The dance between artefact, commodity and fetish: a case study of Brendan Fernandes’ Lost Bodies

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Mosurinjohn, Sharday
Critical religion , Ritual , Enchantment , Museums , Post-development , Brendan Fernandes
In 2015, artist Brendan Fernandes was invited to interpret ‘African collections’ from the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and the Textile Museum of Canada. The result, Lost Bodies, critiques racist ideologies that justified presenting objects from colonised African peoples as evidence of ‘superstition’ or ‘witchcraft’ in early European museums. Fernandes redirects the deferential gestures of ballet, professionalised in Louis XIV’s court at the same moment of the objects’ collection, to reanimate and apologise to them. Considering Lost Bodies, I explore how it is possible to nuance Western museums’ public development narratives by engaging such artefacts without either ignoring their history or rejecting museums on account of their own.