Provenance research International Inventories Programme

Dennis Opudo, Head of the Anthropological Department of the Nairobi National Museum, in the Museum's Ethnographic Collection
Dennis Opudo, Head of the Anthropological Department of the Nairobi National Museum, in the Museum's Ethnographic Collection | Photo (Detail): Gioia Forster © picture alliance
  • 01. January 2019 — 31. December 2021

  • Restitution, Provenance research, The role of museums, Postcolonial art production, Reappraisal of the colonial past

  • Nairobi (Kenya); Cologne (Germany); Frankfurt am Main (Germany)

The international database research project “International Inventories Programme” (IPP) focuses on Kenyan works of art that have been held in museums and collections outside the country since colonial times. More than 15,400 objects have so far been identified. In addition to researching the history of their acquisition, artistic debates and exhibitions are scheduled to take place in Kenya and Germany.

What works of art left Kenya during (and after) colonial times? This question is the focus of the International Inventories Programme (IPP). The main objective of the global inventory is to explore and make transparent the extent and acquisition history of Kenyan works of art currently held in museums and collections outside the country. As of 22nd July 2019 it had been established that 15,400 Kenyan artefacts are currently not in their country of origin, but in Germany, Great Britain, Belgium and the USA.

In addition to the scientific recording of the works of art, the history of their reception abroad, the role that the objects play there and the stories they tell will also be examined. Artists from the participating countries will jointly examine the “translocation” of important objects from Kenya to Europe. What memories have these objects or their gaps left behind? How were knowledge production and transfer influenced or transformed? Could 3D printing and other digital technologies also be used to return the works of art?

The answers are provided by newly produced works of art such as videos, installations, photographs, as well as academic research. The results of this process will be exhibited in the Kenyan National Museum (2020), the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne and the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt (2021).