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Brazil on the Circuit of International Cultural Relations: Return and Devolution of Ethnographic Goods

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World Heritage Patinas

Abstract

After years of requests from CRAN, the Representative Council of France's Black Associations, the French president publicly announced the intention to restitute the African tangible cultural heritage present in French Soil and has asked two great experts to make a report, moving towards a concrete plan. Dutch museums make movements in the direction of restitution and reparation and the German civil society mobilizes to demand the same of the country's museums. The Colombian and Peruvian governments have formally asked Spain and American institutions to give back cultural objects of their pre-hispanic pasts. In this scenario of an increasing number of initiatives of devolution and demands of restitution of objects taken from colonial or analogous to colonial circumstances, from indigenous communities… How does Brazil figure? Does this country of continental proportions, rich and varied past, including approximately 2 million of original native population before the Portuguese arrival and 300 hundred years of colonial history have disputes or dialogues in course with foreign countries and institutions on this matter? Has Brazil been searching for, claiming back and repatriating its colonial or indigenous cultural objects abroad? Yes, it has. But why do we not hear about these cases? Who are the parties involved - the demanding ones and those to whom the demands are addressed? Can we outline their social, historical, institutional profile? How have the claims been made? Which political, ethical, historical, legal arguments have they used? How have the foreign parties in the discussion reacted? Have the demands been successful? Which were the consequences of the process for the party returning and the party receiving the cultural objects in question? This text aims to answer these questions, reassembling and analyzing the thus far known cases, thus making a panorama of the situation of the return of ethnological cultural objects in Brazil.

The return of a work of art or record.

to the country that created it enables.

that a people recover part of their memory and identity,

and proves that the long dialogue between civilizations.

that shapes the history of the world continues.

in an atmosphere of mutual respect between nations.

Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, Director-General of UNESCO, 1978.

This text was originally published in the Annals of the 1st International Congress on Urban Heritage of Humanity / 1st International Symposium on World Heritage of Minas Gerais  in the international context. UFJF. 2020.

Rodrigo Christofoletti Professor of Cultural Heritage at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora - UFJF. Coordinator of the Research Group on Heritage and International Relations - CNPq.

Vitória dos Santos Acerbi Master in International Relations from the Universidad de Salamanca.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    To name a few, Macron's 2013 speech announcing the intention to restore African countries to their cultural heritage present on French soil, and the report published as the first development of this process; the Colombian request to Spain for the return of 122 pieces of the Quimbaya treasure, begun in 2006; the Peruvian government's request to Yale University to return 46,332 objects from Machu Picchu, which finished in a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in 2011; the Greek demand to the British Museum for the restitution of Parthenon marbles.

  2. 2.

    In addition to these, there is also a single other collection of such masks, which can be found at the Munich Museum of Ethnology, resulting from the collection made by Spix and Martius, traveling through Brazil between 1817 and 1820. (note 37).

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Christofoletti, R., dos Santos Acerbi, V. (2021). Brazil on the Circuit of International Cultural Relations: Return and Devolution of Ethnographic Goods. In: Christofoletti, R., Olender, M. (eds) World Heritage Patinas. The Latin American Studies Book Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-64815-2_14

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