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“Baga Nimba” - Niyi Olagunju (born 1981), United Kingdom-Nigeria, 2019, Sculpture. Artificially aged wood and gilded bronze
© House of European History, Brussels, Belgium

Colonial heritage

For centuries, Europe’s colonial rule over vast territories and regions around the world brought wealth and resources to Europe while leaving local populations oppressed and impoverished.

Niyi Olagunju’s sculpture expresses the brokenness of identity resulting from the traumatising experience of colonialism. Objects that carry spiritual, religious, social or societal meaning ended up as exhibits in European museums. This appropriation and assimilation of African history, culture and traditions violates the objects’ original meaning and results in historical rootlessness.

Some European countries have begun investigating their museum collections amid calls for objects with a questionable history to be returned.