June 24th saw Britain’s ‘leave’ EU campaign winning by a large margin. The ‘stay’ campaign had brought out all the negative possibilities that could arise in the event of leaving the EU but has not touched much on other specific issues like the welfare of artifacts in museums, research funding for heritage, and other associated topics. This post asks the reader to switch thinking to a minute level and in particular to a less popular topic like impact of economic decisions on heritage of the world.
Britain in particular prides itself for being multi-cultural, particularly in reference to its relationship with the commonwealth which emanated from post-colonial encounter. This was one of the basis points raised during a recent trial by Greece on return of the Elgin marbles for cultural identity and tourism in Greece. See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/greece-drops-legal-case-to-reclaim-the-elgin-marbles-from-the-british-museum-minister-says-10250462.html Another part of the sentiment is that the cultural objects are properly located in Britain where most cultures and cultural individuals converge.
As regards African cultural objects abroad., several scenarios can manifestas a result of the Brexit outcome
- Cheaper travel and access to African cultural material in British institutions by Africans who wish to reconnect with their cultural material through travel and tourism. One of the common predictions of Brexit is that the pound and Britain economy will go down. In this regard insititutions like the British Museum will be financially accessible for Africans to consume African cultures in Britain. The British Museum and British universities host various cultural objects in the form of artifacts, archival documents, to mention a few. See the Birtish Museums’ Africa section at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/learning/schools_and_teachers/resources/cultures/africa.aspx
- African governments can fresh negotiations through bodies such as the Commonwealth to assist with establishing tourism museums in Africa. The predicted isolation of Britain could compel it to make new friends and reboot existing partnerships through which African governments can negotiate funding for cultural economies outside the usual post-colonial Empire agreements of the the 1960s.
But there are also challenges:
Funding for African researchers through European grants is bound to be affected. Noting that most African archives are locating in British universities due to colonial encounter of the nineteenth century, it could become harder for African researchers to access such material through scholarship and research. Already The Times Higher education has come asserted to British universities themselves being negatively affected by the Brexit decision. Refer article here fopr in-depth reading on the discussion between intellectual pursuits and Bexit: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/which-universities-would-lose-out-from-brexit
These UK scholarships for international students could be a thing of the past:http://www.scholars4dev.com/category/country/europe-scholarships/uk-scholarships/
Therefore while there is a more negative perception regarding Brexit, African governments through Commonwealth linkages could be accorded an opportunity to re-negotiate economic partnerships that will enhance the diversity of African economies such as a look into developing cultural economies. However, the other side of the coin in the form of eroded existing opportunities is also possible. In the end we can only wait and see where the Brexit vote will take not only Britain but its long lasting partners beyond the European Union as well.