Beninese authorities and traditional chiefs demand the return of other works of art stolen in France

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Benin on Wednesday about eight months after France returned 26 works of art seized by colonial soldiers in Benin in 1892. Thousands of other looted works of art remain in France, and traditional chiefs and government authorities in Benin hope that the return of the 26 is just the start of a process of restitution.

Statues, scepters and gates from the royal palace of Dahomey are just some of the 26 looted objects returned to Benin by the French Quai Branly museum in November 2021, after three years of negotiations.

The restitution of works has been a priority for Beninese President Patrice Talon since his election in 2016.

“We are not going to ask for everything to be returned. Beninese works must remain in museums around the world for the world to see the greatness of Benin,” Talon said in February 2022, during an exhibition in Cotonou that included returned works.

French colonial forces took the works of art, which were royal property, during the looting of the Kingdom of Dahomey in 1892. Thousands of other looted works of art remain in France.

In the original palaces of Abomey, traditional leaders hope to see them return.

“I’m happy but there are still a lot of objects to recover, like those of the Amazon women who lost their lives fighting the French,” said Kpodjito nan Zognidi, a traditional queen. “What belonged to them was taken away by the colonizer. I would like all that to be returned to me as well.”

The Beninese authorities hope that the return of the 26 works is only the beginning of a long process of restitution.

“France has started this process of restitution with these 26 works, we believe this is just the beginning, and we are sure that it is a movement that will not stop any time soon”, said the minister. of Culture and Tourism, Jean Michel Abimbola.

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