Updated January 20th, 2024 at 18:09 IST

France and Germany Commit €2.1 Million to Investigate Origins of African Art in Museums

The fund will finance research projects focusing on objects from Africa, with a particular emphasis on countries with colonial ties to France and Germany.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Louvre, France | Image:AP
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In a joint initiative, Germany and France have committed €2.1 million (£1.8 million) to conduct extensive research on the provenance of African heritage objects housed in their national museums. The three-year fund, with yearly contributions of €360,000 from each country, aims to shed light on the origins of these artifacts and potentially pave the way for their eventual repatriation.

Launched in Berlin, the fund will finance research projects focusing on objects from sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular emphasis on countries with colonial ties to France and Germany, such as Togo and Cameroon. According to a report from The Guardian, Dr. Julie Sissia, a researcher at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin, which will administer the funds, stated, “This is an experimental fund. We are launching it with the widest possible criteria, so that both small and biggest projects can apply.”

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The only stipulation for project eligibility is that they be led by collaborative teams from the realms of academia and museums, comprising members from both France and Germany.

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The initiative stems from a broader European conversation initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, where he pledged to "do everything possible" to return Africa's cultural heritage looted during the colonial era. 

In 2021, France returned 26 artifacts to Benin, yet progress on restitution has encountered obstacles, including opposition stalling the passing of a law on the restitution of looted cultural property abroad.

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In contrast, Germany's restitution efforts have gained momentum. In November 2022, a German foundation funded the launch of the first comprehensive database of artifacts known as the Benin bronzes. A year later, Germany's foreign minister physically returned 21 bronzes to Nigeria, signaling a tangible commitment to addressing the historical injustices tied to colonial-era acquisitions.

The newly established fund signifies a collaborative step forward as France and Germany actively contribute to research efforts aimed at uncovering the histories behind African heritage objects held within their national collections.

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Published January 20th, 2024 at 18:09 IST