France to Return Looted Artifacts to BeninBreaking News
tags: colonialism, art history, African history
Twenty-six looted colonial-era artifacts are to be displayed in a French museum one final time before they are returned home to Benin, in what officials in the West African country have said is a “historic milestone.”
The items, which include 19th-century thrones, sacred altars and royal statues, were plundered by the French army amid the sacking of Abomey Palace in 1892 and have been held at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris since 2003.
The collection, widely referred to as the “Abomey Treasures,” will be presented to the public until Sunday as part of an event seeking to celebrate the arts, cultures and traditions of Benin, said a news release issued by the museum last month.
The artifacts will then be handed back to Benin, where they will eventually go on display at a new museum in the city of Abomey that the French government has helped to fund.
Calixte Biah, curator of the Museum of History of Ouidah in Benin, where the collection will first be displayed, called on other countries to follow France’s lead, according to the Associated Press.
“I think it would be decent that other countries which hold African artifacts take the same path as France,” he said, expressing hope that the return of the objects would spark other cultural institutions to reevaluate collections of colonial-era artifacts.
“We see 26 artifacts. There are others, no?” he said. “I’d say we are at the beginning of a process.”
At least 90,000 artifacts from sub-Saharan Africa are held by institutions in France, according to a 2018 report commissioned by the French government. The majority of them can be found at the Musée du Quai Branly.