African Photography: The Ethics of Looking and Collecting in the Age of Restitution

Friday, November 11, 2022 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

African Photography:
The Ethics of Looking and Collecting in the Age of Restitution 

Friday, November 11th
9am - 4pm

Since the 1990s, exhibitions of African photographers such as Seydou Keïta have raised questions about the relationship of ownership to authorship, visibility to privacy. Concerns about the ethics of looking and collecting have grown more urgent with recent debates about the restitution of African cultural heritage.

This online symposium draws together scholars, artists, and curators who explore the ethics of working with photographs and methods to decolonize the medium, and its histories.

What rights do photographers have? In today's age of hypervisibility, can sitters claim their "right to opacity," to use Édouard Glissant's term? What is the future of collecting and curating photographs that originate in family and colonial archives on the continent? Can viewers embody “the active struggle of looking with,” in Tina Campt’s words—rather than observe passively—and can this engender new ways of seeing? 


  • Sandrine Colard (Rutgers University–Newark)
  • Osaisonor Godfrey Ekhator-Obogie (Institute for Benin Studies)
  • Patricia Hayes (University of the Western Cape)
  • Candace Keller (Michigan State University)
  • Lebohang Kganye (Visual artist and photographer)
  • Ingrid Masondo (Iziko South African National Gallery)
  • Steven Nelson (National Gallery of Art)
  • Giulia Paoletti (University of Virginia)
  • John Peffer (Ramapo College of New Jersey)
  • Z.S. Strother (Columbia University)

Keynote: Temi Odumosu (University of Washington)

Welcome: David Freedberg (Columbia University) and Douglas Fordham (University of Virginia)

Concluding Remarks: Steven Nelson (National Gallery of Art)

For more information, including the full program, abstracts, speaker bios, and bibliography, visit:

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