President Emmanuel Macron of France is expected to receive advice from experts on Friday with regards to the return of thousands of African artworks displayed in French museums. French law forbids the ceding of state property, even in well documented cases of theft.
This is a radical shift in policy and would most likely put pressure on other former colonial powers to do same.
There have been growing calls by African countries for the return and restitution of its cultural treasures; the most recent being during the visit of Prince Charles to Nigeria.
Macron raised hopes for a change while making a speech during his visit to Burkina Faso last November, saying: “Africa’s heritage cannot just be in European private collections and museums.”
Macron would later ask French art historian, Benedicte Savoy and Senegalese write, Felwine Sarr to study the issues and advise him; a report which they are expected to present on Friday.
According to AFP which has seen a copy of the report, the experts recommended amending French law to allow for the restitution to take place if bilateral accords are sealed between France and the concerned African states.
It would apply mainly to art works held in museums and which were transferred to France during the 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 disclosed to French daily Liberation in an article posted late Tuesday.
The report was welcomed by advocates of such restitution and its definitely good news for Africa.