royal statues, of statuettes of historical and other works of art stolen from Benin by the French at the end of the Nineteenth century will be restored “soon”. The minister of Culture, Franck Riester announced on Thursday that the French authorities would not the adoption of a law endorsing formally the return.
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“The restitution of works will be the subject of a registration in the act. The calendar remains to specify given the large number of texts under discussion in Parliament (…) In the meantime, these twenty-six works must be able to be seen, admired and studied in Benin,” said the minister on the occasion of a great forum dedicated to the question of the “heritage of africa” in Paris, according to the text transmitted by its services. Among the scenarios being considered, he mentioned the possibility of an “exhibition dedicated to the diversity, complexity and aesthetic richness of these works”.
The spoils of war dating back to 1892
Currently property of the musée du Quai Branly, the twenty-six works in question were the spoils of war to the French general Alfred Dodds in the palace of king Behanzin of Dahomey (now Benin) in 1892. The museum of arts and civilisations of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, and the department will work with the beninese authorities to “find ways and means of an effective return,” said Mr. Riester.
at the End of November, Emmanuel Macron had decided to return “without delay” these works after the delivery of a report by two academics at the College of France, and the University of Saint-Louis in Senegal on this subject. He had also promised a major meeting involving african and european partners to set the framework of a “political exchange” of works of art “We need to rethink our cultural relationship with the african continent,” said Franck Riester, announcing that “France will examine with the same careful attention to the requests submitted to it by other african countries”.
90.000 objects of art in africa are in France
The perimeter of the refunds could include looted goods, stolen goods, spoils of war, but also those, very many, acquired at very low prices. At least 90,000 objects of art in sub-saharan Africa are in the French public collections. More than two-thirds – 70.000 – can be found at the Quai Branly, of which 46,000 of “acquired” during the period 1885-1960. More than twenty thousand others are scattered in numerous museums.
While the debate on heritage and the african had caused concern among collectors, the minister has tried to reassure them. The State “does not intend to take restrictive measures concerning the heritage of african detainees in private hands, or to limit traffic or commerce.”