Reclaiming Africa’s Lost Art

Published on 19th December 2017

Africa has over the decades lost its cultural heritage to war, looters, archaeological searches, dealers, and sometimes even tourists looking for unusual souvenirs. This has seen some types of African traditional and sacred objects vanish completely from the continent, ending up in museums, universities, or private collections outside the continent.

French President Emmanuel Macron has observed that in the next five years, he wants the conditions to be met for the temporary or permanent restitution of African heritage to Africa. This move will be a plus for Nigeria that has been asking England to return some items stolen by British settlers, Benin that has asked France to return nearly 6,000 objects that were looted by the French colonial army, but also by Christian missionaries who assumed that these objects were fetishes, and Ethiopia that has asked Italy to return her art objects, among other nations.

The absence of historical art creates emptiness in the history and heritage of many African countries. It also robs the continent of revenue that is accrued from tourism and academic research. A people without a heritage are vulnerable to the loss of identity. It is time Africa saw the treasure in its art, treasure that foreigners are seeing.

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