A visitor looks at some of the royal treasures of Abomey, looted during the colonial era, now on display at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris and due to be returned to Benin in the coming months. © Christophe Archambault / AFP

Every society is full of cultural property of various kinds, and African societies are no exception. This cultural heritage is valuable in many different ways. It may be associated with a monetary value, especially today, but this does not detract from its other values – religious, historical and emotional, to name only those most difficult to convert into money. These values also vary over time. Today, Africans more readily value African art objects for decorative purposes, whereas they used to see them only for public places like palaces.

Some of these art objects are outside their societies of origin and this raises a debate.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pedro Castillo, durante su investidura en Perú

El nuevo presidente de Perú hizo un fuerte alegato anticolonialista y contra los siglos de explotación de España sobre América, y lo hizo (en esta ocasión) ante Felipe VI. Lo que le da un mayor dramatismo.

Pedro Castillo no es el primero en hacerlo. El presidente mexicano Andrés Manuel López Obrador fue más allá y señaló que la negativa de España a disculparse por los abusos cometidos durante la conquista no permitía "mejorar" las relaciones bilaterales.

Por supuesto, las palabras de Castillo y la actitud de López Obrador son merecedoras de análisis y debate, tanto en América como en España. Pero desde el plano político hay que entenderlas más como el resultado de un proceso político que como una afrenta contra España.…  Seguir leyendo »

Visitors look at the Rosetta Stone next to social distancing markers on the floor at the British Museum in August 2020 in London. (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

In June, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet offered a reminder that “systemic racism needs a systemic response.” She called for the immediate dismantling of the systemic racism that Black people face around the world and set out a four-point agenda for this transformation.

Just over a year after the killing of George Floyd, the report was widely discussed. But a key aspect was not as visible in public discourse as it should have been. Among other points, the report recommends the necessity of reparations for colonial injustices.

This poses a significant question for European countries, which have benefited greatly from wealth stolen in the colonial era.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una mujer visita las ruinas de Templo Mayor en Ciudad de México en 2019.picture alliance / GETTY IMAGES

El 13 de agosto de 1521 es una fecha memorable: Hernán Cortés conquistó Tecnochtitlán. La capital de los aztecas había resistido durante dos años. Ya en 1519 Moctezuma había agasajado a Cortés con un lujoso banquete que dejó a los españoles atónitos. Pero de nada sirvió, ya que los forasteros no se dieron por satisfechos con los regalos obtenidos y siempre pedían más, sobre todo oro. Los códices dan cuenta de esta avidez con palabras poco halagüeñas: “lo buscaron como cerdos”.

Tenochtitlán, situada en el lago de Texcoco —igual que Tlatelolco, el pueblo hermanado— estaba unida con la tierra firme por cinco calzadas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Namibian schoolgirls walk by a memorial to the victims of the genocide committed by German forces against Herero and Nama people in Windhoek, Namibia, in June 2017. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

In late May, more than 100 years after German colonial forces killed tens of thousands of the Herero and Nama peoples in what is today Namibia, the German government formally acknowledged the atrocities as genocide.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared that, owing to Germany’s “historical and moral responsibility,” the country asks “Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness.” In addition, Germany will contribute more than $1 billion in aid for development projects in Namibia over the next 30 years. All of this will be finalized in a bilateral agreement.

Why the major step toward reconciliation? My research details the decades-long silence in Germany about the atrocities and the slow and incomplete process of reconciliation since the early 2000s.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘There must be a process where those affected can give evidence on the crimes that initiated and sustained colonialism.’ A still from African Apocalypse. Photograph: African Apocalypse

During the French presidential campaign of 2017, Emmanuel Macron told a young Algerian that colonialism was “a crime against humanity”. His mailbox was immediately filled with angry letters from former French-Algerian settlers. A few weeks later, he retracted his remarks. “I’m sorry for wounding you, causing pain. I did not want to offend you,” he assured the colonists.

Last year, after George Floyd’s killing sparked widespread demonstrations against French police brutality, Macron commissioned the historian Benjamin Stora to compile a report on the memory of the colonisation of Algeria and the Algerian war. Stora handed in his study, France-Algeria: Painful Passions, in January, and it will be published as a book next month.…  Seguir leyendo »

Patrice Lumumba, Premier ministre du Congo, assassiné le 17 janvier 1961 au Katanga en sécession. © BELGAIMAGE

Le 17 janvier 1961, au début de la nuit, l’ancien Premier ministre Lumumba et ses deux compagnons, Maurice Mpolo et Joseph Okito, sont exécutés par un peloton de la gendarmerie-armée katangaise commandé par un officier mercenaire belge, en présence de plusieurs ministres du Katanga en sécession.

Patrice Lumumba, devenu Premier ministre du Congo le jour de l’indépendance, le 30 juin 1960, l’a été pendant 67 jours seulement, avant d’être révoqué en septembre, puis assigné à résidence, arrêté ensuite, et transféré enfin au Katanga, pour y trouver la mort le soir même.

Soixante ans plus tard, grâce surtout au minutieux travail de la commission d’enquête de la Chambre des représentants belge et de ses experts, une part de lumière peut éclairer et permettre de mieux comprendre ces événements tragiques, leur enchaînement et les responsabilités tant au Congo qu’à l’étranger, y compris celles, irréfutables, de responsables belges.…  Seguir leyendo »

Scientists now have data concerning the entire genomes of more than 260 people of the ancient Caribbean. Credit Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

In 1492, Christopher Columbus touched land for the first time in the Americas, reaching the Bahamas, Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic and Haiti) and eastern Cuba. After he returned to Spain he reported that he had encountered islands rich in gold. A few years later his brother Bartholomew, who also traveled to the Americas, reported that Hispaniola had a large population whose labor and land could be put to the advantage of the Spanish crown. He estimated the population at 1.1 million people.

Was this figure accurate? It soon was a matter of dispute. Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spanish monk and colonist who became the first chronicler of the human disaster that unfolded in the Americas after the arrival of Europeans, estimated a far larger number: three million to four million.…  Seguir leyendo »

The pedestal for a statue of Queen Victoria that was knocked down in 2015 in Nairobi on June 10. (Khalil Senosi/AP)

On June 11, a significant anniversary quietly passed. It was the centenary of the day Britain officially annexed parts of East Africa to found the Kenya colony, the precursor to today’s Kenyan state. Over the course of the next four and a half decades, the British would consolidate their brutal, parasitic rule and establish a racist, colonial administration that would, in many ways, become the template for the government of the modern Kenyan nation.

It is perhaps not surprising that few Kenyans remember, or wish to be reminded, of that time. At independence in 1963, statues of British monarchs and settlers were hastily taken down and hidden away.…  Seguir leyendo »

Corbis via Getty Images Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with his son James, meeting to draw up the Atlantic Charter, August 1941

On June 26, the United Nations celebrates its seventy-fifth birthday. The initiative that led to that moment in 1945 began nearly four years earlier, at an August 1941 meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, on a boat moored off the coast of Newfoundland, a British colony. For FDR, winning the war would necessarily mean a new, post-imperial world order. “I can’t believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy,” he told Churchill. The British leader, an unrepentant imperialist for whom Canada, just across the water, was a recently lost British dominion, was apoplectic—but he desperately needed the United States first to get into the war (Pearl Harbor was still months away), and the two leaders signed their “Atlantic Charter.”…  Seguir leyendo »

In two months, many corners of the world have gone from fighting over toilet paper to fighting against racism and white supremacy.

Just days after George Floyd’s killing sparked protests against police brutality, a possibly bored but observant and resourceful Egyptologist, Sarah Parcak, seem to read the tense mood in the air and posted on Twitter some advice on how people could get some, well, hands on experience in the fight against racial injustice. Her tweet on how to take down monuments went viral and, as the streets began to fill up, statues of those that upheld racism and white supremacy around the world began to come down.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman leaves a convenience store at the Elias Motsoaledi informal settlement in South Africa on Tuesday. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Last week on French television, two doctors sparked anger with their comments. While speaking about finding a cure against the novel coronavirus, Jean-Paul Mira, the head of the intensive care unit at the Cochin Hospital in Paris, asked, “If I could be provocative, should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it’s done, by the way, for certain AIDS studies or with prostitutes?” He was addressing the research director of France’s national health institute, Camille Locht, who promptly agreed.

Although they were speaking about putting human lives at risk, the two doctors sounded totally casual.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s increasingly repressive government uses colonial-era laws to silence dissent. EFE-EPA/ EPA/Phillipe Wojazer

The impact of colonial rule on sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the subject of intense debate and controversy. Barely a year goes by in the UK without a public figure igniting a furore by arguing that colonialism somehow benefitted the people it oppressed.

But our new book, “Authoritarian Africa: Repression, Resistance, and the Power of Ideas”, paints a very different picture. We re-evaluate the political legacy of colonialism and find that it had a profound impact on African political systems.

The colonial era strengthened the power of “Big Men” – powerful local leaders – over their communities. This undermined pre-existing checks and balances.…  Seguir leyendo »

A painting depicting the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, a walled garden in Amritsar, India. Credit Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse; Getty Images

On April 13, 1919, Gen. Reginald Dyer led a group of British soldiers to Jallianwala Bagh, a walled public garden in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. Several thousand unarmed civilians, including women and children, had gathered to celebrate the Sikh New Year.

Viewing the gathering as a violation of the prohibitory orders on public assembly, General Dyer ordered his troops to fire without warning. According to official figures, the 10 minutes of firing resulted in 379 dead and more than a thousand injured.

As news of the massacre became public, many British officials and public figures hailed General Dyer’s actions as necessary to keep an unruly subject population in order.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hemos escrito en más de una ocasión sobre la Leyenda negra por antonomasia, la que injusta y arteramente se focaliza en los supuestos excesos que cometió España en América (y en Europa). Hoy toca hablar de una de las leyendas negras más reales, y tal vez por ello, más ocultada por la Historia: la de las potencias europeas en el continente africano. No se trata de compensar relatos, sino de hacer justicia histórica y de paso ofrecer una explicación alternativa al fenómeno de la emigración africana que sufre (toda) Europa.

A pesar de su cercanía con el continente africano, España fue excluida por las potencias dominantes de su entrada en África.…  Seguir leyendo »

1957, des combattantes du FLN dans le maquis pendant la guerre d'Algérie. Photo Zebar. Andia

Les traces de la colonisation sont infinies et parfois à l’origine de surprenantes rencontres. Au cours d’un voyage universitaire où je présentais mes travaux sur la liberté - périple organisé par l’Institut français d’Alger - revenant d’Annaba (Hippone, Bône), me dirigeant sur Batna, ville dont le pénitencier militaire de Lambèse fut construit et occupé par les transportés de 1848, j’y ai rencontré, par un pur hasard, l’une des évadées de la prison de la Roquette en février 1961. Ses souvenirs étaient intacts. Elle me raconta, en me présentant sa fausse carte d’identité, comment le réseau de Denis Berger, (mon compagnon décédé en 2013, chargé par la résistance algérienne des évasions), lui avait fourni ses papiers et sa «planque» à Paris où elle trouva refuge avant sa mise en sécurité en Allemagne.…  Seguir leyendo »

Explorateur de l’ère coloniale britannique. Gravure non datée. © 123rf ©

Il est de bon ton d’autocritiquer notre continent. En particulier ses aventures coloniales. Il faut lui attribuer tous les péchés du monde, au sujet de sa période expansionniste. Dernier épisode, le travail de sape mené par le livre illustré Sexe, race et colonies. Le quotidien Libération du lundi 1er octobre n’y a pas vu que du feu: «La mise en scène des images […] provoque un sentiment de malaise.» «Un ouvrage sans ambition scientifique»… Et Libé en rajoute ce 8 octobre: «Pourquoi une telle accumulation d’images dégradantes?» Un appel au voyeurisme, avec de très nombreuses «indigènes» dévêtues.

Les quatre grands pays colonisateurs d’Europe ont-ils été les plus cruels des enfants de la Terre?…  Seguir leyendo »

«La séance photographique» de Jean-Louis Charbans, Sénégal, 1930. Le prétexte ethnographique permet de contourner la censure et de produire de la photographie porno-coloniale. «Chaque image peut avoir plusieurs niveaux discursifs, explique Pascal Blanchard. Il y a ce qu’elles montrent d’un soi-disant réel mais aussi le fantasme qu’elles véhiculent.» Photo Archives d’Eros

Deux hommes blancs mesurent à l’aide d’un compas les larges fesses d’une femme noire (dessin «humoristique» anglais, 1810). Un marine américain rigolard pose sa main sur le sein d’une prostituée vietnamienne (photographie de 1969). Un croquis médical décrit les petites lèvres du sexe d’une femme hottentote au gonflement «anormal et malsain» (gravure, 1804). Une jeune actrice montre ses seins devant des barres HLM, sous un teaser : «Certaines femmes préfèrent par-derrière» (affiche du film porno la Beurette de la cité de Fred Coppula, 2017).

Sexe, race et colonies, qui sort jeudi en librairie (Ed. la Découverte, 65 euros), retrace l’histoire coloniale par le prisme de la sexualité.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldats français harcelant une Algérienne (1954-1962). Photo d'archives d'Eros. Coll. Gilles Boëtsch. coll. Olivier Auger

Spécialiste du fait colonial et de l’immigration en France, l’historien Pascal Blanchard a publié et codirigé plusieurs documentaires et ouvrages dont les Zoos humains (Arte, 2002) ou la Fracture coloniale, la société française au prisme des héritages coloniaux (2005, La Découverte). Avec Sexe, race et colonies, il souhaite toucher le grand public dans la continuité de ses travaux promouvant un autre rapport au passé colonial. Cette somme a également pour but d’inciter une nouvelle génération de chercheurs à travailler sur le passé colonial à partir des images ou par le prisme du genre et de la sexualité.

Pourquoi avoir fait le choix de publier 1 200 images de corps colonisés, dominés, sexualisés, érotisés ?…  Seguir leyendo »
Au XIXe siècle, les Français comptent parmi les plus nombreux voyageurs photographes au monde, si bien que pour nommer une image érotico-exotique, l’expression «French postcard» s’impose. Coll. O. Auger

«Bicuzi Kihubo avait la cervelle d’une antilope, mais une allure de star. Ses grands yeux marron illuminaient un visage doux, encadré par les tresses traditionnelles, ses seins moulés par un tee-shirt orange pointaient comme de lourds obus ; quand à sa chute de reins, elle aurait transformé le plus saint des prélats en sodomite polymorphe… Ses hanches étroites et ses longues jambes achevaient de faire de Bicuzi une bombe sexuelle à pattes.» Les connaisseurs auront sûrement reconnu dans ce portrait d’Africaine torride, le style particulier de Gérard de Villiers, passé maître du roman d’espionnage à forte connotation érotique à travers la série des SAS.…  Seguir leyendo »