Monday, 18 May 2015

Hopis Demand... "These Auctions Must Cease"

Hopi lands

The Hopi Tribe have learnt of  another 'tribal art' auction to be held by the EVE Auction House on June 1, 2015 will include objects of Native - American tribal origin. The Hopi Tribe is again requesting support of the "U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Justice, F.B.I. and other federal agencies" to assist the tribe achieve a voluntary return of auction objects identified to be of Hopi origin to the Hopi Tribe.
The Hopi Tribal Council has consistently directed its Ex ecutive Officers to pursue whatever means as necessary to stop our “ katsina friends ” from being illegally sold at auctions and forever lost in private collections. Chairman Herman G. Honanie stated “ We need to bring all our katsina friends home to their rightful place on the Hopi lands. Hopi is absolute in its stance that these auctions must cease. We call on all local, state and federal agencies to aid our efforts in recovering our sacred katsina friends. They belong on Hopi and must be returned.”
Well, we certainly all wish them the best of luck in their endeavours, but they are hindered by the legal situation. Despite what their press release states, these auctions are in no way "illegal" in France, in the same way as US dealers flogging off dug up antiquities from Egypt or Bulgaria is not illegal in the US ("no US law was broken"). The 1970 UNESCO Convention was created in order to provide a Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The USA could use it to get these masks back for the Hopi only if it had implemented the Convention in any meaningful way. Instead, trying to please the antiquity and "ethnographic art" dealers (who are far from pleased anyway about the CCPIA), they did it in a wholly ineffectual and ineffective way ("United States reserves the right to determine whether or not to impose export controls over cultural property"). Implement articles 6 and 7 and the problems of your Hopi citizens will be solved at a stroke of a Washington pen.

Also it is interesting that we are not seeing US dealers and their lobbyists telling their Hopi fellow citizens the same as they tell the other people in source countries whose cultural property (including sacred objects and products of grave-robbing) they peddle for profit. They tell the latter that they should be happy that through the sale of cultural goods, dealers and collectors are adding to the appreciation of other cultures, spreading "understanding and tolerance". That is what "universal museums" are (said to be) for, that's what collectors are (said to be) doing. Why won't the Hopi understand these arguments of US dealers?

If "these [French] auctions must cease", then the Hopi scan hardly not speak out against auctions on American soil of objects taken in the same or similar circumstances from other victims of cultural crime and indignity. Let's see some solidarity of victims.

Press Release: 'Hopis Demand Return of Sacred Objects at Auction in Paris',  May 15, 2015.

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