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Words by Nicholas Thomas

[Re:] Entanglements: Colonial collections in decolonial times (22 June 2021 – 17 April 2022) at MAA Cambridge

[Re:] Entanglements exhibition poster ©MAA

An astonishing collection of African artwork collected during Britain's first anthropological surveys of early 20th-Century West Africa is on display for the very first time at MAA. The exhibition also features photographic portraits, archival materials, and contemporary artistic responses from Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

In this politically and emotionally charged exhibition, the curators pose difficult questions about the nature of colonialism at the time and its legacies today.

[Re:] Entanglements: Colonial collections in decolonial times is the culmination of the AHRC-funded Museum Affordances project led by Professor Paul Basu at SOAS University of London alongside Dr George Agbo of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and involving multiple partnerships in West Africa, the UK and beyond.  The project seeks to re-engage with the ethnographic archive assembled by the University of Cambridge-educated colonial anthropologist, Northcote Whitridge Thomas (1868-1936) in Southern Nigeria and Sierra Leone between 1909 and 1915.

The 'Thomas Collection' includes masks, drums, carved wooden figures and staffs, pottery, textiles, charms, dolls, photographs, sound recordings, botanical specimens, published work and field notes.