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 research, database and exhibition project “International Inventories Programme” (IIP) focuses on Kenyan artefacts 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 building a database of these objects, researching the history of their acquisition, artistic debates and exhibitions are scheduled to take place in Kenya and Germany.

What (artefacts) left Kenya during (and after) colonial times? This question is the focus of the International Inventories Programme (IIP). The main objective of the global inventory is to explore and make transparent the extent and acquisition history of Kenyan (objects) currently held in museums 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 artefacts, the history of their reception abroad, the role that the objects play there and the stories they tell will also be examined. Artists, museum professionals and researchers from the participating countries will jointly examine the “translocation” of  objects from Kenya to Europe. What memories have these objects or their  absence left behind? How were knowledge production and transfer influenced or transformed? Could 3D printing and other digital technologies also be used to return the artefacts? 

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

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