Benin welcomes back 28 antique royal artefacts

Abomey-Calavi (Benin) (AFP) - Ambassadors from France and Japan mingled with presidential officials, royalty and schoolchildren as Benin celebrated the return of dozens of colonial-era antique artefacts looted by France more than a century ago.

Guests clustered around a magnificent 19th-century sword decorated with animal figurines once wielded by one of the Amazons, the female warriors who served as royal bodyguards. Other items include royal sceptres in the shape of an axe or a crosier.

But while France has agreed in recent years to return some of Benin's looted treasures, this collection came home thanks to a private initiative.

Earlier this year, the Collective of Saint-Germain-des-Pres Antiquarians, a group of specialists based near Paris, managed to acquire them -- with the specific aim of sending them back home to Benin.

The exhibition of 28 objects is based at the Petit Musee de la Recade, a small museum on the outskirts of the capital Cotonou.

The works of art were previously displayed at Paris' Quai Branly museum, home to tens of thousands of pieces of African art.

Looted from what in the late 19th century was the Kingdom of Dahomey before it became a French protectorate from 1894, until recently they belonged to private collections.

When the Petit Musee de la Recade opened in December 2015, it had 37 spectres and six other artefacts donated by the antiquarian group and private collectors -- so these new acquisitions represent a significant boost to the collection.

"We have 28 new items in our collection," said Marion Hamard, director general of the centre for the arts and culture housed within the museum.

"Among them we have two sculptures, eight swords, 16 sceptres and two daggers."

"This will allow us to expand our collection considerably," she added.

She hoped the new acquisitions would help boost visitors to the museum -- mainly schoolchildren and locals -- from 7,000 to 10,000 by the end of the year. Read More

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