FRENCH CULTURE minister Roselyne Bachelot has stated that the decision to return colonial-era artefacts will ‘allow the Beninese and Senegalese peoples to reconnect more directly with their past’ but it must not be seen as a ‘legal precedent’.
France supports the initiatives of these two countries in favour of heritage, well beyond just restitution
French Culture minister Roselyne Bachelot
Following a unanimous vote France will return 27 artefacts in museums to Benin and Senegal within one year.
The decison comes three years after President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to return African artefacts housed in French institutions to their country of origin.
At the time Macron said: “I cannot accept that a large part of cultural heritage from several African countries is in France.
“There are historical explanations for that, but there are no valid justifications that are durable and unconditional.
“African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums.
“African heritage must be highlighted in Paris, but also in Dakar, in Lagos, in Cotonou.”
Twenty-six plundered royal artefacts from the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac vare heading back to the Republic of Benin and a sword from the Army Museum to Senegal.
Interestingly, the return of the artefacts comes with the provision that they are ‘preserved and presented to the public in places dedicated to this [heritage] function’, Bachelot stated.
She added: “France supports the initiatives of these two countries in favour of heritage, well beyond just restitution.
“This text is a true act of friendship. It will allow the Beninese and Senegalese peoples to reconnect more directly with their past and access the constituent elements of their history, as our own collections allow us to do.”
The French government recently returned the crown of Madagascar’s last queen, Ranavalona III.