Yorùbá religious material culture and the Yorùbá Diaspora : an investigation into the relationship between Yorùbá people in Britain and Yorùbá religious material displayed in British museums
This thesis is concerned with the interpretation and representation of non-Western religious material culture in Western museums. Specifically, it focuses on Yorùbá traditional religious material culture exhibited nowadays in museums in the United Kingdom. The research aimed to investigate how members of the Yorùbá Diaspora, living in the United Kingdom, related to their traditional religious heritage, presented in museums. At the same time, the study intended to explore the perspective of museum professionals, involved with the displays exhibiting traditional Yorùbá religious objects. The thesis counts of two main parts. The first part is concerned with the theoretical framework of the study. After presenting the main issues of the research and the existing literature review, it continues by clarifying the social function of symbols (particularly religious symbols) and by offering an historical excursus of museum displays exhibiting African material culture (from the 19th century until now). The second part is concerned with the description and analysis of four different projects (a temporary exhibition set by the researcher herself; a set of interviews and focus groups with members of the Yorùbá Diaspora; a set of interviews with museum professionals and an analysis of ten museum displays exhibiting traditional religious Yorùbá objects) which have been the investigative tool of this research. The research has a qualitative approach and it has been based in the United Kingdom. The thesis suggests that, notwithstanding the efforts of museum professionals, in museum displays traditional Yorùbá religious material culture loses its distinctiveness and become absorbed into a global pan-African representation. Additionally, members of the Yorùbá Diaspora in Britain seemed to have a conflictual relation towards to traditional Yorùbá religion.