Thursday 19 May 2016

France returns Nok Terracotta illegally exported from Nigeria

France has formally presented to Nigeria a Nok terracotta figurative sculpture that was repatriated after it was intercepted in France while in transit from Togo to the United States in 2008.
In his remarks, the French Ambassador said the presentation of the Nok Terracotta was in line with the International Law and within the framework of the 1970 UNESCO Convention aimed at preventing the illicit import and export of ownership of cultural properties, which was ratified by both France and Nigeria. He said the gesture was an illustration of the French policy to fight illegal trade in cultural goods. Ambassador Gauer said the artifact was intercepted in France as it was being taken to the United States on Oct. 22nd, 2008.
Sylvester Ugwuanyi, 'France returns Nok Terracotta illegally exported from Nigeria', Daily Post Nigeria May 18, 2016

For those unclear of the geography, and the scale of the laundering process artefacts like this normally go through at the hands of the antiquities ('ethnographic art') trade, the Nok culture region is on the left bank of the lower Niger in the centre of Nigeria around Jos and Togo is two countries away to the east. There are no Nok Culture sites in Togo. France lies further to the north and the USA is even further east, and a responsible collector buying objects from a dealer in Togo would be honour-bound to ask for proof the items had been exported legally. It seems the object was travelling via France without any such document, nor has one been produced in the subsequent eight years. The name of the seller and that of the buyer have not been released. Shame on both of you.  

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