“Finders Keepers” is a three-part radio documentary series produced for ‘The Compass’ on BBC World Service.
The programme investigates the growing demands for cultural artefacts taken from countries and placed in Western museums during the colonial era, to be returned home.
The presenter is 27 year-old Kema Sikazwe. Born in Zambia, his family moved to Newcastle in the North East of England when he was three years old. He hasn’t returned to Zambia since, and his plans to do so for the first time in the summer of 2020 were thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Kema is not a journalist. He is not an historical expert. He is a musician and an actor, most notably starring as China in Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film ‘I Daniel Blake’.
In his first ever radio programme, Kema sets off on a journey to find out what relevance the ‘restitution’ debate has for a young Geordie-Zambian, living in the furthest flung corner of Northern England, and who hasn’t even set foot in a museum since he was ten years old.
Speaking to curators, collectors, activists and even members of his own family, Kema discovers how widespread the call for return has become across the globe.
Kema talks to people from Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria who want their cultural heritage returned. He speaks to people in New Zealand who have succeeded. He also speaks to people on the other side – in the UK, Netherlands and France who have to deal with these claims in their work.
Soon, it dawns on Kema that he feels a personal connection with the artefacts he comes across. Just like him, there are questions about where they belong. Just like him, these objects – and those they belong to – are not necessarily fully in charge of their own fate. Throughout the series, Kema’s journey is underpinned by his pulsating, self-composed original score.
Our target audience is a younger 18-25 age group and those who do not necessarily have any prior knowledge of the restitution debate. Our approach was to invite them to ‘learn alongside’ Kema, rather than feel like an outsider in conversations reserved for ‘experts’.
The programme’s recurring focus on seeking positive stories of Black identity, an overwhelming majority of contributors being people of colour and an angle on the issue from the often-ignored vantage point of North East England is intended to make our audience as inclusive as possible – particularly those who think topics like this are ‘not for them’.
Produced during the growing Black Lives Matters protests, and in the midst of a global pandemic, Kema asks whether these priceless parts of history should be returned, and if so at what cost both to the originating country and to the guardians who have maintained the relics safe for centuries?