African Nations Fight to Retrieve Art and Artifacts from Museums in Europe

Stephen G. Hall SAVE THIS

Traditional wooden African tribal masks at African exhibition, Tenerife, Spain (Shutterstock).

The complex legacy of colonial-era Africa (1885-1960) continues to have implications for the contemporary world. This period featured direct control of large swaths of African territory by the British, French, Belgians, and Italians as well as white settlers. Many African nations bear the vestiges of the colonial era. The impact of colonialism shapes the continent as much as it does the realities of the colonizing powers. One of the most clear examples is the possession of thousands of pieces of African artwork and artifacts by European nations, former colonial powers.  The struggle by African countries to retrieve this artwork from the West and the negotiations between the two make this process a complicated dance.

According to UNESCO, most of the African art and artifacts reside outside of the African continent. By some estimates, as much as 90…

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