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Who Rightfully Owns Cultural Artifacts?

'Nkisi Nkondi' - The Oath Taker

In the movie Black Panther a black visitor confronts a white curator over African artifacts in a fictional British museum. "How do you think your ancestors got these?" the visitor asks. "You think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it — like they took everything else?"

A similar discussion is happening in museums around the world over the volume of African art in their collections. According to UNESCO, 90% to 95% of sub-Saharan cultural artifacts are housed outside Africa.

The question is, is it normal that such a large part of the African cultural heritage is in Europe or in Western museums? Many argue that it is not. They contend that the country of origin has the right to possess its own cultural artifacts and exhibit them in museums located in the homeland.

Others claim international museums provide scientific research on these precious objects, along with a venue that allows more people to view them. Many directors from major international museums have declared that kowtowing to claimant countries and giving everything back is ill- advised. They insist artifacts need to be shared with a world audience, and their museums are the best places where this can happen.

What do you think - should art and artifacts be returned to their country of origin or kept in the collections of international museums?

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