March 28, 2022

Sale of Rare African Mask Sparks Protest

A protest flared at a French auction house over the sale of a rare 19th-century African ceremonial mask.

The “Ngil” mask – which has its origins with the Fang people of Gabon in central Africa – was sold for £3.8 million at an auction which took place on Saturday, 26 March in Montpellier, France, but the sale was disrupted by activists who claimed the artefact was stolen.

The group was led by Ange Mbougou, secretary-general of the association of Gabonese in the southern France city; they demanded restitution for the “colonial ill-gotten gain”.

“The sale was entirely legal,” claimed auctioneer Jean-Christophe Giuseppi; as such, the protesters had to be escorted out of the auction hall by security guards.

Mbougou said: “We’ll file a complaint. Our ancestors, my ancestors, from the Fang community, we will recover this object.”

In recent years, many European countries have returned countless artefacts that had been stolen or unlawfully claimed during the years of colonialism. Last year, France returned 26 looted Benin objects dated from 1892.

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