Exhibitions of 26 looted artefacts in Benin show rich history — Vophs Africa

Almost 130 years after French soldiers stormed the palace in Abume, southern Benin, and seized the royal estate as a symbol of colonial victory, a month-long exhibition in the West African country honored the return of 26 works of art. , which provides an opportunity for a dynamic contemporary exhibition. tradition of art.

Sampleswhich include thrones, palace gates and royal statues of past kings of the Dahomey Kingdom (in present-day Benin), were returned last November after years of requests. by the Government of Benin. A French law authorizing their return was signed in December 2020, three years after Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to return looted African art to France.

Once preserved at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, 26 artifacts are on display at the Palace of the Marina in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city and major port of entry for visitors. The free exhibition, first held between February and May this year, resumed from mid-July to August 28. Benin and beyond, more than 200,000 people What is the visit? The New York Times said Citing official data.

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Statues of King Galilee and Behanzin, icons of the Dahomey kingdom

Shegun Adjadi Bakari, a former high-ranking adviser to Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe, attended the exhibition. “It’s a real joy to help our kids discover our history and share this piece of Bannon and understand that Bannon doesn’t stop at the end,” he said. They said. “It lives ahead of time.”

Beside the historic pieces were works by 34 contemporary artists from Benin, including works by famous artists. Voodoo Art Painter Cyprien Tokoudagba And a hymn Women rule the society. By Ishola Akpo, a photographer born in Côte d’Ivoire to Benny’s parents. Five of the contemporary artists in the exhibition were women.

Benin is home to the famous all-female Dahomey military system that fought against French colonial rule and whose story will be depicted in a soon-to-be-released film. A female king Starring Viola Davis.

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Kpoton Avounbe, Allodji III, traditional ruler of Abomey-Calavi, in exhibition

Thousands of African artworks Stay in France and the rest of Europe

Given the sense of pride generated in Benin, there may be a greater push to return the rest of the African art preserved in museums and galleries across Europe.

gave 2018 report Commission on art recovery by Macron found that 90% of African art is outside the continent. The Quai Branly Museum in Paris alone houses more than 70,000 works of art, a similar number in Germany, Austria and England, and 180,000 in Belgium. Some specimens were sold by auction house Christie’s in Paris in July 2020. About $238,000.

“It is no longer possible to say, ‘Back then, we looted some munitions. Too bad, now it’s ours,'” Benin’s culture minister, Jean-Michel Abimbola, told The Times.

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Macron looks at artifacts returned on visit to Benin.

Under Macron’s government, France has returned 28 specimens to Africa—one each to Senegal, and Madagascar in addition to Benin. Will the French president, who visited Benin in July to see the exhibition, speed up the recovery?

In the past, demands for compensation from France have come up against a legal hurdle known as the “immobility of public French art collections”. This simply means that there are laws stating that any public collection of French art belongs to the state and cannot be returned (even when said assets were looted).

The simple argument advocating for return is that the specimens originated in Africa. But against criticism that the continent is ill-prepared to manage its coffers, some governments have begun to invest. Togo opens 26,000-square-foot state-funded contemporary art center in 2019 Converting a former colonial palace I A cost of $3.6 million. Benin’s exhibitions this year are said to be part of a €1 billion agenda to invest in cultural infrastructure.

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