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Offbeat Works of art will be returned to Senegal and Benin, MPs approve

15:20  07 october  2020
15:20  07 october  2020 Source:   20minutes.fr

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Their work has been challenged by other specialists and museums such as the Quai Branly, which has the largest collection of early arts . They worried about the politicization of the debate and the arguments that all the works deposited in their homes since colonization have been dishonestly acquired or

French lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously voted to return prized artefacts to Benin and Senegal more than a century after they were looted by colonial After 49 MPs in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, voted Tuesday night in favour of the bill -- with none voting against -- it will

"It is not an act of repentance or reparation", declared the Minister of Foreign Trade

Edouard Philippe a remis à Macky Sall un sabre historique du Sénégal. © SEYLLOU / AFP Edouard Philippe presented Macky Sall with a historic Senegal saber. RESTITUTION - "It is not an act of repentance or reparation", declared the Minister of Foreign Trade

Saber, royal seat, statues…: the National Assembly approved Tuesday the restitution of cultural property in Senegal and in Benin, a gesture that wants to mark a renewal of Franco-African relations, but considered too limited by some and risky by others.

"This is not an act of repentance or reparation," said Minister of Foreign Trade Franck Riester , who came to defend the bill allowing these refunds. The return to their country of origin of these "spoils of war" from the French colonial era reflects a "new ambition in our cultural relations with the African continent", he insisted.

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His office said the return of art to Benin should not be an isolated case. The president "hopes that all possible circulation of these works is Ousmane Aledji, director of the Benin cultural centre Artisttik Africa, told the AFP news agency he was pleased to see "a new form of cultural exchange" with France.

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Unanimous adoption by the @AssembleeNat of the bill on the restitution of works of art in Benin and Senegal, promised by the President of the Republic. Thank you @franckriester who defended the text and to @ Kerlogot22 and @ BrunoStuder67 for their work and support.

- Roselyne Bachelot (@R_Bachelot) October 6, 2020 Unanimously

The text was adopted unanimously by the deputies at the end of the evening, with 49 votes for and none against. It must now be considered by the Senate.

The bill responds to a desire to rebuild cultural relations with Africa expressed by President Emmanuel Macron in November 2017 in Ouagadougou.

El Hadj Omar Tall

The transfer to Benin concerns 26 pieces from the "Trésor de Béhanzin" from the looting of the Abomey Palace in 1892. They are now in the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris.

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Senegal must recover a saber and its scabbard attributed to El Hadj Omar Tall, a great West African military and religious figure of the 19th century. Owned by the Musée de l'Armée in Paris, this saber is on display in Dakar on a long-term loan.

Controversy

The bill punctually derogates - without abolishing - the inalienable nature of the collections of French national museums, which are among the richest in the world in pieces from all periods and all backgrounds.

Its detractors see in this the risk of encouraging an uncontrollable revival of requests for restitution which regularly poison international relations, like Greece, which calls in vain for the return of the Parthenon friezes exhibited at the British Museum.

While supporting the text, MEP Constance Le Grip (LR) underlined that it "raised questions, concerns" about a possible "ripple effect which would see refunds increase".

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This is reported back to MPs . At the third reading, the Bill is re-presented. The Bill then goes through readings in the upper house. Government Bills are introduced by the Government; Private Members Bills are proposed by MPs . Both methods may result in Public Acts that govern the general public.

A number of priceless works of art ( were destroy/have been destroyed) in the earthquake. A number of political prisoners ( will be released, are being relealed) within the next few days. Make one corresponding passive sentence or two, if possible.

"Universalist approach"

M. Riester replied that these "specific" transfers do not "call into question the universalist approach of French museums". The rapporteur Yannick Kerlogot (LREM), however, acknowledged that it was to be expected "an increasing number of requests" for the return of works to their countries of origin.

A delicate prospect in more than one way: he particularly underlined the difficulty sometimes in distinguishing between spoliations and works legitimately acquired by "gift, barter or purchase".

General law

Some deputies deplored the still too limited nature of these piecemeal refunds. Bruno Fuchs (MoDem) therefore supported the idea of ​​a "framework law" allowing "more frequent and less complex returns to be implemented".

The president of Benin Patrice Talon himself pleaded in the weekly Jeune Afrique for a "general law" opening the way to a "global restitution on the basis of a precise inventory".

Coin offered

The deputy of the French abroad M'Jid El Guerrab, for his part, proposed the restitution of the burnous of Emir Abdelkader, "hero of the resistance to the colonization of Algeria" in the 19th century, preserved in Paris. But Mr. Riester told him that this historic coin was given to France by the emir's own son.

France: the law on the restitution of works of art in Benin and Senegal to the Assembly

 France: the law on the restitution of works of art in Benin and Senegal to the Assembly © Bertrand GUAY / AFP The text on the restitution of cultural property in Benin and Senegal will be put to a vote on Tuesday evening (illustrative image). After being presented this summer in the Council of Ministers, the bill on the restitution of 26 works of art in Benin and of El Hadj Omar Tall's saber in Senegal is under discussion in the National Assembly this Tuesday, October 6 .

A number of priceless works of art ( were destroy/have been destroyed) in the earthquake. A number of political prisoners ( will be released, are being relealed) within the next few days. Make one corresponding passive sentence or two, if possible.

After World War , Cousteau began his life’s work onboard the research ship Calypso. He worked with divers and scientists to photograph and gather samples of underwater plants and animals.

Paris has already returned, under various legal terms, works of art in Laos, a statue stolen from Egypt in 1981, 21 Maori heads from New Zealand or even 32 gold plates to China, had listed last week the Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot.

"International movement"

These restitutions are part of an "international movement which is growing more and more", and a "reflection on the role of museums in the world", she also argued.

"Contact case" to Covid-19 and in isolation, Ms. Bachelot was replaced Tuesday in the hemicycle by Mr. Riester. Referring to the future, rapporteur Yannick Kerlogot pleaded for a "balance" between "the legitimate demands" of African states, and "the universalist dimension of Western museums".

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