In recent years, ongoing debates about the restitution of cultural heritage objects that were stolen within various colonial contexts have gained momentum in tandem with a general awareness about the prevalence of various social injustices throughout society. Essential to these discussions are the artists, communities, activist initiatives and intellectuals from the Global South and the diaspora whose voices and involvement are crucial to re-imagine and re-define how we think about the care and afterlives of illegally obtained artifacts and cultural objects currently housed within European collections.
The concept of practicing freedom draws inspiration from Kaiama L. Glover’s book Regarded Self. As a title, Practicing Freedom hints at the radical potential that lies in Glover’s thinking. It helps define the scope and ambitions of the project while also allowing for multiple trajectories and narratives to unfold over the duration of the project, providing a conceptual starting point for the many paths we will embark on during the project, individually and collectively.
With this project, we attempt to facilitate opportunities to collectively unpack the topic of restitution by focusing on artistic practices, cultural work and initiatives that are founded on the desire for radical transformation and a commitment to creating change. With cultural heritage objects at the center of the project, and even more importantly, the life and spirit of cultural heritage objects as depositories of flows and energies, Practicing Freedom is also about confronting cultural amnesia through everyday memory work and a recognition of the knowledge and spiritual systems that are connected to cultural heritage objects. Working with artists, researchers, and museum professionals, Practicing Freedom featured workshops, public gatherings, conversations, lectures, and artistic interventions that took place throughout 2022.