November 29, 2021

Sagebrush Rider

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France returns plundered treasures to Benin

In the midst of the debate over the colonial tradition, Benin is preparing to retrieve within 26 days 26 works of great historical value that had been plundered by French troops during the war in Africa in 1892. A few months before coming to Elysee, this restructuring will be followed by others, due to the commitment of President Emmanuel Macron in 2017.

The works in question are last on display at the Quai Franley-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris. The treasures are to be transferred to Benin on November 9th. Upon arrival, they can be admired at the Ouidah Historical Museum, which is a makeshift site until a museum is built at Abomi in the former royal palace, where they will receive their final resting place.


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Ana Echeverria Aristequi

The 26 pieces come from the ancient kingdom of Abom, which is today an integral part of Benin. Three royal statues representing the relationship between humans and animals, three thrones – including the last King Behansin, four carved palace gates, several altars and spearheads of three warriors.

Macron is very willing to admit and try to correct the abuses of the colonial period.

These works have a great symbolic value to the people of Benin, signifying the restoration of their cultural heritage and repairing the damage caused. Macron, who will visit the Kwai Branley Museum on Wednesday, will attend and speak at the restoration ceremony.

Macron, for a generational issue, was very open to acknowledging the abuses of the French colonial period and trying to correct them, albeit morally. In the case of Algeria in the War of Independence, which ended sixty years ago, it was not always a victory, but some shocks still could not be overcome.

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Other African countries, such as Ivory Coast, Senegal or Mali, are demanding that the looted pieces be returned to them.

The return of works to Benin will trigger a major process. Other African countries, such as Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ethiopia, Chad, Mali and Madagascar, are making similar demands.

French public collections alone are estimated to contain about 150,000 items from Africa. They are distributed in more than two hundred museums. In many cases it is difficult to trace their origin and the circumstances in which they came to France.

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