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Benin celebrates return of royal treasures after 130 years

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The much-celebrated return of 26 treasures from the Kingdom of Dahomey has culminated in a month-long celebration of heritage and artwork on the Museum of the Marina in Cotonou, Benin, attracting massive crowds.

Guests benefit from the exhibition general, however for some, it is fairly an emotional expertise, says Theo, a tour information on the museum.

“For different museum-goers, it is part of our ancestors’ souls that has returned. They do not take pictures,” he tells Africa Calling podcast.

“There are additionally some guests who’re completely indignant once they understand these treasures have been stolen and saved for greater than a century by folks, to whom they didn’t belong,” he says referring to the return of the artifacts by the French.

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After 130 years, France returned 26 royal items from the Danxomè (additionally referred to as Dahomey) Kingdom underneath an initiative to encourage higher relations with African international locations.

Looted by French troopers from the dominion of Dahomey in 1892, that is the primary time a former colonizing nation returned royal treasure, stolen throughout colonization.

An enormous success

On show on the Palais de la Marina in Cotonou since February, massive crowds proceed to come back, a reception past expectations, says Alain Godonou, the Director of Benin’s Museums.

“It is an enormous success. It is true that we had been ready as properly for the standard of the exhibition, however we had been removed from imagining what a well-liked success it might be,” says Godonou, including that near 35,000 guests got here to the museum throughout the first month of the exhibition.

Among the many returned treasures consists of thrones of former kings, 4 doorways of the Royal Palace of Abomey, altars, recades, or royal scepters, statues representing former kings, a calabash, and military garments from considered one of Benin’s famed ladies troopers.

King Guezo’s massive picket throne is likely one of the points of interest of the exhibition. He sat on his throne to provide presents and presents to his topics. The throne reportedly had mystical energy, which a French colonel tried to seize for himself, with out success.

The throne and different royal treasures had been within the public area assortment in France, and regarded French artworks, which is why it took so lengthy for these items to return. Years of diplomatic and political negotiation had been essential to carry the items house.

One of many particular factors of this exhibition is the truth that it shows ancestral artwork and up to date artwork collectively, an event for guests to find trendy Beninese artwork as properly.

“There are up to date artists, who’ve continued creating, even supposing they weren’t related to that historical past,” says Director Godonou, referring to the returned items.

“It was vital too to point out this dynamic and to point out the world that there are nonetheless creators in our nation. These two dynamics every have their very own logic,” he provides.

Night time-time creative celebrations

Along with the work, sculptures, and treasures, Palais de la Marina has created an area for residing art work, too. To ensure that all Beninese to benefit from the returned artifacts, the museum is holding particular nighttime hours that coincide with performances, together with singing, dancing, and slam poetry.

“The evening exhibitions permit people who find themselves busy throughout the day to come back go to the treasures and to have the ability to get pleasure from residing art work, that comes alive and inform the story of our royal treasures,” says Carole Lokossou, creative director of the evening performances.

One of many featured stay performances consists of Bio Guera and the future of a folks, a play by the late Benin playwright and documentary filmmaker Severin Akando.

It depicts how Bio Guerra, an incredible warrior, resists colonial imperialism. The piece, carried out by greater than 30 actors from the Worldwide Faculty of the Theatre of Benin group, was amongst one of many extra widespread performances.

Appreciating your heritage is essential, says creative director Lokossou. Preserving the previous by displaying vital cultural objects reminds Beninese of the place they arrive from, and who they’re.

“The Beninese should know their historical past. Younger Beninese should establish with their heroes. I do not know if we talked sufficient about Bio Guerra, who was an incredible conqueror, an incredible warrior, a determine to which each and every Beninese ought to establish with the intention to have pugnacity, rage to maneuver ahead and make nice issues for Benin,” she says.

This was initially heard on RFI’s Africa Calling podcast.

Originally published on RFI

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