The acclaimed author of The Map of Love nominated for the Booker prize, has expressed her concern with the museum's deal with the oil firm and reparations.
Egyptian novelist, Ahdaf Soueif, has resigned from the British Museum’s board of trustees over the museum’s controversial sponsorship agreement with the oil giant, BP, and its stance on the reparation of looted artefacts.
In a blog post on the London Review of Books, Soueif, a trustee since 2012, revealed that her resignation “was not in protest at a single issue; it was a cumulative response to the museum’s immovability on issues of critical concern to the people who should be its core constituency: the young and the less privileged.”
She states she had raised the issue of BP’s involvement with public exhibitions held by the museum, revealing that the funds acquired from BP’s sponsorship aren't so substantial that the museum can't find sponsorship elsewhere.
The museum’s chair of trustees, Richard Lambert, said the board regrets Soueif’s decision, adding that “the resignation of a valued and very supportive trustee for seven years was a sad moment and unexpected.” Lambert retorted that the museum’s deal with BP - which runs until 2023 - has been supported and approved at the most recent board meeting, and that the oil firm’s sponsorship has allowed for “the museum to upt on exhibitions and programming that four million people have seen.”
The oil and gas group has faced multiple protests from activists due to their environmental impact. Moreover, activists have arranged sit-ins deploring arts and cultural institutions to stop accepting sponsorships from BP and other oil firms.
Soueif has suggested the museum doesn’t wish to “alienate a section of the business community.” She highlights that cultural institutions shouldbe wary and accountable, notably in a time of prevalent debate on the subject of climate change and turbulent democracies. She has noted that museum needs to “take a clear ethical position” on such issues. Adding that she “was sad to resign” and “sad to believe that it was the most useful thing” she could do.
Main image courtesy of The Guardian