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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/02/13: Detail of the contentious Benin plaques exhibit (more commonly known as the Benin bronzes) at the British Museum in London. T

French Government Votes in Favour of Returning Looted African Artefacts

The decision by the French government will see a Dahomey throne returned to Benin and a prized sword returned to Senegal, among several other artefacts.

According to BBC, France has voted in favour of returning looted artefacts to Benin and Senegal. The majority of President Emmanuel Macron's parliament voted in favour of the return of African artefacts this past Thursday. Benin will reportedly receive a throne taken in 1892 from the palace of Behanzin, the last king of what was then Dahomey. Senegal will have a sword that belonged to a 19th century sheikh returned to the country. The National Assembly had 48 votes in favour of the decision, none against and two abstentions, according to EuroNews.

Read: The Netherlands Returns Nigeria's Centuries-Old Stolen Artefact

Additionally, Benin will receive 26 pieces of the Treasure of Behanzin, including the throne of King Glele who ruled from 1858 until 1889. Senegal will reportedly have a 19th-century sword belonging to El Hadj Omar, a major political and military figure, returned. King Glele's throne was a main attraction in France's Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris. France has admitted to hoarding over 300 000 artefacts from around the world, about a third of which belong to Sub-Saharan Africa. Ironically, French Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot reportedly said that Macron intended to "renew and deepen the partnership between France and the African continent".

This partnership seems to be on France's terms and pace. In October, a French judge reportedly fined activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza just over 1000 US dollars for alledgedly removing a sacred Chadian funeral statue from a French museum. The judge claimed the hefty fine was to "discourage" such acts and suggested other ways of drawing the attention of politicians and the public to the issue of colonial cultural theft.

European countries seem to enjoy lauding their power through the piecemeal process of returning looted African artefacts. The exact date of return for Benin's and Senegal's artefacts has not been officially announced. Senegal's sword and sheath are owned by France's Army Museum but are, oddly enough, currently exhibited on a long-term loan in Senegal's capital Dakar.


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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