Art
Masks from Mali's Dogon region on display at the Quai Museum in France. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Senegal Urges French Museums To Return Looted Art

This demand from the Senegalese government comes in lieu of the permanent restitution report commissioned by France's President Emmanuel Macron.

As the conversation around the restitution of stolen art and treasures from Africa continues, some action has taken place that has shaken up the museum world.

The Senegalese government has demanded that all of their art in French museums should be returned, as the country will soon open the new Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, BBC reports.

This news comes in lieu of "The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage: Toward a New Relational Ethics" report that was released last week by economist Felwine Sarr and art historian Bénédicte Savoy; commissioned by France's President Emmanuel Macron. You can download the full report in French and English here. The report highly urges that stolen African artifacts must be returned to their countries of origin permanently.


Abdou Latif Coulibaly, Senegal's culture minister, tells the BBC that they've already asked the French government to return more than 100 artifacts. He also welcomes the report as "every piece from Senegal is in France."

"We've read it and we consider it's a positive report," Coulibaly continues, "it's legitimate and follows the course of history."

Prior to this news, Macron as also called on 26 Benin bronze artifacts to be returned to their country of origin "without delay," based on a proposal from the Quai Museum and the French ministry of culture, Artnet News reports. He also asked French museums to establish African partners to begin organizing returns and the development of an online inventory of museums' African collections.

Benin Bronzes. Victoria & Albert Museum. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Among the artifacts that will be returned include three statues of the kings of Abomey, thrones, ornamental doors and a statue of the god Gou. Artnet adds that these items were stolen during General Dodd's bloody siege on the Béhanzin palace in 1892. There are plans for these artifacts to be made available to the public in Benin.

Prince Kum'a Ndumbe III, who represents the Duala people in Cameroon, tells The New York Times that such a commitment displayed in the report has been long overdue since French-speaking African countries gained independence from France in 1960.

"This is not just about the return of African art," he says. "When someone's stolen your soul, it's very difficult to survive as a people."

Last month, the Benin Dialogue Group has been in conversations with European museums about the repatriation of their stolen art, and plans to do so are continuing moving forward—starting with the British Museum, CNN adds. The caveat with these negotiations remain that this agreement would allow these museums to place these artifacts on loan to their country of origin.

"We are grateful these steps are being taken but we hope they are only the first steps," Crusoe Osagie, spokesman for the Governor of Edo State, says to CNN. "If you have stolen property, you have to give it back."


Interview
Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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