IRONY OF A NEGRO CURATOR
When I became the Curator of African art in 1999 for a major art museum in the United States, the irony was not lost on me.
How do you steal, loot, confiscate or pillage something, display the stolen or contraband goods publicly in your house, and hire the owner of the objects as the guard for the contraband or stolen goods?
The question, in another way is this: how do you feel as the owner of a stolen object who is now hired to guard and protect the object stolen from you in the den of the robbers?
Many things must be running through your head as a Negro scholar hired to curate African art.
The least of them is that you as a negro, actually used to be an object of display in these same museums.
Now you are the curator.
But, more immediate is another question: now that your relationship has shifted from being the owner of these objects to a hired guard of the objects, what do you think now?
The best thing is not to think. Thinking would drive you crazy.
Put your brain in cruise control.
It reminds me of the story my mother told me when I was young.
Her textiles shop in Ile Ife was burglarized and all her clothes were stolen.
She went to her bank manager and borrowed money to restock.
Then she went to Ibadan to buy some textiles to fill up her shop again.
The very first shop she entered in Gbagi was fully stocked with the same textiles stolen from her own shop.
She was shocked.
She kept moving round and round the shop like the hands of a clock.
What do you do, if you were my mother?
What would you do if you were me, hired as a curator to manage Yoruba objects stolen or otherwise illegitimately removed from your father’s house?