When finance minister Tito Mboweni concluded his recent budget speech by highlighting the importance of our arts and culture, and went on to promote the idea of a new national museum among other artistic conduits, he certainly surprised many in the sector. The question is, do we really need a new museum when our existing ones are underfunded and in a state of disarray? But maybe Mboweni was simply echoing the spirit that is currently sweeping the continent about the importance of national cultural heritage. Maybe what really matters is that the government has publicly stressed that art and culture should be a priority. The details of how it should be done can be refined later.

In 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron commissioned a report by Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and French historian Bénédicte Savoy to make recommendations on how to deal with African cultural assets taken during the colonial era. He invited other European countries with important collections of Af...

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