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France, Germany Launch Fund to Trace African Artifacts' Origins

France, Germany Launch Fund to Trace African Artifacts' Origins

Paru le vendredi, 26 janvier 2024 11:27

France and Germany have joined forces to shed light on the murky past of African cultural objects in their museums, launching a €720,000 research fund focused on their provenance.

Inaugurated on January 19 and housed at the Marc-Bloch Franco-German Centre for Social Science Research, the initiative aims to answer a crucial question: were these objects freely donated or sold by African communities, or were they looted during the colonial era?

Each country will contribute €360,000 annually to the three-year project, which will operate through competitive calls for research proposals. A key requirement is for researchers to form Franco-German teams with African partners, fostering collaboration and avoiding biased narratives, as emphasized by French media outlet Le Monde.

Priority will be given to projects investigating objects from Cameroon and Togo, former colonies of both France and Germany, according to Le Monde. This aligns with the ongoing mission of a Cameroonian delegation, led by Inspector General Ngeh Rekia Mbeume, to identify Cameroonian artifacts in German museums for potential restitution.

A recent study by Bénédicte Savoy and Albert Gouaffo revealed that German museums alone hold a staggering 40,000 Cameroonian artifacts acquired during colonization. Similarly, French public collections house a significant number, with the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris alone possessing roughly 7,838.

Faced with mounting pressure from communities and associations demanding the return of their looted cultural heritage, Cameroonian authorities have established a ministerial committee dedicated to repatriation. This body will develop a framework for negotiations with countries holding the contested objects.

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