There are historical explanations for France holding African artworks, but the French president said, “There is no valid, lasting and unconditional justification.”
A report commissioned by French president Emmanuel Macron is calling for a change in heritage law that would see thousands of African artworks that were housed in French museums, returned to their countries of origin.
Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and French historian Bénédicte Savoy authored the report, which was calling not for a long-term loan but a permanent restitution unless museums can prove that the objects in question were obtained legitimately.
The report followed a vow last year from Macron that artifacts would begin being returned to Africa in the next five years.
“I cannot accept that a large part of the cultural heritage of several African countries is in France,” Macron said in Ouagadougou, the Burkina Faso capital.
“There are historical explanations for this but there is no valid, lasting and unconditional justification. African heritage cannot be only in private collections and European museums; it must be showcased in Paris but also in Dakar, Lagos and Cotonou. This will be one of my priorities,” he added.
With many of the artworks being “acquired” by foreign entities in the 19th century, there is not always clear documentation on the transfer, which many see as a simple case of looting, and according to “The New York Times” estimates that 90 to 95 per cent of Africa’s cultural heritage resides outside of the continent.
Don’t you think? If France takes steps to return African artworks, there will be pressure on museums in other countries to do the same!