NPR : The Dutch are returning looted artifacts to Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Does it matter?

photo : Cultural artifacts are handed back to Indonesia during a ceremony in Leiden, Netherlands, Monday, July 10, 2023. The Netherlands and Indonesia on Monday have hailed the return of hundreds of cultural artifacts taken, sometimes by force, during colonial times as a major step forward in restitution efforts worldwide.Aleksandar Furtula/AP

The VOC (Dutch East India Company) and later the Dutch Empire colonized Indonesia for 350 years. In a rather cynical twist of history, hundreds of thousands of Malagasy people were involuntarily transported to the Dutch South-African colony, and some were even taken back to their ancestral regions in Java during the early years of the European era of the Slave Trade, before more people were shipped off to the new territories in the Americas. There are stories of the Malagasy diaspora in Cape Town that remain to be shared.

On another note, perhaps we should send our shopping list of artifacts to France’s Musée du Quai Branly and let them know that we have done quite well in renovating our own Museum of Madagascar, located at the Rova of Antananarivo. It’s important to approach the naming of exhibits and displays with proper sensitivity and mindfulness, ensuring a correct and respectful representation.

There should be space between the Vezo pirogue and the dinosaur skeleton to showcase the thousands of cruelly looted, priceless memorabilia such as sampy and jewelry, including the fabulous Mahafaly Aloalo pieces that are so spiritually inspiring to our local artists. It is only fitting that these items find their way back home to satisfy the ancestors and the people in the present. Additionally, with these additions, the museum’s ticket sales would skyrocket, allowing thousands, if not millions, of Malagasy children to learn about the past generations. Through this knowledge, they can build self-esteem and self-awareness, ultimately contributing to making our country great again.

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