Ahead of their scheduled repatriation to Benin, 26 artifacts went on view at the Musée du Quai Branly for one last time.
The special presentation of the objects opens on Tuesday and will go on for 5 days. This was supposed to be their last public view in France before the objects are repatriated next month. Emmanuel Kasarhérou (Director, Musée du Quai Branly) said that the special exhibition was an attempt to map the entire chronology of these 26 objects, which have been in France for more than 130 years. Kasarhérou believes that the objects have an undeniable French history along with their Benin one, and it is important to understand both to truly appreciate the artifacts.
The Benin objects were stolen by French soldiers from the Kingdom of Dahomey in 1892. The debate over the ownership of the objects has been stirring in France for the past few years. In 2020, it was unanimously voted by French senators to return the objects to their country of origin. However, the decision has not been without criticism. Many, including the previous director of Branly, have been against returning stolen objects to their original countries.
A new museum is being prepared in Abomey, Dahomey, where the returned objects would be exhibited. The French government has partially contributed to building the museum. While the return of these objects is historic, many in government maintain that it is a one-off thing that would set no legal precedent for other repatriation calls.