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Senegal wants restitution of 'all' its artwork - minister

Abdou Latif Coulibaly, Senegal's minister for culture and government spokesman
Abdou Latif Coulibaly, Senegal's minister for culture and government spokesman AFP PHOTO / SEYLLOU

Senegal's culture minister called on Tuesday for the restitution by France of all Senegalese artwork following a French report urging the return of African art treasures. This ahead of the inauguration of the Museum of Black Civilisations (MCN) on December 6 in Dakar.


The culture minister of former French colony Senegal said his country was ready to work with France to find a solution, but they are looking for complete restitution.

"If you have 10,000 pieces (of art identified from Senegal), we want to have the 10,000," Abdou Latif Coulibaly told journalists.

Coulibaly made his comments on Senegalese art at a presentation about Dakar's new "cultural jewel," the Museum of Black Civilisations (MCN) opening on December 6.

It features vestiges of the first hominids who appeared in Africa several million years ago to the latest contemporary art in collections of paintings and sculpture.

The museum was built with a donation from China of some 20 billion CFA francs (30.5 million euros) Coulibaly told AFP.

The idea of a museum featuring the civilisations of black Africa was originally proposed by Senegal's late poet-president Leopold Sedar Senghor during a world festival of black artists in Dakar in 1966.

France returns artworks to Benin

The recommendations in the report by French and African experts, commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron and released last week, could potentially affect tens of thousands of works acquired during French colonisation of Sub-Saharan Africa.

On 23 November, the day that the report was delivered, Macron agreed to return 26 cultural artefacts pillaged by the French army from Benin in 1892 "without delay" in a hugely symbolic move that put pressure on other former colonial powers to return African artworks.

However, in response to the report commissioned by Macron, Stéphane Martin, the director of the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, said the report is problematic for a number of reasons, and that he would prefer that great African artworks "be circulated more widely" rather than handing them back.

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