By John Owoo
In Dakar – Senegal
Courtesy – Royal Air Maroc
The repatriation of African cultural properties currently housed in Museums in several European countries alongside rights of artists and marketing took centre stage in one of the conferences at the ongoing Dak Art Biennial.
Addressing a capacity audience on “Rights and Market for African Art” at the Pullman Terenga Hotel in Dakar, Anne Ferry Fall, Director General of the Society of Owners of Rights of Graphic and Fine Arts, said there is very little revenue for private copying owing to low rate of publications on the visual arts.
She added that most of the revenue was basically from sales adding that rights to resale is a balancing act since art from Africa is currently invading the world with lightening speed with some galleries specializing only in African art in Europe and the United States.
Dilating on the “Repatriation of African Cultural Properties”, Dr. Felwin Sarr, an economist and lecturer at the Gastion-Berger University in Saint Louis (Senegal), indicated that restitution could take various forms while calling for continuous dialogue on the issue.
Nevertheless, he hinted on widespread debates on the capacity of African countries to create appropriate storage facilities, environmental changes, functions and roles these returned relics are supposed to play as well as appropriate infrastructure to house them.
However, the Senegalese Culture Minister Abdou Latif Coulibaly disagreed with the question of Africa not being able to protect and preserve these artifacts adding that with all the modern technology we should have not problems in preserving any returned artifact.
There was a consensus on the fact that the absence of artistic riches is a great loss to African economies and actually contributes to the loss of national and personal identity, hence a call for their return.
Indeed, some people are of the view that these priceless artifacts, some of which have spiritual significance should not be returned to the continent owing to civil wars, poverty, mismanagement and lack of institutions and resources to maintain them.
Nevertheless, not all African countries are wallowing in poverty, civil wars, famine and deep insecurity – thus there are countries that can effectively manage these artifacts on their return to the continent.
Undeniably, the mere absence of antique art creates a feeling of vacuum in the history and cultural heritage of any society and the impact can be enormous in terms of inspiration, enthusiasm, creativity and improvement.
Other panelists include Ministers of Culture from Tunisia, Gambia and Togo alongside academics, artists, curators and arts advocates from Senegal and other countries around the globe.
Curated by the Cameroonian critic Simon Njami, the 2018 edition of Dak Art features a pavilion for Senegal, will offer a showcase of choice of national creativity under the direction of artist Viyé Diba.
In the International Exhibition and in several other official sites, spaces of awakening will be created for children to be introduced to the contemporary art of the continent.