26 African Artifacts Stolen 130 Years Ago by France Returned to Benin

In Summary

This act could signal for the return of many African historical artworks to the African countries whose heritage was stolen by colonial Europe. 

Good news is coming to Benin as 26 pieces of art pilfered nearly 130 years ago by French troops are to be returned to the West African country. 

French troops, following a war fought against the Kingdom of Dahomey, stole several historical artifacts consisting of carved wooden doors, royal thrones and statues which were on display in French museums since 1900. 

Related: Protesters Try To Seize African Artwork From Paris Museum

According to The New York Times, this is the first large-scale act of reparations given by a former European colonial power to Africa. The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, spoke at a ceremony at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris where the artifacts were on display. Last month, President Macron completed the transfer at a signing ceremony in the presidential residence, Élysée Palace, with Benin President Patrice Talon. 

According to ABC News, experts believe the amount of stolen African artifacts by colonial Europe is considerable and could become a detriment to many of the Europe’s museum collections. 

ABC also reported that in order for France to complete the transfer, France’s parliament passed a new law decreeing it legal to return cultural artifacts. 

French art historian, Bénédicte Savoy, told ABC News the importance of this action is a significant point in history and compared the moment to the “fall of the Berlin wall.” 

A Congolese activist, Mwazulu Diyabanza, who has been very vocal about the harm done to Africa from Europe, also commented to ABC News that he hopes there will be a declaration of acknowledgment to crimes committed and the return of everything stolen and forcibly taken. 

“It is not up to the thief, the prevaricator, and the dealer to decide when and how much of the works to be returned,” he added in the report. 

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