South Sudan became independent in 2011 after decades of rebel wars with the Government of Sudan. Independence prompted discussions about South Sudanese identity and shared history, in which material objects and cultural heritage featured as vitally important resources. However, the long-term effects of colonialism and conflict had largely precluded any concerted attempts to preserve material culture within the country; museums remained in Khartoum, the capital of the formally united Sudan. Furthermore, tens of thousands of objects had been removed from what is now South Sudan during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to museum and private collections around the world.
Up to now there have been few attempts to reconnect the history of these South Sudanese museum collections with people in or from South Sudan. Pieces of a Nation is the first extended study of South Sudanese material cultural heritage in museum collections and beyond.
The chapters discuss a range of different objects and practices – from museum objects taken from South Sudan in the context of enslavement and colonialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to efforts by South Sudanese to preserve their country’s cultural heritage during recent conflicts.
With essays by 32 contributors in Europe, South Sudan, Uganda and Australia, this book delivers a unique range of perspectives on museum objects from South Sudan and on heritage practices in the country and among its diaspora. Written by curators, academics, heritage professionals and artists in accessible and engaging style, it is intended for scholars, museum professionals and a wide range of individuals interested in South Sudan, African arts and cultures, the history of museum collecting and colonialism and/or the role of material heritage in peacebuilding and refugee contexts.
At a time of widespread, prominent debates over the provenance of museum collections from Africa and calls for restitution, this book provides an in-depth empirical study of the circumstances and practices that led to South Sudanese objects entering foreign museum collections and the importance of these objects in South Sudan and around the world today.
List of Figures
About the Contributors
Zoe Cormack and Cherry Leonardi
C19th Commercial Entanglements
From ‘Bush’ to ‘Boudoir’
‘A very Singular Helmet…’
Jeremy Coote and Alison Petch
A Headdress of Human Hair
Travelling and Talking Objects
The ‘Omdurman’ Slit-Drum
A Talking Drum
Samuel Zanunga Biegene, Takido Zambia Sebit and Sebit Fandas
Music that Breathes Life
Justin Billy Buwali
Like Doves in Flight
Resistance and (Re)appropriations
The Musealization of the Gift
‘Captured’ at the Battle of Omdurman
Car Koryom’s Fly Whisk
Small Drum, Wooden and Hide, variable Pitch
Problems of Representation
‘Spears’ that are not Spears
Jok Madut Jok
Out of Frame
A Dinka Madonna?
An Unused Hunting Spear
Markets and Collecting
The Potter of Li Rangu
The Market in Memory
Containing the Harvest
Of Replicas, Refusals and Resistance
Elfatih Atem and Rebecca Lorins
Heritage in War and Peace
New Sudan Ephemera
Nicki Kindersley and Yosa Wawa
Heritage in Displacement
Deng Nhial Chioh
A European Union Jerry-Can
Adebo Nelson Abiti and John Giblin
Because the World is not Ending
Florence Henry Lokule and Alex Miskin
Afterword: A World in Process: Recovering Agency through Objects
Annie E. Coombes
Zoe Cormack is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the African Studies Centre, Oxford University and an honorary research affiliate at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Zoe has previously held research fellowships at the British School at Rome, the British Institute in East Africa and the Open University. Her most recent article, ‘Violence and the Trade in Ethnographic Artefacts in Nineteenth Century Sudan,’ is published in The Journal of Art Market Studies (2020).
Cherry Leonardi is Associate Professor in African History at Durham University in the UK. She works on the history of South Sudan and northern Uganda, with particular interests in local-level processes of state formation and the construction of authority, communities and boundaries. Her current research is exploring histories of conservation, conflict and nature, with a Carson Fellowship at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich in 2020.