French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to return without delay 26 cultural artefacts to Benin Republic.
This decision was made after Macron received the report of a study he commissioned with regards to repatriating African artworks illegally held in French Museums. The report indicated that the non repatriation of African artefacts were effectively depriving Africans of their artistic and cultural heritage.
“On a continent where 60 percent of the population is under the age of 20 years old, what is first and foremost of a great importance is for young people to have access to their own culture, creativity, and spirituality from other eras,” it said.
This development could further put pressure on other colonial powers who have been dragging feet on the return of looted African artworks to their countries of origin.
The artworks to be returned are mainly royal statues from Palaces of Abomey (former capital of kingdom of Dahomey) that are now in Paris’ Quai Branly museum. These were carried away by the French army during a war in 1892.
Macron, in addition also proposed a meeting of African and European Partners for defining a framework for an “exchange policy” for African artworks in Paris next year.
The director of Benin cultural centre, Ousmane Aledji expressed his pleasure on the new form of cultural exchange with France.
Thousands of African artefacts are in European museums with growing calls in Africa for their restitution. Some of these artworks were bought, battered and in some cases simply stolen.
French museums have an estimated 90,000 African artworks with around 70,000 at the Quai Branly museum created by ex- president Jacques Chirac, who was a keen admirer of African and Asian art.
There are also about 37,000 objects from Sub-Saharan Africa at Vienna’s Weltmuseum and 180,000 at Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren.