France agrees to return stolen African artwork to Benin

Art
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France president Emmanuel Macron agreed to return 26 royal statues from the Palaces of Abomey — formerly the capital of the kingdom of Dahomey — that were taken by the French army in 1892 and are now housed at Paris’ Quai Branly museum.

The decision came as Macron received the findings of a study he had commissioned on returning African treasures held by French museums, a radical policy shift that could put pressure on other former colonial powers.

He proposed gathering African and European partners in Paris next year to define a framework for an “exchange policy” for African artworks.

Macron’s statement reflects the recommendation of a commissioned panel of experts, and arrives years after Benin formally requested the return of the artworks. It’s a step in the right direction, no doubt, and it appears that Benin’s “pleased” by this “new form of cultural exchange,” per Ousmane Aledji, director of Benin’s Artisttik Africa. However, the same report found that most of the museum’s Africa exhibition — amounting to roughly 46,000 pieces — was acquired with “some degree of duress.”

So there’s still a long way to go, and as Diane Abbott, noted on Twitter, “all eyes turn to The British Museum,” where priceless bronzes plundered by The Brits during an 1897 imperial expedition remain over a century after Benin City’s destruction, and nearly 60 years after Nigeria’s independence from Britain. Nigeria is currently negotiating for their return on loan, according to a reports



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