France to return objects to Benin and Senegal within a year – ARTnews.com

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The French senators voted unanimously to return 27 objects kept in the country’s museums in Benin and Senegal over the next year. According to a report by Journal d’art, the bill concerns 26 statues looted in Benin by the French army in 1892 and a sword that belonged to a 19th century military leader in West Africa.The objects that will be returned to Benin are currently held by the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, which was the site of a protest centered on colonialism and repatriation organized by activist Mwazulu Diyabanza earlier this year, and the sword is now ready at the museum of black civilizations in Dakar by the museum of the French army.

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The news follows a 2017 investigation – known as the Savoy / Sarr report – focused on the repatriation of objects to Africa commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron. French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said France Media Agency that the bill “is not an act of repentance, but an act of friendship and trust”.

Stéphane Martin, the former president of the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, has publicly criticized the Savoy / Sarr report, calling its recommendation for a full repatriation of African objects “self-flagellation and repentance”.

the Journal d’art reports that a Senate committee report describes the “strictly exceptional, ad hoc and limited nature” of the bill. French senators are said to have pleaded for the creation of a national council “responsible for reflecting on the circulation and return of non-European cultural objects” for future repatriations.

Other European countries have also taken steps to create organized repatriation efforts. In October, the directors of the Rijksmuseum and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam expressed their support for a Dutch government initiative to return around 100,000 stolen objects from the former colonies.

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