Mwazulu Diyabanza’s struggle has opened the colonial past of Europe for discussion again through African artifacts. But this time, it is not just in theory but also in action.
Congolese activist Mwazulu Diyabanza went to European Museums and took his African ancestries’ objects by claiming that Europeans looted them. It is time to bring them back home.
His friends go live on Facebook as Mr. Diyabanza entries a museum that has objects that came from Africa in the colonial era. After they examine artifacts in the museum, he takes one of them and tries to exit with it before the museum’s guards catch him.
Now, Mr. Diyabanza is on the trail in France for his actions in Paris and Marseille.
These actions should be viewed as a political statement
He told The New York Times in September, “There is no ban on an owner taking back his property the moment he comes across it.” Mr. Diyabanza and his four associates’ lawyers say that these actions should not be viewed as an attempted theft but as a political statement, “If there are any thieves, in this case, they’re not on this side of the bar, they’re on the other side.”
There are two sides to the public. Some think that these actions damage the dialogue between Europe and Africa on returning of African artifacts. On the contrary, some believe it will speed up the process and force Europeans, especially France, to develop a real action. In 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “I cannot accept that a large part of cultural heritage from several African countries is in France,” during his trip to Africa. Following his speech, on Twitter, Mr. Macron emphasized his position on restitution, writing that “African heritage cannot be a prisoner of European museums.”
Aujourd’hui nous sommes orphelins d’un imaginaire commun : le patrimoine africain ne peut pas être prisonnier de musées européens.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 28, 2017
The French court said Mr. Diyabanza would not receive a prison sentence on October 14, but he has to pay a fine. After the decision, he published a statement on Instagram on October 20, saying that he had appealed against the Criminal Court of Paris’s contradictory judgment and would continue his struggle. “The battle also continues with the French State, which must understand that it is not in a position to demand anything because it is before morality, law, and world opinion the only culprit in the unfortunate history of the plundering of our cultural, religious and socio-political heritage. We do not ask a thief for permission to recover what he has stolen.”
Image Sources: Mwazulu Diyabanza, shot by Elliott Verdier for The New York Times.
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