European museums may loan back works from former colonies


European countries like France, Germany, and the UK, have long faced pressure to return culturally-significant artifacts plundered from their former colonies. Τhus, museums in Western Europe are starting to reevaluate how to deal with certain colonial-era artifacts added to their large collections over the years. 

As the Washington Post and Fox News report, some of Europe's leading cultural institutions are considering whether to return various artifacts - stolen or plundered - to their countries of origin, often in Africa or Asia.

France, as recently as March 2017, had rejected efforts by Benin to reclaim thousands of objects looted in the 1890s from what was then the Kingdom of Dahomey-including royal thrones, statues and scepters showcased at the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris.

"Their restitution is not possible," the French government claimed at the time, according to French newspaper Liberation. However, Macron's election in 2017 prompted a different policy.

"I cannot accept that a large part of cultural heritage from several African countries is in France," Macron noted during the Burkina Faso visit. "African heritage cannot just be in European private collections and museums."

Meanwhile, the German Lost Art Foundation, which was established to support probes of Nazi-looted art, said in April that it would expand its mandate to include artifacts from other colonies as well. For 2019, Germany reportedly has set aside $3.5 million to help museums determine the origins of possibly illegal or illegitimate artifacts.

In London, the V&A Museum in April presented an exhibit of objects that included a gold crown and chalice taken by the British army from Ethiopia in 1868."Even at the time, this episode was regarded as a shameful one," the Museum noted. Ethiopia instituted legal proceedings for the artifacts in 2008. But this year, the V&A director suggested of returning the objects under a long-term loan agreement.

All of these actions seem to suggest that attitudes are changing, but some art analysts have said it may not lead to much of an overhaul of Europe's collections - since there has been more talk of long-term loans and less talk of fully and permanently returning artifacts.

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