In November, two years after French President Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to eventually return the works of art looted by France from the city of Abomey in Benin to their country of origin, 343 French senators approved a bill guaranteeing the return of these objects from colonial times. within a calendar year. However, as of this week, the French Senate reportedly blocked the passage of this bill due to arguments over its specific terms.
According to The art journal, the dispute is based on the need for the French Senate to create a national council that would advise the government on restitution claims and facilitate similar processes in the future.
Subscribe to the Observer’s Arts newsletter
As you can imagine, building an entirely new government group to make these kinds of decisions isn’t really that easy. In addition, members of the French Senate are arguing over word choices in the proposed new legislation: some argue that the word “restitution” in the draft should be replaced by the more innocuous word “retour” when it comes to discussing. looted. objects. It may be that for the Benin-Senegal restitution bill to be adopted, the intervention of Jean Castex, the French Prime Minister, is necessary.
“We must establish a democratic, transparent and scientific method [of restitution] which clarifies the political decision-making ”, would have declared Catherine Morin Desailly, head of the commission of inquiry in France on the restitution.
However, it is undeniable that time is running out for these objects to be returned to their country of origin, especially since projects to design a museum to house the objects are already underway. If one step in the process cannot be completed, the whole project will either be delayed indefinitely or simply collapse.