France Votes On Art Restitution To Senegal And Benin

by Duke Magazine

French parliamentarians voted on Tuesday on the possible restitution of art and cultural treasures to Senegal and Benin.

The 26 items of the “Behanzin Treasure”, taken during the looting of the Abomey palace by the French in 1892 are displayed at the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris, but they could soon be sent back to Benin.

Senegal could be given back the saber and sheath of El Hadj Omar Tall, a famous West African military and religious figure from the 19th century.

They are the property of the Army Museum in Paris and are currently displayed at an exhibition in Dakar as a long-term loan.

During his Ouagadougou visit in 2017, French president Emmanuel Macron promised to rethink the cultural partnership between France and its former African colonies.

The French Culture minister, Roselyne Bachelot has said that the vote is “a new chapter in the cultural nexus between France and African countries”.

But to the president of Benin Patrice Talon, the restitution is too limited and too slow.

In an interview with the weekly Jeune Afrique, Talon said that France has taken “small steps” but that giving back the 26 artworks is the bare minimum.

He wants a “general law” allowing for the “global restitution” of items “based on a detailed inventory”.

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