May 21, 2007

More on the Benin bronzes issue

Posted at 12:58 pm in Similar cases

Further coverage of the exhibition of Benin kings & rituals.


Report and Comments of the exhibition Benin-Kings and Rituals
Written by Dr. Kwame Opoku
Sunday, 20 May 2007

“The exhibition is showcasing some of the works that made Benin (Nigeria) famous. It once again, reminds the world of a civilization truncated by the imperial forces of the colonialist. The works on show at this exhibition are some of the 3000 odd pieces of bronze and ivory works forcibly removed from my great grandfather’s palace by some Britons who invaded Benin in 1897. The British kept some of the loot for themselves and sold the rest to European and American buyers. These works now adorn public museums and private collectors’s galleries, all over the world.”

The Exhibition was opened on 8 May, 2007 amid a lot of excitement and expectations. Statements were made by the authorities of the Museum für Vőlkerkunde, Wien and by a very large and strong delegation from the Royal Family of Benin as well as by the Nigerian Minister for Culture and Tourism, Prof Babalola Borisade. The Director-General of the Nigerian National Commission of Museums and Monuments also spoke. Traditional dances and music of the Edo people were provided by the Edo Community in Vienna, giving a befitting welcome to the Royal Princes as well as to the Minister of Culture and Tourism. On the whole, the opening was a very spectacular and exciting event in the recently renovated premises of the Museum in the Neue Burg. The presence of the Nigerian delegation and the Benin Royal Family in their splendid colourful dresses undoubtedly added to the glamour of the event which was attended by more than 800 persons.

The Royal delegation made it absolutely clear in their statement that they wanted their art objects back in Benin. Prince G.I. Akenzua, Enogie of Evbuobanosa, brother of the Oba, acknowledged that the Museum für Völkerkunde and all associated with the Exhibition had done a very commendable work in assembling the 300 pieces of Benin art objects in Vienna. However, he cautioned that the participation of the Royals in the exhibition should not be construed as condoning in any way the British aggression against Benin in 1897. Some of the pieces are being shown to the public for the first time. The Benin Royals were also seeing for the first time some of the pieces which were looted from them by the British in 1897.They were grateful that their art works were being displayed in Vienna but they would have preferred to have this exhibition in Benin where they belong. On the so-called shift from the evaluation of Benin art objects in Europe, from curios objects or “primitive art” objects to objects of high aesthetic value, the Benin Royals emphasized that these objects were evidence of their culture which were required for dating their history and teaching their people about their culture and history.

The Benin demand for the return of these cultural objects was made in a clear, simple and firm language by the brother of the present Oba and there is no way anybody could misunderstand their desire and demand. Obviously, there was no response from the Austrian delegation which spoke at the opening.
The Austrians who spoke at the opening seemed keener to praise the craftsmanship of Benin artists rather than address the issue of restitution.

Prince G.I. Akenzua elaborated further this demand during his lecture entitled, The Loss of Benin Artworks and their Original Function. at the Symposium which took place on 9th and 10th May. in the Museum. The issue of restitution also came up during the presentation by Prof. Christian Feest, the Director of the of Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Vienna entitled, Observations on the Restitution of Cultural Property in a Global Perspective.

Although Prof. Feest did not claim to be speaking on behalf of the Austrian Government or for the Museum, his views are very important. We may assume that as Director of the Museum, no decision concerning the Benin pieces will be taken without his involvement or his views. He stated inter alia, that the Exhibition was to be a dialogue between the colonized and the colonizer which would be more fruitful. He did not attach any importance to legal approaches, UNESCO conventions, UN resolutions and the like. He reminded his audience that there were competing claims between entities such as Benin and the National State (Nigeria). Above all, the countries in which these art works were held, had invested intellectually, economically and emotionally in these objects.

My answers to the views of Prof. Feest, which were communicated to him at the Symposium, are as follows:

a) A dialogue between colonizing power and the colonized has been going on for a long time but what have been the results? Nigeria has been asking Britain for the return of these objects for years but to no avail.

b) In a dialogue between the former colonizing power and the former colonized, where does this leave countries like Austria which were not colonizing powers but have lots of these art objects? Are they to be considered as uninvolved and unconcerned parties?

c) A dismissal of the value of UNESCO Conventions, UN resolutions and any legal approach is very surprising, coming from a citizen of Austria where recent legal decisions, on the basis of Austrian law, have ensured the return of Nazi confiscated or looted art to their rightful owners.

d) An attempt to erect an artificial contention and a conflict of interest between Nigeria and Benin is surely a red-herring. It has no basis in fact.

e) No doubt those countries which have been illegally keeping these looted objects for several years have spent some resources and intellectual effort in keeping and understanding these objects but is this being seriously presented as argument for not returning these objects to their rightful owners?

f) As for the “emotional investment” or attachment, I advise Europeans and Americans not to make such statements when faced with calls for return of stolen or illegally acquired art works by their rightful owners. They may have fallen in love with these objects but is this a valid argument against returning them to their owners who in many cases such as that of Benin, have been victims of imperialist aggression.

When questioned about his views during the Symposium, Prof.Feest indicated that he had more developed elaborations which due to time constraints could not be presented. It is remarkable though that those views corresponded to opinions attributed to him in a Supplement of the conservative Austrian newspaper Die Presse issued to coincide with the opening of the Exhibition and which was distributed in the Museum after the opening on 8May, 2007(Feuilleton,die Presse,Mittwoch,9,Mai 2007,Seite 37).

In the Introductory Note already cited above, the Oba of Benin, declared:

“We are pleased to participate in this exhibition. It links us, nostalgically, with our past. As you put this past on show today, it is our prayer that the people and government of Austria will show humaneness and magnanimity and return to us some of these objects which found their way to your country” ibid.

On the third page of the Catalogue, p17, after the Oba’s very modest request to those countries and museums holding pieces of the illegally acquired objects, comes, in my opinion, the response of four museum directors of Western countries in a very remarkable preface which in its eurocentricism, arrogance, immorality and cynicism is only surpassed perhaps by the infamous declaration on universal museums:

“In 1897 a British punitive expedition seized outstanding works of art and ivory from the Benin royal palace. These subsequently entered museums across Europe, the United States, and Nigeria. From our 21st century perspective the military action taken seems unjustifiable; however, we must recognize the role it played in bringing these works of art to far broader attention. They are now forever on the map of world art and we are uplifted by the extraordinary aesthetic and cultural achievement they present…….The present consideration of these works within multi-layered discourses on the past – and on identity in the competing contexts and claims of local tradition, the nation state, and globalization – is part and parcel of the continuation of shifts in meaning and the persistent viability of the material documents of the past. Rather than catering only to western notions of other cultures, museums strive to explain the general causes and specific articulations of the past and present cultural diversity of the world. This approach enhances the pleasure of aesthetic enjoyment, while providing the necessary basis for the understanding of the cultural content behind the visible forms. History, whether tragic or glorious, lies forever behind us. We stand on its shoulders and direct our gaze to what lies ahead. We trust that this exhibition contributes to an ongoing dialogue between the past and the present, and between Africa and Europe and NorthAmerica, and thus to the collective shaping of the future against the backdrop of the lessons offered by the past.”

The Preface is signed by Prof. Christian Feest, Director, Museum für Völkerkunde Wien, Jean-Pierre Mohen, Director, patrimoine et collections, musée du quai Branly, Paris, Dr.Viola Koenig, Director, Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and James Cuno, President and Eloise W.Martin Director, The Art Institute of Chicago.

We leave aside the way in which the brutal and unprovoked aggression against Benin and the burning and sacking of Benin City is presented in the text. No mention is made of the fact that the stolen objects were sold later on. The text merely states “These subsequently entered museums”. An attempt is also made to implicate the state of Nigeria and Nigerian museums in the illegal activities even though that State had not been born in 1897.

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  1. BR.KWAME OPOKU said,

    09.26.07 at 7:26 pm


    The real question is why did it take so long to have such a reaction and how do Africans, not only Nigerians ,intend to pursue the issue of restitution of artworks/artefacts stolen by the colonial powers, Germany, France, Great Britain, Holland, Portugal, Belgium and their allies?
    How do our African historians see this issue and when are they going to enlighten us on this? And where do our museum directors and specialists stand? Or do they prefer not to have any view on this matter for some reason? They should inform us about their own experience regarding the stolen art works from Africa that are now being proudly displayed everywhere in Europe by former colonial masters without any sign of guilty consciousness. In fact, when one reads catalogues of recent exhibitions on African art, including the current Benin Exhibition from Vienna which will soon be in Paris( 2 October) and later in Germany and the United States, it appears the European museum directors think they are doing Africans a great favour by showing our arts. But they forget to add that these objects are stolen objects, illegally acquired under the colonial domination and often by the most brutal methods such as the invasion, looting and burning of Benin City in 1897.
    The reluctance of the present European museum directors to express genuine regrets for these illegal acquisitions and to present some apologies really surprises a lot of us. It seems as if most Europeans have either not understood the nature of the colonial system or are unwilling to condemn it. I have examined all the usual arguments presented by the Europeans for still keeping in their museums illegally acquired African objects. None of the arguments will stand even a cursory examination. The most ridiculous argument is when they pretend that these objects were acquired legally. The whole colonial enterprise was illegal and there was no rule of law and the colonial subjects were properly represented in the government or the administration. This excludes, of course, the reforms made towards the end of the colonial period. How can any body argue, for instance that Germans acquired legally, in South West Africa (now, Namibia) or in Cameroon, some of the huge art objects, many of them used for ritual purposes when we know that intimidation, beatings, imprisonment and death sentences were often pronounced and executed for any act of disobedience or resistance to the will of the colonial masters? We know from the writings of Michel Leiris that the anthropologists often stole many of these objects (See Afrique Fantôme). Think of Frobenius and the Olukun Affair.
    As for the argument that Africans have no conservatory and security competence for the objects now in Europe, one can only laugh or cry at this argument. We were able to preserve these objects, some of them for as long as several centuries before the Europeans came and took them away. So who did the conservation until the Europeans appeared on the African continent? Some lost European tribe, perhaps?
    They may have been a time when Europeans were genuinely curious about the inhabitants of the rest of the world and the need to gather information and collect cultural objects. But the collection frenzy of Bastian and Frobenius and the later day ethnologists was surely more for the purpose of strengthening European colonial domination. In any case, such an excuse does not hold any longer. Have they not studied us long enough for their exploitation? The keeping of African objects in European museums now has very little or nothing to do with the need to acquire knowledge about us. And what about Africans’ need to acquire knowledge about our continent and its people Or should we just remain ignorant forever?
    We must act now or else future generations will never forgive us. They will think we were all men and women without any self-respect or national consciousness.
    Kwame Opoku.

  2. DR.KWAME OPOKU said,

    10.09.07 at 9:44 am


    The general impression we got from the Benin Exhibition, now in Paris until 6 January 2008, was that on the premises of the Musée du Quai Branly, the establishment of which had been seen by some as the victory of the French art establishment over the ethnologists and colonial historians, the aesthetic view point prevailed over ethnological presentation and historical depth.
    To begin with, most of the materials and objects relating to life at the Benin Royal court, the national attires of the Edo, their dances and festivals were no longer visible. The videos and pictures which explained the process and creation of bronze objects and the artists at work were left out. The newspaper cuttings and photos showing Oba
    Ovonramwen under British custody, on a British yatch on his way to exile as well as the photo showing British soldiers of the Punitive Expedition with stolen bronze and ivory art objects were left out. The modern bronze showing Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with Oba Akenzua II was also left out. Most of the material objects relating to rituals and religion, including big altars, were also left out. Some small altars are included. The number of exhibits shown in Paris is definitely less than what was shown in Vienna. It cannot therefore be claimed to be the most extensive exhibition on Benin art as is claimed in one the leaflets distributed to visitors:
    “Il s’agit là de la présentation la plus complète jamais organisée sur le patrimoine culturel du royaume de Bénin” (1)
    Whereas in Vienna the objects on show were presented in halls which were not very well lighted and sometimes, in my opinion, did not permit the viewer to appreciate fully the excellent craftsmanship of the Benin masters, the Exhibition in Paris, city of light, were fully lighted, in white panels in a room with white walls. In short, the display is just what you will see in any modern art museum or gallery. Here, there is nothing like the red mud wall (or imitation thereof) we saw in Vienna and very little reminding the visitor of daily life in an African society. The viewer’s attention is absolutely focussed on the beauty of the objects and the craftsmanship that went into their making.
    Is the emphasis on the aesthetic aspects of Benin art a way of avoiding the issue of restitution which could arise when the viewer has more information on the sources and methods of acquisition of these objects as well as their functions and their deeper philosophical, religious or symbolic significance?
    Perhaps the partisans of the aesthetic approach did not want to relive some of the birth pangs of the Musée du Quai Branly nor the discussions on restitution that accompanied the exhibition at Vienna and which are still having effect in Chicago, well ahead of the exhibition there from 1July to 21 September, 2008, (2) after the exhibition in Berlin from 7 February to 25 May 2008.
    It is noticeable that there was no discussion in the Musée du Quai Branly before or during the exhibition about the issue of restitution. Moreover, very little seems to have been reported in the French newspapers about the exhibition and definitely no mention of restitution in the papers. I read the French newspapers before the beginning of the exhibition on 2 October and during the days thereafter. There was not even a mention of the exhibition nor of the press conference which took place on 1October. I was told that there is no written record of the event! Very strange, I would say. One can
    understand the Director of the Musée du Quai Branly and his staff for not wanting to discuss the issue since this museum has over 350,000 objects most of which are of dubious origin. But is this an honest intellectual approach to cultural matters? One of the functions President Chirac assigned to the museum on its opening was to be a place of dialogue between the diverse cultures:

    “But it is much more than a museum. By multiplying viewpoints, the venue’s ambition is to render the depth and complexity of the arts and civilizations of all those continents. In doing so, it seeks to encourage a different-more open and respectful-view in the broadest possible audience, by dispelling the mists of ignorance, condescension and arrogance that were often found in the past and bred mistrust, scorn and rejection”(3)

    It does not appear to me that the objective mentioned above is being fulfilled when the issue of restitution which interests most African States and in this context, the people of Benin, is not mentioned or discussed when the Benin artefacts are being shown in the Musée du Quai Branly.
    It will be interesting to see what happens in Berlin where the Ethnologisches Museum has considerable number of Benin bronzes and some 75,000 African art objects. Will the museum choose a more Ethnology-oriented approach to display the Benin bronzes and thus follow the ideas of its founding fathers to gather as much objects as possible in order to explain the culture of a given people? Or will they, in view of their holding of many Benin bronzes and in order to avoid similar discussions on restitution as happened in Vienna, chose to follow the aesthetic approach?
    Kwame Opoku.9 October,2007

  3. DR.KWAME OPOKU said,

    11.13.07 at 3:36 pm


    I thought I had heard all the desperate arguments and explanations from European and American museum directors for not returning the stolen cultural objects which fill their museums. But on reading the recent excellent book from Sally Price, Paris Primitive:Jacques Chirac’s Museum on the Quai Branly I noted the incredible explanations she received from the officials of the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, which seem to me to be worthy of examination. Concerning the return of human remains, the author got the following remarkable explanation from Séverine Le Guével, head of the international relations at the museum:
    “First, the bodies have never functioned as human remains. Secondly, they were (for the most part) given to the explorers who brought them back, not stolen or taken without permission. Plus, they’re not identified. We don’t know who they belong to. Thus, they’ve become art objects; ethnographic objects. That makes a difference. Therefore, they should be preserved like art objects and cannot be destroyed…. And it’s also important to consider all objects that contain human remains. If we were to honour the claims for everything that contain human remains, it would mean giving away the entire collection of the Musee du Quai Branly anything that contains a bit of bone, anything that contains a skull….” (2)

    Sally Price does not think it is really worthwhile to pursue ideas such as that there are some human remains in all the 350,000 objects in the museum. Nevertheless, I think it is at least worthwhile to ask how persons with such level of knowledge and competence reach such positions as head of international relations in the new French museum on the banks of the Seine. Little piety or respect for the dead seems to be shown by the lady who obviously has no feelings of sympathy for the relatives of those who disappeared or died in unexplained circumstances under colonial rule.
    The same lady went on to add, according to the author that:
    “We at the Quai Branly, as elsewhere in France, have decided to respect the principle of laicité [separation of church and state, very roughly equivalent to secularism]. Therefore, we do not take into consideration any claim based on religion or ethnicity. That’s important…. We’re a public institution, a secular institution operating in the public domain. If you allow the legitimacy of one religion, you allow them all, and then they all cancel each other out. That would put every place in the world on the same level!… Giving credit to all the claims would be to cancel out all of them….If you really believe that these things have a profound meaning, well the museum isn’t made for that. The museum is not a religious space”.(3)

    One can well sympathize with Sally Price for not wanting to spend
    too many words on the substance of such statements but we must note
    that these are the kind of people the Western countries have appointed as their representatives to deal with matters which are of great significance to the former colonized countries of Asia, Africa and America. Dr.Price, who is herself very sympathetic to claims of restitution, notes that in other countries these matters are dealt with
    more seriously and sometimes even museums seek the advice of persons from the cultures being displayed. Further interviews of the author with more senior officials of the Musee du Quai Branly
    did not reveal any better understanding of the questions of restitution
    and the answers she received did not seem to differ much from those she received from the head of the international relations.
    When she questioned the Director of the museum, Germain Viatte
    about how the museum intended to deal with claims based on religion or ethnicity, she was informed how pleased non-Europeans were to see their cultural objects displayed in the museum; the director further declared:
    “France is both universalist and secular. We need to recognize that [museum collections] belong to the history of our own country, but also to cultures that may have disappeared, or be on the way out, or hoping for cultural revival. We need to take all this into account, but without giving in to a kind of paternalism, confining other people to their particularities and reserving universalism exclusively for ourselves because we’re worried about being “politically correct”. We cannot give in to claims for restitution like those presented to the English for the Parthenon marbles or the Benin bronzes. But what we can do is set in motion international collaboration designed to find viable compromises between different, often incompatible interests, for example, between restitution and the protection of objects”.(4)

    This statement from the Director of the Musee du Quai Branly displays the same arrogance, paternalism and assumptions of superiority which we are used to hearing from other European museum directors. They assume they are rendering a great service to the countries of Asia, Africa and America by showing their stolen cultural objects in Europe. Surely, every art lover is pleased to see
    an impressive piece of art displayed, whether that object is a stolen object from his or her country or from elsewhere. But does that mean
    they approve of the unlawful methods the colonial masters used in acquiring these objects? Sally Price has described some of these criminal modes of acquisition in her book, Primitive Art in Civilized Places (Second Edition, 2001.The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London). Can one accept peremptory statements such as “We cannot give in to claims for restitution like those presented to the English for the Parthenon marbles or the Benin bronzes” (5) without even attempting to refer to their modes of acquisition? The museum director is no doubt aware of the Dakar-Djibouti expedition which through stealing, blackmail and duress, as described by Michel Leiris in L’Afrique Fantôme (1950, Paris, Gallimard), brought to France thousands of cultural objects from the French colonies. Most of these objects were inherited by the Musée du Quai Branly when it was established. The story of the establishment of this museum is well related in Paris Primitive. The French generally, and the Musée du Quai Branly in particular, have obviously decided not to talk too much
    about their colonial history which throws a bad light on the museum’s
    inheritance from the two other museums it replaced: Musée de l’Homme and the Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie.
    The explanation of the President of the museum as cited by Sally Price is no more enlightening that the others cited above:
    “ We are not in the business of buying ourselves a clear conscience vis-a vis the non-Western world or becoming an “apology museum,” relaying messages based on the heritages of [cultural/ethnic] communities the way museums in Canada and the United States do for Indians. In France we have a more a more objective vision of culture. It’s free of all instrumentality (nationalistic, pedagogic, etc), though it’s becoming more and more difficult to defend…. In my view, the argument for returning the contents of museums to their countries of origin is a rejection, pure and simple, of the museum’s calling which is to show the “Other” which means, by definition: outside of its original environment.. Art objects are also ambassadors for their culture, and in that capacity they’re an element in the dialogue between peoples.” (4)

    After this sort of statement, one is tempted to agree with Sally Price
    that it is not worth pursuing further some of these ideas. However, an exploration of the impact of some of these ideas, if they were really followed through might cause surprises.
    To try to use the idea of laicité to defeat claims for return of stolen cultural property seems to me very strange. The theory of separation of State and Church/Religion was invented to prevent the interference of the State in the affairs of the church and vice-versa. It was intended to prevent State officials from dealing with matters which may have a religious element and certainly it has not been used to prevent the police from pursuing thieves who have stolen religious objects from a church or a shop. The lady at the museum did not seem to realise that in restitution claims, we are dealing with questions of ownership and not primarily with the nature of the object. Whatever the nature of the object, an alleged aggrieved the owner has the right to pursue the claim.
    If it were acceptable to reject claims for restitution on the ground that they are based on religion or ethnicity, most of the claims for the return of cultural objects would be easily rejected. There are very few cultural objects which do not have religious or cultural element. If you reason like the officials of the Musée du Quai Branly, you could in the last resort point out that the artist is a Catholic or belongs to the English tribe! Hardly any African sculpture could ever be recovered from the French who have thousands of these stolen items. Obviously, such weak arguments are developed for the protection of the French museum.
    Apparently similar thinking processes are shared by many of the people associated with the museum. Sally Price cites the art dealer Jean Paul Barbier, a member of the acquisition committee of the museum who also sold to the museum a number of expensive art objects, as declaring in an interview with Radio France:

    “Certain anthropologists claim that an African or Oceanian who’s deprived of his fetishes is a person who dies spiritually. Well, that’s not true! Man is much stronger than that! If you take away a Sicilian woman’s crucifix that she inherited from her grandmother, she doesn’t give up her Catholic faith! She doesn’t mope away in sadness. She goes to the next town, she buys a crucifix, she hangs it where the old one had been, and she returns to her prayers! (5)

    It is more than depressing to read or hear such a statement coming from a dealer whose family and himself have made an enormous
    fortune from dealing in African cultural objects. He is reported to have
    “sold to the French State 276 Nigerian works of art for the sum of 40 million francs”. (6)
    So much for the respect he shows for those whose sweat and labour have made him a wealthy man. It is incredible to compare a crucifix which can be bought in any town in Italy with the magnificent African works of art which sell for millions and this comparison comes from somebody who deals in African art works! First of all, one cannot simply go to the next town and buy a sculpture or other cultural object. These pieces are often made for specific individuals within specific families in defined societies. They are not available everywhere and are not interchangeable. Their symbolism and significance are not the same. The skill, knowledge and time necessary for many African cultural works cannot be compared to those required for the crucifixes which are available in every Italian town. That a dealer in African art can make such statements shows how distorted the thinking of many Europeans can be. Obviously there are no limits for Europeans to the extent to which they can insult Africans and their culture.

    Sally Price has produced a truly remarkable book on art from Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. She tells very effectively the story of the Musée du Quai Branly, from the birth of the idea to the encounter between Jacques Chirac, then President of France and Jacques Kerchache (deceased), a French dealer in African art whose character is considered dubious by many, the discussions which preceded the decision to create a new museum, the infightings and intrigues in the Parisian art scene, the construction of the building by Jean Nouvel whose role seems to have gone beyond that of an architect, the criticisms of the structure of building and the interior arrangements which seems to reflect European prejudices of Africa as a continent of darkness, and the presentation of cultural works in the museum.
    Paris Primitive is a very informative and readable work by Sally Price who acknowledges her good fortune in coming from a family of writers. The writing and presentation of the book are very attractive. I wish though that she could have avoided the word “primitive” in the title of her book. She explains briefly why she sticks to such a terminology which she herself describes as “awkward and jarring.”
    I felt very relieved to recognize that despite the really curious arguments we usually get from Westerners when it comes to defending their illegal possession of stolen art objects in their museums, here was at least a Westerner who thought like many of us
    and could understand our need for the return of our cultural objects. A Western writer who could put herself in the place of the “Other”. In fact, she does this very well when commenting on the half-truths the museum writes in notes relating to the two statutes stolen by the French from the royal palace of Dahomey, the one of Glele and the other of his son, Gbehanzin. The two kings are described in the notes as bloodthirsty, beheading enemy soldiers, sowing terror and menacing the French. Sally Price comments as follows:
    “It’s worth noting that this story takes place on African soil, not in Europe. Had the roles been reversed – that is, had Africans attempted to conquer Paris, as in Bertène Juminer’s novel La revanche de Bozambo-would the French have been portrayed as “menacing” the invading Africans? (7)
    The author’s overall assessment is that the museum has not fulfilled the expectations its creation had raised and that it is not “the place where cultures dialogue” as the museum likes to characterize itself. The colonial attitudes and prejudices are all too apparent. The speech in this museum is a French monologue on the arts of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania. Voices from cultures displayed there are not heard. The French still claim a monopoly in interpreting those cultures. The author concludes that:
    “From an early twenty-first-century perspective, the MBQ has missed precious opportunities for meaningful cultural dialogue that would have led to greater consideration of these issues. After the initial flurry of largely positive reactions in the press (many centered on the architecture), a heavy dose of negative reactions, more often questioning the museum’s conceptual underpinnings, began to stream in. As one reviewer commented, new projects like this “almost always get thrashed” in Paris, but reactions to the Quai Branly have “seemed worse than most” (8).

    Kwame Opoku, Vienna, 12 November, 2007.

    1) Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac’s Museum on the Quai Branly, 2007 Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 224 p.
    2) Ibid.123
    3) Ibid. .
    4) Ibid. 124.
    5) Ibid. 156.
    6) Ibid. 75
    7) Ibid.p.159.
    8) Ibid.177.

  4. Chima Ezeilo said,

    01.13.08 at 2:43 am

    Much enlightening read. I am working on the production of a documentary about the Benin Bronzes, having uncovered a unique angle that uncovers serious fraud at the British Museum. This fraud relates to abuse of copyright and has been challenged and won by an individual who took the issue to task over 11 years. He is now spearheading a documentary project to publicly expose this fraud in a bid to create mass dialogue that will assist the reparations case. The state of Nigeria is in support and will investigate a legal case through the international courts of justice.

    Please contact me if you can contribute to this project.


  5. Edgard Mansoor said,

    05.11.08 at 4:21 pm

    Dr. Kwame Opoku is absolutely right.

    “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”.

    Hitler had taken Austria, Poland, The Netherlands …. not only without asking, but by “brute force”. When he fell (and committed suicide from shame), Austria, Poland, The Netherland …. were handed over to their rightful owners, the citizens of these countries.

    Do foreign governments, alias “colonial powers” have to fall and their leaders disgraced in order to return the “National Treasures” and “Works of Art” robbed by “brute force” from innocent countries, or by malice and through bribery as in the case of the Berlin Egyptian Museum’s Nefertiti Bust, which had been smugglled out of Egypt by a smart Archaeologist ?

    The Conscience of the World must either ENFORCE the Law of JUSTICE or BREAK it. What will it be remains to be seen. But we must remember that
    “Acts of Cultural Vandalism” can no longer be tolerated; so it is clearly stated in Elginism’s postings.

    For a similar case, look at this post.

    Edgard Mansoor

  6. Edgard Mansoor said,

    05.12.08 at 2:43 pm

    For similar cases and more comments,please visit also this page, this page & this page.

    Thank you,

    Edgard Mansoor

  7. Enid Holgate said,

    02.28.09 at 7:33 pm

    Of course you are right. The bronzes should be returned to Nigeria. I am doing an OU history degree and our topic this month is the Benin bronzes. Although the content of our chapter argues that the people of Benin were treated horrendously there is still some discussion on whether they should have their bronzes back.I think that whatever you do with them is your business since they were stolen from you. It’s not a case of worrying about them being damaged if there is unrest in Nigeria or even if they are not displayed well. The whole point is they are not ours!!!

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