Vatican unveils new ethnographic display of Rwanda screens

Streaming HUBMarch 16, 2023

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican Museums officially reopened their African and American ethnographic collections Thursday, showcasing Rwandan raffia screens sent by Catholic missionaries to the Vatican for a 1925 exhibition.

Exhibits at the Anima Mundi Ethnographic Museum included consultations with Rwanda’s own ethnographic museum, a UCLA graduate student, and Belgium’s Royal Museum of Central Africa, as well as a scientific presentation of the restoration process, as well as research that preceded it. This came as ethnographic museums in Europe and North America grapple with demands from indigenous groups and former colonies to return artifacts dating back to colonial times.

Rev Nicola Mappelli, curator of the Anima Mundi museum, declined to comment on the Vatican’s calls for the restoration of its ethnographic holdings, saying these were questions for the museum leadership. Speaking to The Associated Press during a visit to the new exhibit, he said the Vatican returned three mummies to Peru last year and a human head to Ecuador in 2017.

The museum director, Barbara Jatta, did not mention the issue in her remarks at the opening, although what she did say was Anima Mundi’s commitment to transparency and “dialogue with different cultures”.

He said the unveiling of the Rwandan panels was the moment to celebrate the reopening of the museum’s African and American section as well as the 50th anniversary of the transfer of the entire collection to the Vatican Museums.

The issue of the Vatican’s ethnographic collection came into the limelight last year, when indigenous groups from Canada came to the Vatican to ask Pope Francis for forgiveness for Canada’s church-run residential school system.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called the policy of forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families to assimilate them into Christian, Canadian society “cultural genocide”. First Nations, Métis and Inuit delegations visited Anima Mundi and were shown many indigenous objects in the collection, and delegates later stated that they wanted them back, or at least access to them so that indigenous researchers could study them. Can do

The Vatican has long insisted that the basis of its ethnographic collection stems from a “gift” to Pope Pius XI, who in 1925 placed the collection in the Vatican gardens to celebrate the church’s global reach, its missionaries and the lives of indigenous peoples. A huge exhibition was staged. Promoted. Catholic missionaries from around the world sent them artifacts, but today some researchers question whether indigenous peoples were really capable of consenting to such “gifts” given the power dynamics of the time.

Informative labels on new exhibits emphasize the Vatican’s point of view. The Canada label, for example, reads: “There is a long tradition of gifts sent to popes by indigenous peoples of Canada,” noting that a headdress in the exhibit was given to Francis by Chief Wilton Littlechild during his 2022 visit to Canada. I went. ,


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