Saturday, December 2, 2023

Trophy Antiquities Scraps Bolster Scandinavian National Self-Worth

The National Museum of Denmark, after “careful consideration”, has refused requests from the Acropolis Museum in Athens to return three fragments of the Parthenon that are currently on display in Copenhagen (George Vardas, "The Parthenon Sculptures: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” Greek City Times Nov 24, 2023​.
According to the Danish Museum’s director, Dr Rane Willerslev, the sculptural fragments are of greater importance to the National Museum than if they were sent to Greece, noting that the majority of the surviving Parthenon sculptures are divided between London and Athens and the three fragments in Copenhagen have “one particular role for Danish cultural history”.
Umm, yeah. It is materiual proof that the little peninsula and islands were part of the same European trends that everybody elae was. Oh whoopee.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

France's Words, and France's Actions on African Cultural Property Restitution

In 2017, with much fanfare, at the dawn of his first term, French President Emmanuel Macron made a commitment to restitution of African heritage from France within 5 years. That was five years ago. In that time only a few works have returned, with 90,000 still held by French public museums. What happened? (see Feiza Ben Mohamed, '5 years on, where are the objects looted from Africa that France's president promised to return?' Anadolu Agency 18.11.2022)
To assess the situation, in 2018 Macron appointed two experts to study and deliver their recommendations on restitution of the African works. They are Benedicte Savoy, art historian and member of the College of France, and Felwine Sarr, a Senegalese writer and academic, who were appointed to examine the conditions under which the works could be repatriated and protected in the countries they belong to. But five years later, it seems that the restitution process, which requires a legislative basis, remains very complex, so that only a few works have been returned to their African homes. To date, no fewer than 90,000 objects belonging to Africa are still held by French public museums, according to a study by French daily Le Monde.


Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Germany Hands Over Some Looted Artefacts To Namibia

Germany Hands Over Looted Artefacts To Namibia, But On loan (Channels Television May 30, 2022).

Namibia on Monday took delivery of 23 ancient pieces of jewellery, tools and other objects pillaged during colonial rule, and returned as an indefinite loan from Germany. The return of the artefacts is part of a project to encourage rapprochement between the two nations. “All the artefacts were collected during the Germany colonial era from different Namibian communities,” said the Museum Association of Namibia chairwoman, Hilma Kautondokwa. The returned items were taken mostly between the 1860s and the early 1890s, she said. Hundreds of other objects remain in Germany.
The items were handed over to the National Museum of Namibia by the Germany’s Ethnological Museum of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The return came after three years of talks The previous year, Germany repatriated skulls, bones and human remains that had been shipped to Berlin during the period for “scientific” experiments.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Berlin Breakthrough on Benin Bronzes


Germany and Nigeria have signed an agreement setting out a timetable for the restitution of artefacts looted from the royal palace of Benin in a British military raid in 1897.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Africa Update Honours Indefatigable Ghanaian scholar-activist, Dr. Kwame Opoku


Africa Update 
Vol. XXVIII. Issue 3. Summer 2021


This issue of Africa Update is a tribute to the indefatigable Ghanaian scholar-activist,  Dr. Kwame Opoku, who has spent decades enlightening the public, and the academic community, about the innumerable African Antiquities confiscated by the colonial powers, after their invasions of Africa in the 19th and 20th century.  Dr. Opoku has written more than two hundred and seventy articles on the subject, to date.

Dr. Opoku continues to give us specific details on the location of these artifacts, and what should be done to recover them. His presentations at high profile international conferences, and his careful documentation of individual and generic misappropriated items, continue to stir the conscience of diverse peoples across the globe who recognize the injustice done to Africa during the colonial era.  In addition to significant losses of population as a result of colonial invasions during the European expansionist rampage of 1884 and after, significant loss of treasure occurred.

This issue of Africa Update includes six of the numerous articles that Dr. Opoku has written, on the issue, including his commentary on the recent decision by Germany to repatriate some Benin bronzes, originally looted by the British and then sold by the latter to German museums. Special thanks go to for permitting the publication of these articles.

Ciku Kimeria, in an article entitled “The battle to get Europe to return thousand of Africa’s stolen artifacts is getting complicated,” comments on the plunder of over a thousand pieces of cultural artifacts by the French, during the capture of the city of Oussebougou that brought down the Toucouleur Empire in 1890 ( In that issue we are also reminded that at least seventy thousand African artifacts are lodged in the Musee du Quai, in France; one hundred and eighty thousand African artifacts, in the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium; seventy-five thousand African artifacts in the Humboldt Forum Germany; and sixty-nine thousand African artifacts in the British Museum.  Most of these artifacts were plundered or obtained suspiciously. In the case of Ethiopia, ancient manuscripts are scattered among hundreds of museums. Many were seized by the British at the Battle of Magdala, 1868.  Dr. Kwame Opoku’s passionate quest for the repatriation of stolen artifacts has been driven by his informed awareness of the past and present.

Africa Update thanks Dr. Kwame Opoku for his illuminating analyses and intellectual contributions to the discourse on looted African artifacts.

Professor Gloria Emeagwali

Chief Editor, Africa Update

Table of Contents

African Treasures -  Kwame Opoku's Quest for Justice

 Kwame Opoku:   Berlin decision on Benin restitution

Kwame Opoku:    Church of England  wishes to return two Benin artefacts to Nigeria. Is that enough?

Kwame Opoku:    Is the British Museum outmaneuvering Nigeria?

Kwame Opoku:    Talking about Benin Artifacts is not Enough 

Kwame Opoku:    Benin

Kwame Opoku:    From Restitution to Digitalization: Looted Benin treasures to go online

Monday, April 5, 2021

Anthropologists' Private Collection Auctioned by Sotheby's

                            Tlingit robe                        

The ethnographic object collection of distinguished anthropologists Abe Rosman and Paula Rubel is being sold off by their heirs and in a few days will be going to auction and not kept together or returned to communities Sothebys "The Scholar's Feast: The Rosman Rubel Collection" 8 April 2021

Friday, April 2, 2021

"Indeterminacy in the Cultural Property Restitution Debate"

            Statue from Nigeria                   |
in the Musée du
Quai Branly,

Article by Helsinki University doctoral researcher Pauno Soirila: Indeterminacy in the cultural property restitution debate

The debate over the restitution of cultural property is usually framed as the dispute between what John Henry Merryman defined as ‘cultural nationalism’ and ‘cultural internationalism’: the opposite viewpoints that argue whether cultural heritage objects should be returned to their countries of origin or spread around the world as determined by other principles. I argue, however, that the concepts are problematic both in their definition and their perception as two dialectically opposed sides of a dispute. This article analyses the restitution debate by examining some of the most important arguments and counterarguments used in the debate and by comparing them to the international law ‘New Stream’ theory. It is revealed that a similar indeterminacy which defines international law in the theory also defines the restitution debate, and that cultural nationalism and internationalism do not in fact provide answers to the debate but only function as two entry points that echo each other without a way to end the debate. Therefore, it is necessary to see beyond the two concepts in order to find solutions to the disputes.

"Therefore, it is necessary to see beyond the two concepts in order to find solutions to the disputes".... If somebody takes the bike my kid left in my front garden and I want it back, why are we quoting labels of "Merryman" and where is the "dispute"? Whose bike is it? Any "dispute" is not because I want back what was taken, but that the taker tries to find excuses for not giving it back.

What's really unclear is that this text refers throughout to the "indeterminacy of international law" without citing a single clear of example of the existence of any international laws (conventions are not legal instruments) at all referring to "restitution" (which actually also is not defined, is she talking about the Parthenon Marbles or/and the Euphronios Crater? How can you discuss a vague undefined concept according to non-eistent laws that dont apply to much of what is involved in this "debate"?)
This loop is maintained by the persistent notion of the oppositeness of cultural nationalism and internationalism, as the failure to recognise the nature of the argumentation has misled the participants and those attempting to find new solutions.
Who is using these labels these days? I really do not see how it is helpful to centre the whole argument on some equally vague labelling of the mid 1980s, which is basically what Pauno Soirila does.

The document Rapport sur la restitution du patrimoine culturel africain. Vers une nouvelle éthique relationnelle by Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy, does not use these notions, but arguments based on ethics concerning the relations between groups and past power imbalances. In Germany, the return of African objects is taking place not within a framework of opposing object-centred models, but in the spirit of dialogue between nations.