Public history

Colonial statues in postcolonial Africa, a multidimensional approach

13 December 2023

Sophia Labadi
Lecture by Sophia Labadi, Professor of Heritage at the University of Kent, UK

Colonial statues in Africa have often been analysed as isolated case studies. Moving beyond a one case study model, this presentation adopts a regional, thematic, and historical approach to elucidate the diverse ways in which African nations have grappled with colonial statues from the time of independences. The paper begins by examining the fate of colonial statues at the time of independences, exploring why certain monuments were removed, repurposed, or preserved. Subsequently, the paper delves into the reasons for the revival of (neo)colonial statues in the 1990s and early 2000s. Finally, the paper discusses recent and renewed contestations of colonial statues from the 2010s, in the light of global movements against symbols of oppression. This presentation aims to shed light on the complex dynamics of power, memory, and identity in postcolonial Africa, and to contribute to broader discussions about the role of monuments in postcolonial societies.

Sophia Labadi is Professor of Heritage at the University of Kent in the UK, Professorial Fellow at the Global Heritage Lab, University of Bonn, and the recipient of the 2023 Reimar Lüst Award from the Humboldt Foundation.

Much of Professor Labadi’s research focuses on how heritage sites and museums can address some of the most pressing global challenges, including social justice, gender equality or sustainable development. Professor Labadi is the author of 13 books and 70 articles and reports. Her books include ‘Rethinking Heritage for Sustainable Development’ (UCL Press, 2022); ‘Museums, Immigrants, and Social Justice’ (Routledge, 2017); and ‘UNESCO, Cultural Heritage, and Outstanding Universal Value’ (AltaMira Press, 2012). Her research is nourished by her experiences as consultant for international organisations and governments, including UNESCO or the World Bank, on issues of heritage and sustainable development, food security, local community engagement, and equality.

Her work has received many prizes, including the 2022 European Archaeological Heritage Prize from the European Association of Archaeologists.


Wednesday, 13 December 2023

15.15 - 16.15 (CET)

Aquarium, 4th floor of the Maison des Sciences humaines, Belval Campus, and online.


This event is organized through the EUROPAST project.