Activists in search of to ‘return’ African artwork go on trial in France | Europe

A Congolese activist and four others were tried Wednesday for theft for attempting to remove a 19th-century African funeral pole from a Paris museum as part of a protest campaign against colonial looting.

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza has carried out similar actions in museums in the Netherlands and in the southern French city of Marseille over the past few months, inspired by global protests against racial injustice and injustice from the colonial era, sparked by George Floyd’s death in the United States in May . Neck grip of a white police officer.

In the Paris case, Diyabanza and the other activists were charged with attempted group theft of a historical object. According to his lawyer, if convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros.

The 41-year-old Diyabanza led the operation in the Quai Branly Museum last June and denounced the “pillage of Africa”.

“We’re taking it home,” he said in a video posted on social media after removing the funeral staff from Chad and showing them around the building.

When Diyabanza got to court defiantly, he said it was time for Africans, Latin Americans and other colonized communities to take back what was taken from their land under colonialism.

The charges stem from an incident in June that Diyabanza streamed on Facebook where he removed the grave pole from the Quai Branly Museum and said it should be returned to Africa. The rod came from a region that crosses today’s Chad and Sudan.

Museum guards stopped them and the police arrested the activists. In the video, Diyabanza – born in what was then Zaire and once ruled by Belgium – lists works from former colonies in Africa that were kept in the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. He accuses European museums of having made millions with works of art from now impoverished countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Quai Branly Museum on the banks of the Seine near the Eiffel Tower was built under the former French President Jacques Chirac to showcase non-European art, especially from former French colonies.

France’s then minister of culture denounced the incident, as did some historians fear that this type of action could damage the longstanding negotiations with the French government over the return of African art.

A 2018 study commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron recommended that French museums return works that were admitted without consent if African countries so request. So far, France is preparing to return 26 works of African art out of around 90,000 works believed to be kept in French museums.

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