Monday, January 17, 2022

Experts ask the EU to step in to return art looted during colonialism –

looted during colonialism

As some European countries start returning looted art to former colonies, experts call for EU guidelines to “harmonise” and support the restitution of cultural objects to African museums.

The push for the return of art objects stolen during colonialism has become more widespread in recent years due to the renewed attention on Europe’s colonial past.

The Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 helped to “fuel the debate,” but discussions on art repatriation were ongoing even before, according to Larissa Förster, head of the department for cultural goods from colonial contexts at the German Lost Art Foundation.

France started talks on art restitution in 2017 after Macron promised to return artefacts to Benin in a speech in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Some 26 of these objects looted during a siege in the 19th century were sent back to the small African country last autumn.

However, a 2018 report commissioned by the French government found that up to 90,000 African artworks are stored in the country’s museums, while around 90% of African cultural heritage remains outside the continent.

A handful of other EU countries are increasingly active on the issue, like Germany, which is preparing to return some Beninese sculptures later this year.

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