So that colonialisms of yesterday and today are not repeated tomorrow

Newsletter 01/19 - Definitive restitutions on the horizon

On October 19, 2018, just a few weeks ahead of the scheduled delivery of the Report on the Restitution of African Cultural Heritage, the Benin Dialogue Group, formed by some museums of Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden and by some representatives of Nigeria, announced a neocolonial style agreement to loan to Nigeria the treasures looted in 1897 during the conquest of the Benin Kingdom (now Nigeria), so as to not to have to return them effectively.

On November 23, 2018 university professors Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy delivered to the President of France Emmanuel Macron the "Report on the Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethic" commissioned six months earlier. The report on page 28 removes all ambiguities regarding the restitutions that must be definitive, on page 30 questions the motivations (to settle a heavy colonial past at the lowest possible cost, to use symbolic space as a soft power tool, to send a message to African diasporas in France, to establish a new relational ethic among peoples, to carry out a necessary work on one's own history), on page 40 confirms their reparational meaning also supported by us, on page 62 outlines a timeline for a program of restitutions, on page 71 proposes the amendment of the Heritage Code to make them possible and permanent and on page 85 supports a series of informational activities of the public to favour their popular appropriation. At the end of the meeting the French President then announced the return without delay to Benin of twenty-six works looted during the conquest of November 1892 and proposed that in the first quarter of 2019 all the African and European partners meet in Paris to build together this new relationship and this exchange policy.

On November 27, 2018 the Minister of Culture of Senegal Abdou Latif Coulibaly asked for the restitution of all treasures of his country.

On December 8, 2018 demonstrations for the restitutions have been organized in Berlin and London.

On December 13, 2018 the United Nations General Assembly, on initiative of Greece, adopted resolution 73/130 on 'Return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin', which continues decades-long work of UNESCO on restitutions.

On December 19, 2018 also the Minister of Culture and Francophony of Ivory Coast Maurice Bandaman asked for the restitution of a first batch of one hundred and forty-eight treasures, while awaiting the construction of a museum of international importance that could contain the others.

On January 2, 2019 the Minister of Culture and Media of Germany Monika Grütters stated that "waiting passively for someone to want something back is not the way to work through our colonial past. We should actively approach the descendants by ourselves”.

Colonialism Reparation welcomes that the "Report on The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage" commissioned by the President of France recommends the definitive restitution of the treasures looted during the colonial period and asks that all former colonizers (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, etc.) move in this direction as a first step of the Reparation of the damages of the colonialism.

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