France plans to return cultural assets to Benin and Senegal
Council of Ministers’ meeting – Bill/return of cultural assets to Benin and Senegal
Paris, 15 July 2020
The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Culture presented a bill regarding the return of cultural assets to Benin and Senegal.
The bill follows the speech delivered in Ouagadougou on 28 November 2017 by the French President, who cited the issue of African heritage as one of the key areas enabling a new relationship of friendship to be built between France and Africa and raised the possibility of returning works from French public collections, in order to allow young Africans to have access to the continent’s heritage in Africa and no longer just in Europe.
With this in mind, by means of a limited waiver of the key inalienability principle applying to French public collections, the bill authorizes the release from national collections, for transfer of ownership, of:
the 26 works of the royal treasure of Abomey, conserved by the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac following their donation to the national collections by General Alfred Dodds (1842-1922), to Benin;
a sabre and its sheath, said to have belonged to El Hadj Omar Tall, conserved by the Musée de l’Armée following their donation to the national museum by General Louis Archinard (1850-1932), to Senegal.
In both cases, the bill provides for a maximum period of one year for the French authorities to return these works.
These returns are part of a comprehensive approach of casting the cultural partnership between France and Africa in a new mould, which is based among other things on the transfer of expertise and know-how in the heritage field. As such, the joint programme of work with Benin, signed between the two parties in Cotonou on 16 December 2019, will allow us to deepen dialogue on various aspects of cultural cooperation between France and Benin (training of experts, creation of vocational courses, exchanges of expertise, financial support for creating or renovating museums etc.), intended to be a benchmark in the heritage field./.