France Returns 26 Looted Artifacts To Benin After 130 Years


France has returned some items from West Africa to Benin 130 years ago. Washington Post reported.

Twenty-six treasured possessions are well-known as “Abomey Treasures,”Washington Post reported that they will return to West Africa after being looted during colonial periods.

Benin’s Culture Minister Jean-Michel Abimbola called the move a “historic milestone.”

The items include 19th-century thrones, sacred altars and royal statues, that were plundered by the French army during the raid of Abomey Palace in 1892 and have been held at the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac in Paris since 2003, Washington Post reported.

Calixte Biah, the Museum of History of Ouidah Benin curator, spoke to Associated Press, marveling at their return.

“It’s been more than one century that they have been removed from their historical context. And when you look at the quality of each of these artifacts altogether, you realize that … there were great artists,”According to him, The Associated Press was informed.

With financial help from the French government Benin is building a new museum at Abomey to house the art. ABC News reported.

In 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country needed to right the wrongs of the past in a landmark 2017 speech where he admitted “that a large part of many African countries’ cultural heritage lies in France,” USA Today reported.

Abimbola stated that the 26 pieces would be returned within days of being signed over to Benin in Paris by Macron on Nov. 9, 2018.

Biah recognizes the importance of returning thousands of artifacts, but this is only one step.

“I think it would be decent that other countries which hold African artifacts take the same path as France,”He stated. “We see 26 artifacts. There are others, no? I’d say we are at the beginning of a process.”

At least 90,000 artifacts from sub-Saharan Africa are held across various museums and cultural institutions in France, according to a 2018 report  by the French government.