France has returned 26 of its national treasures to Benin. Works of art looted in the 19th century during the colonial era that had been exhibited at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.
The restitution act was signed by the Ministers of Culture of both countries, to the applause of Emmanuel Macron and his Beninese counterpart Patrice Talon.
Among the works returned are totem statues from the ancient kingdom of Abomey and the throne of King Behanzin, looted by French troops in 1892.
In Benin, the works will first be displayed for three months at the presidency before being transferred to the historical sites of slavery and European colonization in the Gulf of Guinea.
Benin president Patrice Talon says “The restitution of the 26 works we are dedicating today is a step in the ambitious process of equity and restitution of the memorial heritage once extorted from the territory of the Kingdom of Benin by France. ”
The restitution of works of art to the African continent was one of President Emmanuel Macron’s promises and also one of the axes of the new relationship that the French president intends to build with Africa.
In addition to Benin, six countries – Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Chad, Mali and Madagascar – have filed claims for the return of works of art to France.
According to experts, almost 90% of Africa’s heritage is outside the continent.