Monday, July 27, 2015

Don't Export Sekhemka, but not for these reasons...

Something called a "PRESS STATEMENT FROM SAVE SEKHEMKA GROUP EGYPT"  seems to have been written by twelve-year-olds. It states that
"Sekhemka is a pharaonic statue which belongs to the Egyptian people  [...] Selling a stolen statue which is owned by the Egyptian people is a crime against all international norms and standards. The British government need to act fast in order to prevent this crime by taking civil and criminal responsibility in abiding by the international law".
What? Not only is that complete gibberish, its legal status is completely lacking. It gets worse:
We send an appeal to the Human Rights Institute in London that it is against humanity to conceal information about a stolen antique. To be sold to an unidentified person and sent to an unknown place goes against civilisation and is a huge crime against humanity. We therefore ask that the Human Rights Institute intervene in stopping this offence and standing up with the Egyptian people in the International Criminal Courts to defend and save Sekhemka from the illegal trade.
Where is the definition of the illegality of this transaction? Come on people, get a proper lawyer. Moreover:

We appeal to the British Prime Minister to take the necessary legal proceedings against Christie's Auction and against Northampton Museum for having introduced and sold this antique which was stolen from Egypt as it is Egypt's right to to be given compensation.
No it is not. Where did they get this from? Off the back of a cornflake box?
Furthermore, we appeal to the UNESCO in supporting in tackling this illegal trade crime as mentioned in UNESCO's law dated 1970, Article 7. 
I suggest they read Article 7 again (It is not a "law"). While we are all for the statue staying on public display (but far away from Philistine Shoe Town), it is totally counterproductive for activists to attempt to utilise the sort of (non-)arguments that can only bring the whole notion of what to do with antiquities into ridicule and disrepute. Stop this amateurishness please. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Sindika Dokolo Collection


Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and art collector, and his wife Isabel dos Santos, one of Africa's richest couples, are buying up colonial and other looted African pieces to 'save' them. Dokolo is  on a crusade to force Western museums, art dealers and auction houses to return Africa’s art, particularly works that might have been removed illegally during the colonial era.
“Works that used to be clearly in African museums must absolutely return to Africa,” Mr. Dokolo said in an interview [...] “There are works that disappeared from Africa and are now circulating on the world market based on obvious lies about how they got there.” To forward his cause, Mr. Dokolo’s foundation has set up a network of researchers and dealers to comb through archives and monitor the art market in search of stolen African art. Any time such artwork can be identified, Mr. Dokolo said, its owner will be offered a simple choice: Either sell him the work for the price at which it was acquired or face a lawsuit for theft. Mr. Dokolo, 43, has the financial wherewithal to turn such a threat into action. Besides his own family wealth, he and his wife are one of Africa’s richest couples: She is Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of José Eduardo dos Santos, the president of Angola since 1979. [...]  Mr. Dokolo’s deep pockets have allowed him to amass a massive collection of African art — more than 5,000 works of mostly contemporary pieces he has stored in Angola and Belgium. (He declined to estimate the total value of the collection.) His latest initiative is to set up a European subsidiary of his Luanda-based art foundation in Porto, and to open within two years an exhibition space with educational programs to promote African art. [...] In addition to his Porto project, Mr. Dokolo’s foundation also plans to build a museum and a music school in Luanda, as part of his push for African countries to create their own cultural institutions. 
The interview (Raphael Minder, 'Collector Fights for African Art' The New York Times, 9th July 2015) focues on the issue of items missing from museums:
Mr. Dokolo asserts that some African museums have been looted by Westerners, citing the national museum in Kinshasa for one. He has been trying to locate 6,000 pieces made by the Chowke people of Central Africa that were in the Dundo Museum of Angola and that disappeared during the Angolan civil war. So far, Mr. Dokolo said that he has managed to recover a few masks, including one of the masks missing from the Dundo Museum, which he bought from a private Dutch collection.