The information on this page came together as a result of the collaboration of Art&Dialogue e.V in Berlin, Germany, with the l’Union des Cultes Traditionelles du Togo, and with financial support of the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam. Art&Dialogue supports the UCTT in its claim for the restitution of powerful spiritual objects from western collections. Together, we want to resolve the question, if and how it is possible to return “museum pieces” to their original status as spiritual objects. What should their new surrounding offer, and what use could this process have for the communities to which those objects are returning. Throughout this collaboration artists, scholars, cultural researchers, spiritual dignitaries, political activists, and cultural workers speak about, explore and celebrate their differences and commonalities by giving space to and exchange spiritual knowledge and narratives. By revisiting past places and times, we hope to open up new possibilities of the present. This project wants to make a small contribution to a series of projects, films, books, and theories that also aim for the decolonisation of thought and the deconstruction of structures that keep western power and privilege in place.
The Villa Karo Finnish Cultural Center Museum in Grand Popo, Benin, houses a collection of Mami Wata figurines from private collector Matti-Juhani Karila.
What does it take to return “ethnological artefakts” to their place of origin and their original status as spiritual objects? And what role could a copy play in restitution projects?
In early 2020, Matti-Juhani Karila restituted a Mami Wata altar sculpture to L'Union des Cultes Traditionnelles du Togo, an organisation of Vodun priest in Togo and Benin. Here Georgette Singbé hands over the sculpture at Villa Karo. UCTT members investigated the origin, production, and migration process of the object in order to recover the meaning and production of the figure and the spiritual knowledge associated with it. The sculpture will be activated again at Maison Egbébé in Agouegan, Aného in 2022.
Can we use non-rational methods and spiritual, shamanistic practices to test and construct new spaces for culture? With Maison Gbébé we want to activate a space of sharing, participation, reappraisal, and ethics. In spring 2020 the construction of a temple for the Mami Wata sculpture has started at Maison Agbébé in the village of Agouegan, Aného, Togo.