On November 9, 2016, in Toronto, ON, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) issued the following statement at a reconciliation event with the Coalition for the Truth about Africa (CFTA)…
“The Royal Ontario Museum produced the exhibition Into the Heart of Africa, which opened at the Museum in November 1989. This exhibition was intended to critically examine the colonial relationships and premises through which collections from African societies had entered museums.
The exhibition displayed images and words that showed the fundamentally racist ideas and attitudes of early collectors and, in doing so, unintentionally reproduced the colonial, racist and Eurocentric premises through which these collections had been acquired. Thus, Into the Heart of Africa perpetuated an atmosphere of racism and the effect of the exhibition itself was racist. The ROM expresses its deep regret for having contributed to anti-African racism. The ROM also officially apologizes for the suffering endured by members of the African-Canadian community as a result of Into the Heart of Africa.”
The ROM statement was delivered by Dr. Mark Engstrom, the Museum’s Deputy Director, Collections and Research, who has guided the reconciliation process for the ROM, Josh Basseches, Director and CEO of the ROM, and Martha Durdin, Chair, ROM Board of Trustees. This statement was accepted by Rostant Ras Rico John, on behalf of the CFTA. In addition, the ROM announced a number of steps it will take in the coming years to continue to strengthen collaboration with African-Canadian communities and help shape the museum of the future. These include enhanced partnerships with Black educational networks, opportunities for training Black youth interested in museums and continued support of events and lectures that address the history and cultures of Africa and the Diaspora. Working with the CFTA and other community partners, the ROM is committed to sustained and meaningful programming and acknowledges the importance of dialogue and collaboration toward enhancing its collection and public events.
Rostant Rico John, CFTA Spokesperson said, “Greetings, it is good and pleasant that, on behalf of the CFTA and the African community in Canada, we would like to express our pride in having reached this point of reconciliation after twenty-seven years. It took many gallant efforts by people inside and outside of the ROM to reconcile and both the ROM and CFTA worked diligently, persistently, and consistently to arrive at this agreement. We would like to congratulate all the participants in this effort: The ROM’s Dr. Mark Engstrom, Cheryl Blackman, and Dr. Silvia Forni; and the CFTA Rico John, Yao Akyeaw, Dr. Afua Cooper, Geraldine Moriba and Ajamu Khalfani for working together to achieve this historic milestone. And also, I thank CFTA members for their significant efforts, analyses, and intents which stood the test of time”.
Mr. John continued, “The CFTA’s community gracefully accepts the apology advanced by the ROM. We jointly look forward and will work fervently to see other initiatives as agreed upon come to fruition. We would like to say on behalf of the African community again, a heartfelt thanks to those people in our community who have worked hard to bring this to fruition. Jah live!”