Verdict: Art Theft From Paris Museum

The matter is stolen, so far both sides agree. The question is who is the thief and who is the owner. “We’re bringing it home,” said Congo’s Emery Mwazulu Diabanza, as he removed the object of a West African cult at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris in June, along with fellow campaigners who took the action on YouTube. broadcast live, and carried it forward. towards the exit. He came to “recover the stolen property of Africa”, which was stolen by the French in former colonies and which is now locked in such ethnographic museums.

On Wednesday, Diyabanja was sentenced to a fine of 1000 euros for “serious theft”, the museum filed a complaint. The court followed the prosecutor’s office, which had proposed a sentence intended to “ensure the peace” on the one hand and deter imitators on the other. Clearly, it wanted to avoid giving activists more attention than the already hefty fines.

Ever since President Emmanuel Macron announced in 2017 that France would create conditions within five years to return items stolen from former colonies, the pros and cons of restitution in France, like most European countries, have been hotly debated. With Diabanza, this debate among scientists and museum people has a new voice: immigrants and members of the African diaspora. The 41-year-old worker lives in a Paris banquette. He belongs to a group of Pan-African activists who call themselves “Unity, Dignity and Courage” and who fight for the return of African artifacts from museums in Europe.

Why should he still have access to see what his ancestors were up to?

As a teenager, his mother told him about three family items: a carved stick, a leopard skin, and a bracelet. They were gifts from the king to his great-grandfather that guaranteed power and authority. In the 19th century, these items were stolen by European occupiers. Diabanja called colonialism “the plunder of Africa”. “We will bring slavery and colonialism to justice,” his lawyers said.

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in an interview with new York Times Diabanza explained the anger he felt during his visit to Kwa Branley: “That I had to pay to see something that was forcibly taken from me, to see the cultural heritage I came from – whose The decision to act has been taken.

The five-year period Macron issued is not over yet, but there is nothing to indicate a massive resumption yet. In three weeks the Senate will negotiate a law that was unanimously passed in the National Assembly and which provides for the return of 26 items to Benin. No further returns are planned at the moment.

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