Benin Welcomes Back Looted Treasures from France
France has looted countless artifacts from African nations throughout its colonial era, and today saw Paris returning a mere fraction of its spoils to Benin.
Benin welcomed back on Wednesday nearly 30 royal treasures looted from the West African state during France's colonial rule more than 130 years ago.
Beninese President Patrice Talon and culture minister Roselyne Bachelot traveled Tuesday to Paris to bring back home the 26 artifacts stolen by France.
The French initiative came as part of Macron's alleged attempt to "restore African heritage," following the massacres committed by France all over the continent during its colonial era, which was not only characterized by genocide but also looting and theft.
hundreds of people gathered to pay homage in Cotonou
The plane carrying the royal treasures landed Wednesday afternoon at Cotonou airport, Benin's economic capital, where hundreds of people gathered to pay homage, dance, and celebrate this piece of their heritage finally being restored after being taken from its homeland over a century ago.
Many Beninese citizens expressed their overwhelming joy with having this part of their culture finally restored, although they could not even see the treasures yet, as one citizen put it, "the mere fact of knowing that the thrones of our ancestors, their shoes, racks, and other objects are in these trucks has an effect on me that I cannot describe."
The artifacts taken from the Abomey palace, which also include three totemic statues, triggered an increase in African calls for Western countries to return spoils taken during the colonial era.
France has taken some positive steps, the intentions behind which are still unknown, such as French lawmakers passing last year a bill allowing Paris to return artifacts to both Benin and Senegal, which was another French colony.
Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany are also among the countries that looted artifacts from Africa
Experts estimate that 85-90% percent of African cultural artifacts were looted from the continent.
An expert report commissioned by Macron saw that there are around 90,000 African works in French museums, and 70,000 of them are at the Quai Branly alone.
The United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany are also among the countries that looted artifacts from Africa and have been receiving requests to return their colonial spoils to the continent.
France handed back Tuesday 26 treasures it looted from Benin during colonial times, fulfilling a promise made by President Emmanuel Macron to restore a lost part of Africa's heritage.
While President Talon asserted that he saw the handover as just the first step in a large-scale restitution process, he asked "how do you expect my enthusiasm to be complete" when France still held other key artifacts?