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The famous burial mask of King Tutankhamun on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt. Photo by Mark Fischer via Flickr.

Egypt Moves to Stop Sale of King Tut Statue In London Auction

"Once again, we will not be negligent or allow anybody to sell any Egyptian artifact whatsoever," says the Egyptian embassy.

The Egyptian government is working to prevent the sale of a 3,000 year old statue that is set to go up for auction next month in London, reports BBC Africa.

The ancient statue, which is 11-inches high and features the image of Pharaoh Tutankhamun (popularly known as King Tut), is set to be sold by Christie's Auction House in London on July 4, but Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities as well as the Egyptian Embassy in London have appealed to the auction house as well as to UNESCO, demanding that the sale be cancelled. It is estimated that the statue, known as the "Amen Head," could sell for up to $5.1 million.

Egypt has also asked that Christie's provide documentation to prove rightful ownership of the statue, as many Egyptian cultural relics were stolen from the country during the colonial era.

READ: Bringing African Artifacts Home

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Arts + Culture
Heads of a Royal ancestor, arts of the Kingdom of Benin of the end of the 18th century are on display on May 18, 2018 at the Quai Branly Museum-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Benin is demanding restitution of its national treasures that had been taken from the former French colony Dahomey (current Benin) to France and currently are on display at Quai Branly, a museum featuring the indigenous art and cultures of Africa. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bringing African Artifacts Home

What would it take to finally return the looted treasures of the African continent to their rightful owners? We spoke with curator Niama Safia Sandy about the future of African art repatriation.

Last November, France's President Emmanuel Macron oversaw the return of 26 artifacts that were stolen during France's colonial era back to their home in Benin. The move came after years of petitioning on the part of African governments and the commissioning of a report by the French leader that highlighted the need for full restitution to take place between European colonial powers and their former African colonies.

Macron's actions—while they could be read as performative measures, intended to serve France's economic interests on the continent by painting him in a positive light—was considered a constructive solution to the problem of art repatriation. It's a simple concept: a former colonial power admitted and apologized for stealing valuable cultural relics in the past, and then gave them back.

The process of art repatriation should be that simple, but in reality, it isn't. While efforts have been made to return these items to their rightful African owners—Germany recently returned a looted 15th century stone cross to Namibia—the majority of African cultural relics still live in museums far outside of the continent's borders. After all, France only returned 26 items, while the Quai Branly Museum in Paris alone houses 70,000 African objects, according to The New York Times. And apologies, when they do come, hardly suffice.

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