Friday, 5 July 2019

France retreats from Recommendations of Savoy-Sarre Report

Vincent Noce, 'France retreats from report recommending automatic restitutions of looted African artefacts' (The Art Newspaper 5th July 2019) Suggestions from the controversial report on repatriation written last November by Bénédicte Savoy and Felwin Sarr were all-but buried at a recent conference held at the French Academy in Paris. This instead of discussing what the report had suggested focused on “wider cultural cooperation with Africa“. The Savoy-Sarr report had recommended a systematic and unconditional return of African cultural heritage and created alarm in French and European museums. The prospect that it raised of automatic restitutions to African states of all goods seized during the colonial era was hailed on one side as a welcome advance in the process of building links between nations and towards a long-overdue decolonisation, but on the other as a threat to the so-called Universal Museum notion so beloved in the western world.
In his opening speech at the symposium on Thursday, the French culture minister Franck Riester only pledged that "France will examine all requests presented by African nations" but asked them not to "focus on the sole issue of restitution."[...] The conference was attended by some 200 archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians, curators and representatives of ministries of culture from Europe and Africa. Despite being invited to address the meeting by the minister, Savoy and Sarr failed to show. They were not available for immediate comment.

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