US News Five activists tried on Wednesday for wanting to "recover" an African work at Quai Branly

19:05  29 september  2020
19:05  29 september  2020 Source:   ouest-france.fr

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Le musée du Quai Branly où s'est produit la tentative de vol. © AFP ARCHIVES / FRANCK FIFE The Quai Branly museum where the attempted theft took place.

"We had no intention of stealing this work, but we will continue until the injustice of the looting of Africa is repaired," said their leader, Congolese activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza, who counts take advantage of this trial as a platform.

They had tried to seize a funeral post at the Quai Branly Museum and will be tried on Wednesday: five activists who denounce the "looting of Africa" ​​ intend to make their trial a platform to defend the restitution of works taken during colonization.

Arrested on June 12 in the Parisian museum, the five defendants are prosecuted before the criminal court for “attempted theft in assembly of a classified movable object” and risk up to ten years imprisonment and 150,000 euros in 'fine.

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Not enough to frighten their leader, Congolese activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza, who continued his outbursts. On July 30, he was arrested in Marseille after seizing, alone, an ivory object at the Museum of African, Oceanic and Amerindian Arts.

On September 10, with three acolytes, this time he tried to take a sculpture from the Congo to the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal (the Netherlands), where he was arrested and then released after eight hours in police custody. .

Shake up social media as much as possible

"We had to approach the trial (in Paris) with a fighting spirit, even if it is risky," told AFP Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza. "We had no intention of stealing this work, but we will continue until the injustice of the plundering of Africa is repaired."

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Each time, the 41-year-old Pan-African activist films and then posts online a video of his actions. An "direct diplomacy" whose objective is to stir social networks as much as possible.

On the one at Quai Branly, we see him unsealing a 19th century Sara (Chad) funeral post and carrying it along the corridors. He then yells: "We're bringing them home".

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza was born in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC) and, by his own words, makes a living from selling electronic items online. He divides his time between Champigny-sur-Marne, in the Parisian suburbs, and Lomé in Togo.

Wearing a black beret in tribute to the American Black Panthers, the map of Africa as a pendant, the activist claims to have been put "in the dungeon" after the 2011 presidential election in the DRC where he would have been close to death.

With the Unity, Dignity and Courage (UDC) movement which he founded in 2014, he campaigns for the restitution of works, against the CFA franc, or even "ill-gotten gains".

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The activist claims "more than 700,000 members" scattered in Europe and Africa, but his Facebook account has just under 30,000 subscribers.

In addition to his forcible attacks, he lodged a complaint on June 30 for “theft and concealment” against the French State, which had “firmly condemned” these acts through the voice of his then Minister of Culture, Frank Riester.

The Quai Branly museum, which has a very large collection of early African art, has become a civil party, its president Emmanuel Kasarhérou told AFP.

"The issue of renditions" deserves "a serious debate" which "does not adapt well to media blows", he asserted. The museum is committed "to documenting the provenance and origin of its collections", added Mr. Kasarhérou, "on the basis of this work, we can move forward".

"Amuse the gallery"

Under the leadership of Emmanuel Macron, France has committed to definitively returning in the coming months a historic saber to Senegal and 26 objects looted by French colonial troops in 1892 in Benin.

These decisions follow a report by two academics, commissioned by the executive in 2018, which listed some 90,000 African works in French museums and laid the groundwork for a restitution.

Rather, he advocated the "circulation" of works, which have not always been looted or stolen, but has rekindled a controversial debate.

"Macron recognizes the looting but it is he who decides the quantity of works returned and whether there should be transfer of ownership or not, it is an insult to us" , protests Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza .

"Other than entertaining the gallery, what's the point of this kind of action? What will they do with these works if they take them away? ", responded to AFP, the director of the Museums program at the Beninese National Agency for the Promotion of Heritage and Tourism Development (ANPT), Alain Godonou.

"Discussions between France and Benin are progressing very well" , adds this former head of Unesco. "We are putting everything in place to accommodate these works - several museums are being rehabilitated - and this is what matters if we want to be credible".

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This is interesting!