The KZN Museum hosted a roundtable discussion on issues surrounding human remains housed in South African Museums and how best to deal with repatriation of remains collected unethically. Part of the legacy of colonialism, human skeletons were often given to, or acquired by, museums in South Africa often under dubious circumstances. The Khoesan peoples were significantly affected by such unethical acquisitions. The skeletons within museum collections in South Africa today raise many challenges for how to deal with these remains and how to identify and repatriate them to relevant communities. Museums have often been slow to respond to such issues and to deal with restitution.
A new initiative, being led by Dr Wendy Black of Iziko Museums (Cape Town), seeks to map a new consensus amongst museum curatorial personnel on how best to deal with issues surrounding human remains within museum collections. To this end Dr Black hosted a one-day roundtable discussion on 25 October 2019, with personnel from Iziko Museums of South Africa, KZN Museum, Wits University, McGregor Museum, Albany Museum, Bloemfontein Museum, Ditsong Museum, the University of Stellenbosch, and the Department of Sports, Art and Culture (DSAC). The discussions were fruitful and the contributors were able to share their concerns and potential solutions to these issues. The participants were also able to comment broadly and provide important input on the Draft National Policy on the Repatriation and Restitution of Human Remains and Heritage Objects, currently in the process of refinement by DSAC.