At the end of last month, Emmanuel Macron unveiled Pandora's box of African art. The French president has decided to restore "without delay" 26 works requested by Benin, even if no date has yet been set for returning to that country in West Africa. Macron made this decision after reading the report he commissioned from the French historian Bénédicte Savoy and the Senegalese researcher Felwine Sarr. The two academics suggest to change the code of the heritage of France, which brings together the provisions on heritage and some cultural services, so that the restoration of African art expelled in the colonial era that can be found in French museums may to be restored. This opens the door to a possible avalanche of petitions. Senegal, for example, has already requested the return of all his works, which are encrypted by about 10,000. Experts estimate that over 85% of African heritage is outside the continent.
Officially, the works of art that are part of the national collections of French museums can not be released in accordance with the principles of inalienability, imprescriptibility and unpredictability that apply to goods that are in the public domain. second Le MondeIt is with these three principles that the former foreign minister of the former government, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has justified the refusal to restore statues and real objects that were looted in 1892 and that the president of Benin, Patrice Talon, asked for 2016.
But it seems that Macron wants to break the patterns once again. "I want the conditions for temporary or definitive repayments of African assets to meet in five years. [Aquest] It can not only be in private collections and in European museums. The African heritage must be highlighted in Paris, but also in Dakar, Lagos and Cotonou ", said the president during his first official trip to Africa a year ago.
In favor of "circulation"
The restitution concerns in particular museums such as Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac. According to the report, France owns at least 90,000 pieces of African art, of which 70,000 would be found in this museum in Paris. The authors state that two-thirds of Quai Branly's objects would be purchased between 1885 and 1960. This is why its president, Stéphane Martin, praised the "circulation" rather than a restitution. "The important thing today is to build a kind of global community of art, museums, exhibitions and works to spread," he explained to Europe 1. It is the same idea that the Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, says recently claimed that "it is not a matter of deleting museums, but of working closely with them to circulate the works". The debate is served.