France restitutes African Art to African countries, part 1
President Macron made the promise to return the works of art to Africa.
He embarked on a process, the outcome of which will undoubtedly be long, tedious, and uncertain. The answer can only be complex and approximate.
For a start, the use of the word " restitution" is improper.
One can only return something that one unduly holds, which belongs legally to a legitimate owner dispossessed of his property.
This term "restitution"- could not be worse - induces, even before entering the debate, the notion of fault committed, therefore of guilt, and implies a remedy.
President Macron decided to return the works claimed by Benin without investigation.
I did not know that a President of the French Republic could dispose of the inalienable property of France as he pleased.
Let's examine the facts.
It is important to remember that the first collections of masks and statues, long considered as ethnographic objects, were made at a time when all this was worth nothing. Profit was not the goal. The primary purpose - unmentionable and unacknowledged - of these collections was to transmit the image of a fierce and savage Africa to assert the civilizing mission of France.
This purpose was a smokescreen to justify to the taxpayers the unpopularity of huge sums committed on a continent where everything was to be done to make the human and natural resources profitable.
The exhibition, in most museums, of the items country by country, ethnicity by ethnicity, is a survival of this state of mind, the idea of an Africa populated by a mosaic of wild tribes, unrelated to each other.
The missionaries did the same.
They did not hesitate to project films that gave a degrading image of the "Black" (Jean d'Esme mission for the Fathers of the Holy Spirit in 1930) to raise funds for the missions.
The masks and statues that arrived in France were perceived in a derogatory way, and nobody was interested in them, was it not to mock or to mourn the condition of the Negroes. Reginald Groux, 12/04/2018 - La Tribune de l'Art