in the Face of the controversy, Emmanuel Macron, has decided to return “without delay” 26 works that have been requested by the authorities of Benin, the spoils of war of the French army in 1892, announced Friday the Elysée palace, after the delivery of a report on the restitution by France of works of african art. The head of State, who was hired last year to study these refunds, also offers to “meet in Paris in the first quarter of 2019 all african and european partners” to define the framework of a “political exchange” of works of art.
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In this report submitted to the president of the Republic, two experts propose to amend the French heritage code, to allow make to african works of art, now in the collections of French museums. The art historian French Bénédicte Savoy and the senegalese scholar Felwine Sarr, instructed by Emmanuel Macron to carry out extensive consultations in France and Africa, he will deliver on Friday a report on this subject.
This large document (250 pages), recommends that “a bilateral agreement between the French State, and every african State concerned”, which “provides, as an exception to the general code of property of public persons, and to the heritage code, the restitution of cultural property, including objects in collections of museums, out of their territory of origin during the colonial period”.
A new key article would be worded as follows: “A bilateral agreement on cultural cooperation concluded between the French State and one african State may provide for the restitution of cultural property, and, in particular, objects of museum collections transferred out of their original territory during the French colonial period.”
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The report and the decision of the president awaited with anxiety in the middle of the museums
November 28, 2017, in Ouagadougou, the French president had announced the implementation in a period of five years of refunds, temporary or definitive of the african heritage in Africa. In the environments of museums, the report and the decision of the president is awaited with anxiety. Some museums, like the Musée du Quai Branly, Jacques Chirac, in fact, have a number of very important african collections.
This will be Emmanuel Macron or not to follow, or to temper, the proposals in the report, the implementation of which will be complex, as is difficult the definition of a robbery in the past declined.
Entered in the national collections, tens of thousands of objects of art may not officially not out of it. They obey the three principles enshrined in the French law: inalienability, statute of limitations, and seizure.
the 70,000 of the 90,000 objects currently in France, is the museum of the Quai Branly
The report of the two experts is not proposing to circumvent the law but to change it. “We propose an amendment to the code of the heritage which enables us to take into account all the scenarios and where the criterion of consent can be relied on,” says Felwine Sarr in an article posted online Tuesday night by the daily newspaper Liberation .
On around 90,000 objects currently in France, 70.000 of them are at the Quai Branly. Two-thirds were “acquired” during the period 1885-1960, which corresponds to a little more than 46,000 objects, according to the count of Release . For the process to trigger, the report states, “it will be necessary that a request came from the african countries affected, through the inventory that we have sent”.
This report is not unanimous.
The specialists do not agree among themselves on what needs to be understood as robbery at the time of colonization, fear of escalations policies and emphasize the difficulty of reproducing works when the kingdoms and nations that possessed have disappeared. The evolution of the French legislation could have influences to the african collections in other former colonial powers, such as the United Kingdom, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Italy, since 85% to 90% of the african heritage would be today outside the continent.
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