Four African Artifacts That Were Stolen by Colonisers That Are Yet to Be Returned


#KayaIsAfrica African Art stolen during colonisation

16 May 2018 ARTS & CULTURE

By Zuko Komisa

African artifacts stolen by colonisers

The looting of a country’s resources is a common trait with colonisers, they pillage and take everything of value to enrich their own nations, this is not any different with valuable parts of a country’s history. We always talk about the many vaults filled with gold, diamonds, and platinum from Africa, but there are galleries filled with ancient African history, relics, sculpture spoils from a bitter past.

There is growing interest from the pillaged nations for the return of these artworks to their home nation. Original pieces of significant importance in the continent’s heritage, artwork from the home nation’s skilled craftsmen and women.

This awareness and urgency gained even more prominence after the blockbuster film “Black Panther.” In one scene from the multi-billion dollar grossing film, Killmonger retrieves a piece of art from his native land Wakanda that had been stolen many years ago.

Many of these artworks are gathering dust at many foreign museums, you see statues from Eygpt, which clearly resemble the facial features of black Africans displayed at the British Museums.
The importance of returning ancient relics

Art imitates life, and knowing more about how our ancestors as Africans lived is imperative for future generations. It connects the African continent to the fabric of our history. Depriving the youth of Africa their true history is equally deceptive as it is unjust.

There have been calls to return the artifacts to their native lands to no avail. In a recent chain of events Benin, a former French colony, requested their artifacts be returned to the country of origin. These works were looted by the French government. This is everything from stones, chains, jewels artwork, objects that have been in France for over a century.

Examples of the stolen artifact being displayed abroad

The statue of Queen Nefertiti.

African artifacts stolen by colonisers

The statue of Queen Nefertiti. A historic and significant artifact, taken by the Germans in 1913 using fraudulent, this bust is over 3,400 years old. It draws more than a million visitors every year to the Neues Museum in Berlin, making ridiculous sums of money for the Germans in the process.

The Bangwa Queen, Cameroon

African artifacts stolen by colonisers

This happens to be the world’s most expensive piece of African art, the Bangwa Queen, surprisingly this has exchanged hands, having multi-owners over the years. Originally stolen from the queen’s her royal shrine in Cameroon, the artwork sold at a New York auction for a record-breaking $3.4 million.

Rosetta Stone

An iconic Egyptian relic This 106.68 centimeter high Rosetta Stone was unearthed by Napoleon’s army in 1799 and dates back to 196 BC. Undoubtedly an iconic Egyptian symbol. The British claimed ownership after Napoleon’s defeat under the 1801 Treaty of Alexandria.

Although we there is a call for African artifacts to be returned to their native land, there are few colonizing nations that are paying attention. The below artwork has since been returned to it’s native land.


The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colorado, has returned to the Kenyan government 30 East African religious sculptures known as Vigango

In 2013, France returned to the Nigerian government five terracotta sculptures of Nok origin smuggled out of the country in 2010 by a French citizen.





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