaches to linking restitution of cultural and artistic heritage to African Sites of Conscience’s programming related to memory, human rights, justice, reparations and accountability.
To register for this session, click here.
Thematic Workshop 4:
Memory Work Policy: A Joint Approach to Memory Work
Date: December 4, 2020
Host: Gegê Leme Joseph, African Regional Network Program Manager
The heritage, memory and museum field is largely informed by knowledge and practice produced in Western countries. While much of this practice serves as an important blueprint and framework for much of the work done by African Sites of Conscience, it disregards local practices and values that are key to our everyday practice as a network.
Over the past two years, the Latin America and Caribbean Network of Sites of Conscience, informed by the same concerns, produced the “Principles on Public Policies on Memory for the Americas” – a document that guides their practice, and protects them against the destruction of archives and many other malicious actions against memory places and their assets. This policy was adopted by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States and has become a blueprint for adoption by all governments in the region.
This final session will offer opportunities for African Sites of Conscience to solidify their approach to memory in the region, and decide if they are interested in pursuing a similar policy.
To register, click here.