Back to Where They Once Belonged: Proponents of Repatriation of African Artworks Take Issue with the Past—and Present and Future
Art Business

Back to Where They Once Belonged: Proponents of Repatriation of African Artworks Take Issue with the Past—and Present and Future

A Chokwe Mwana Pwo mask that was returned to Angola from a private collection in France in April 2016. COURTESY SINDIKA DOKOLO FOUNDATION Early in the blockbuster movie Black Panther , in a scene that has been much discussed for what it brings to bear on issues of race and institutionality, a young black man stands beside a white curator in the fictional Museum of Great Britain. As the curator talks about the history of a centuries-old axe she says was made in the West African nation of Benin, the man protests its provenance before changing tacks: “Don’t trip—I’m going to take it off your hands for you.” When told the artifact is not for sale, he replies: “How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it, like they took everything else?” This past November, a few months before the movie’s release, French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Africa in an effort to improve social and economic cooperation between France and several countries on the continent. During a speech at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, before 800 students gathered for the occasion, he lamented a […]

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