Return Africa’s looted artefacts unconditionally


AFRICAN countries need to turn up the heat on their former colonisers to return artefacts plundered from the mother continent.
In recent months, stories of African countries mounting pressure on their former colonisers to return looted booty in the form of invaluable pieces of art to Africa have escalated.
One of the trending stories on international news media is about France pledging to return 26 pieces of art plundered from Burkina Faso by French colonialists in 1892.
The pieces were ‘acquired’ after French colonialists looted the palace of Behanzin, the last king of the then Dahomey (now Benin), ransacking it, pillaging gold, pearls and, most importantly, priceless artefacts that had been preserved for generations.
The booty was subsequently shipped to France where a few of the pieces are said to have been held in French galleries, some public and others private, and are now worth a fortune.
French President Emmanuel Macron had the audacity to promise his country would return a few pieces as part of a five-year plan to return artefacts held in their galleries to their nations of origin.
A few months ago, Nigeria was conned by the British into ‘renting’ their own Benin Bronzes (raided from the royal Benin Palace of what is now modern-day Nigeria), ostensibly because they could not afford the price-tag for full restitution.
And the astonishing part; Nigerians agreed to such a deal.
God forbid!
The cultural heritage of a people should not be taken for granted.
Zimbabwe was also not spared from these lootings.
Bandits dispatched by Cecil John Rhodes defaced the Great Zimbabwe Monuments, stealing an undisclosed number of Zimbabwe Bird sculptures, six of which were eventually returned by South African authorities.
Rhodes even went a step further in desecrating our spirituality by choosing to be buried, side-by-side with his weird partner Leander Starr Jameson, at the acropolis of Mwari religion, Njelele, where their cursed remains still lie to this day.
However, even the skulls of our First Chimurenga heroes remain unaccounted for, holed up in British museums and private collections.
When the West pillaged art pieces from Africa, during their colonial exploits, they were not only dazzled by their aesthetic significance, but knew they would be robbing us of our spiritual and cultural significance.
To Africans, those pieces of art resemble the umbilical cord that links us to our ancestors.
European art galleries boast enchanting priceless pieces of art, which they have refused to return to their origins, using baseless arguments.
One such argument is that the pieces have been preserved to this day because they were in safe hands.
What cheek!
As Africans, we have proved beyond reasonable doubt that our indigenous knowledge systems are superior to any other.
Art, dating back millions of years, is still preserved.
Talk of our cave paintings!
The graves of our forefathers, ninga, are teeming with historical artefacts unscathed by the vagaries of the elements.
Just as we fought for the land, we need to fight to get back what rightfully belongs to us.
It is high time African countries join hands and demand the full restitution of these artefacts, unconditionally.


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