EXCERPTS OF INTERVIEW WITH KOYO KOUOH DIRECTOR OF ZEITZ MOCAA.
Q: France returned 26 objects to Benin, one or two to Senegal… and since then we don’t really know what’s been going on.
A: We are stalling. That’s why I don’t really like to speak on this subject.
This very good initiative is getting bogged down in endless legal and cultural bureaucratic systems that suggest that we are acting on the gallery’s behalf.
The president could issue a decree that all objects be returned, but refuses to do so when it is not convenient.
A: You have to remember that we are talking about objects that the market is very keen on. It’s not just about preserving memories and works.
This whole debate is in tension with a hyper-powerful market, in which non-profit cultural institutions, such as museums, are clients of the same suppliers as commercial galleries and private collectors.
The issue of restitution threatens this economy, private collectors and institutions. Imagine if we really did decide to return everything: a lot of museums would end up empty.
There is strong resistance to the idea of setting up a legal-cultural framework to ensure rapid restitution.
So we remain in a constant state of delay, sure there are little publicity events here and there that saw 26 objects and a sword returned, but we haven’t gotten to the heart of the matter! It would not be difficult to commit to the principle of restitution.
To say that Senegal, Benin and Nigeria must make the request is nonsense. All these museums have studied the works they have been conserving for years and years, and are fully aware of where they come from.
As for asking African countries to prove that they have an adequate reception area, this is mind-bogglingly insolent and contemptuous.
IRON BIRD: Kofi Setordji, metal, 48 x 110 cm, 1996. Private collection.
Q: The fact remains that the matter of the private sector is hardly mentioned.
A: The private market fuels everything and has always been the basis of everything.
Even the explorers who participated in the collecting expeditions were active in the private market – we forget that! In fact, the biggest resistance is coming from the big private collectors, the galleries, because they won’t be able to do business in the same way.
******The full interview is available here: https://www.theafricareport.com/226380/it-is-not-up-to-us-to-deconstruct-euro-american-prejudices-about-africa-curator-koyo-kouoh/
****Look at This is a painting by Agorsor from a Private Collection.