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. 

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