The Beninese head of state was welcomed at the presidential palace of the Elysée in the morning for the last stage of this unprecedented process of restitution, the signing of the act of transfer of ownership of these works to the Republic of Benin.
After the signature of the document by the Ministers of Culture of the two countries, the French Roselyne Bachelot and the Beninese Jean-Michel Abimbola, the two presidents made a joint statement.
“It is a symbolic, moving and historic moment, which was long awaited and unexpected” welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron, who had undertaken in 2017 to proceed with the restitution of African heritage in France.
How do you want my enthusiasm to be total while works continue to be held here in France, to the chagrin of their heirs?
Patrice Talon, President of Benin
“The whole people of Benin express their gratitude to you”, thanked his Beninese counterpart Patrice Talon, who came specially to France for this occasion. But he pointed out that “the restitution of 26 works is only a stage”.
“How do you want my enthusiasm to be total while works such as the God Gou or the Fâ divination tablet continue to be held here in France, to the chagrin of their heirs?”he launched, promising to return for other restitutions.
Beyond this restitution, we will continue the work.
Emmanuel Macron, President of France
“Beyond this restitution, we will continue the work”for his part promised the French president.
The works will then leave on board a plane with Patrice Talon and their arrival will be celebrated on Wednesday, November 10 in Cotonou.
Find the speech of Presidents Macron and Talon
A three-year process
Among them are totem statues from the former Kingdom of Abomey as well as the throne of King Béhanzin, looted when the Abomey Palace was sacked by French colonial troops in 1892.
Emmanuel Macron made a commitment in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) in 2017 to make possible the temporary or permanent restitution of African heritage in France. In order, explains the presidency, to allow “African youth to have access in Africa, and no longer only in Europe, to their own heritage”.
This initiative is “an important marker for the construction of a new relationship and a new perspective between France and the African continent”according to the Elysee.
A law passed in December 2020 made these restitutions possible in Benin by allowing derogations from the principle of“inalienability” works in public collections, because they had been the subject of marked looting.
Before being returned, the 26 works were shown together one last time at the Quai Branly museum, which welcomed the “great success” of this exhibition, seen by “15,000 people in seven days”.
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France solemnly returns the treasure of Abomey to Benin
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