Art is beautiful and we at AfricanaQ enjoy visiting museums – we have visited quite a few in the UK, France and Netherlands, and we were fascinated with the beautiful African arts on display
We were encouraged when President Macron during his recent African tour pledged that he wanted to see Africa’s cultural treasures on show “in Dakar, Lagos and Cotonou,” that to us was very positive and encouraging news.
In Burkina Faso, he declared that “African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums. We at AfricanaQ commend him for taking this position – this gives some comfort to this topical and controversial issue.
It would be interesting on how the European museums act to statements made my Emmanuel Macron – our hope is that these words turn to actions – It is further encouragement that Macron appointed two experts who will report later this year  on the repatriation of African cultural heritage held in French museums. The Senegalese writer and economist Felwine Sarr and the French art historian Bénédicte Savoy, are due to present their recommendations in November.
Though museums in Europe are a treasure trove for African art, the ones that still stand out amongst many are the ‘Benin Lost Bronzes’
Benin suffered more than most, with the French plundering the Dahomey kingdom on 1892, In Jul 2016, the Benin government called for the return of Guezo, Giele and Behanzin treasures – it was a shame the claims were rejected in late 2016
In 1897, British forces raided the kingdom of Benin (a pre-colonial state in what is now southern Nigeria) in an attempt to overthrow the Oba. About 4,000 bronze and ivory artefacts were looted by the British army; since the 196os, the Court of Benin and the Nigerian government have repeatedly called for their repatriationVarious discussions have been ongoing on returning these arts – In Nigeria, there has been progress by proposals put forward by the Nigerian government put forward by the Nigerian government centred on a new museum for Benin art located in Benin City, “Plans are still ongoing to set up the museum in the royal place of Benin… This would be the safest place in Edo state as it is culturally sacred,” says a Nigerian government spokesman. The British Museum also has an extensive collection of Benin treasures, the crucial question is whether they will lend their Benin works to the planned museum in Benin City.
The beautiful and magnificent head of the Oba of Benin was acquired by the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Also, the Musee du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, has a vast collection of African artefacts which is fascinating and equally pungent.
One of the options being considered is the idea of collaborating on loans and exchanges with African museums instead of full repatriation – the problem as usual is whether suitable African museums can be sourced for partnership could be arranged for medium or long term exchanges, for example the Museum of African Civilisations in Dakar.
It is encouraging that the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) is collaborating with the Ethiopian embassy in London and an advisory group from the Ethiopian community in London on an exhibition of Ethiopian treasure, including the gold crown, seized by a British military expedition in 1868 to punish the emperor of what was then Abyssinia.
We at AfricanaQ will continue to monitor developments in this area, but we do wish that Africans can equally enjoy this beautiful arts as part of culture.