French president advised to return looted African art treasures

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the inauguration of the Beaux-Arts Museum of Besancon on Nov. 16. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2018
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French president advised to return looted African art treasures

  • Calls have been growing in Africa for the restitution of their cultural treasures
  • Britain too has faced numerous calls to return artefacts to the countries they originate from

PARIS: Experts appointed by President Emmanuel Macron will advise him on Friday to allow the return of thousands of African artworks held in French museums, a radical shift in policy which could put pressure on other former colonial powers.
Calls have been growing in Africa for the restitution of their cultural treasures, but French law strictly forbids the government from ceding state property, even in well-documented cases of pillaging.
But in a speech in Burkina Faso in November last year, Macron said “Africa’s heritage cannot just be in European private collections and museums.”
He later asked French art historian Benedicte Savoy and Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr to study the matter, and they are to present Macron with their report on Friday.
According to a copy seen by AFP, they recommend amending French law to allow the restitution of cultural works if bilateral accords are struck between France and African states.
The change would apply in particular to works held in museums which were “transferred from their original territory during the French colonial period,” the report said.
“We propose changing heritage laws so that all types of cases can be taken into account, and the criteria of consentment can be invoked,” Sarr told French daily Liberation in an article posted late Tuesday.
Of the estimated 90,000 African artworks in French museum collections, around 70,000 are at Paris’ Quai Branly museum, created by ex-president Jacques Chirac, a keen admirer of African and Asian arts.
In order to proceed with any restitutions, “a request would have to be lodged by an African country, based on inventory lists which we will have sent them,” according to the report.
The prospect has raised hackles among some curators and art dealers who say it would eventually empty museums and galleries in some Western countries.
Critics also say the move could prompt private French collectors to move their works out of the country for fear of seizure.
European conservationists have also raised practical concerns, worrying artefacts could be stolen or handled improperly if given to inexperienced museums in politically unstable countries.
Britain too has faced numerous calls to return artefacts to the countries they originate from, including the Elgin Marbles to Greece and the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.
On Tuesday, the governor of Easter Island in the Pacific tearfully begged the British Museum to return one of its famous statues.
The London museum has held the Hoa Hakananai’a, one of the most spiritually important of the Chilean island’s stone monoliths, for 150 years.


Life lessons from inspirational women — Alexis

Music artist 'Alexis.' (Supplied)
Updated 19 February 2019
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Life lessons from inspirational women — Alexis

  • UAE-based singer-songwriter, Alexis just released her album “This Is Me”
  • She talks tolerance, proving yourself, and the power of words

DUBAI: The UAE-based singer-songwriter, who just released her album “This Is Me,” talks tolerance, proving yourself, and the power of words

I’m very demanding of myself, which is a contradiction, because I’m so understanding and accepting of the weaknesses of other people, but I’m not that kind to myself. But I don’t mind laughing at myself either.

 

I’ve been guilty, earlier in my career, of trying to force situations. Sometimes pushing is good, but allowing things to happen in their own time is also a valuable skill. It’s not necessarily about the destination; it’s the journey. And if you can allow yourself to enjoy the journey, you’ll get there eventually — perhaps in a better condition.

 

My father encouraged me to be an individual thinker. He’s a man who has roots in a very conservative, male-driven culture, but he was raised by a woman who wasn’t afraid to break the mold. He advised me that because of what I look like, and being a woman, I would always need to be more than just adequately prepared: “If you’re required to know two things for a job, when you walk in there you need to know four or six things.”

 

I know it’s probably just something parents tell their kids to help them get through difficult situations, but I think that “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you” thing is such nonsense. Words can hurt. They can cause incredible damage. It’s important for us to realize the impact of what we say, how we say it, and to whom. Words have power.

 

I handled my own business from the very beginning, so I found myself at 18 going into meetings with executives who were in their 40s and 50s. And of course I was a child to them. So having them look beyond the physical thing and realize that I was very serious about my work and knew what I was talking about was a challenge. It’s easy to see me as a fashion horse. It’s harder to see that I’m a worker. Get past the window dressing and I’ve got quality merchandise. But I survived life with older brothers. I think I can tackle anything at this point.

 

Men and women are equally capable, but in different ways. It’s a bit of a generalization, but we have to accept that different people have different methodologies.