Black activists take Congolese statue from Dutch museum

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — In an action streamed live on Facebook, a group of activists took a Congolese funeral statue from a Dutch museum, saying they were recovering art looted during the colonial era. The activists were quickly arrested and the statue returned undamaged, the museum said Friday.

The Afrika Museum said in a statement that the statue was removed Thursday from the museum located in Berg en Dal, near the eastern Dutch city of Nijmegen.

One of the Black rights activists, Mwazulu Diyabanza, said in a post on Facebook that the removal of the statue was “part of the recovery of our artworks that were ALL acquired by looting, robbery, violence” in colonial times.

The incident came amid continuing anger at symbols of colonialism and slavery in the United States and Europe after George Floyd’s death while in police custody led to global protests against racial injustice.

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The statue action in the Netherlands came the day that prosecutors in neighboring Belgium said that a tooth presumed to be from Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba would soon be handed back to his relatives after years of lobbying efforts.

In June, five protesters, including Congo-born Diyabanza, were stopped before they could leave the Quai Branly Museum in Paris with a 19th century African funeral pole and placed under investigation by French prosecutors.

The Dutch museum said that to avoid a conflict that could have caused damage to the statue, its security officers did not prevent the activists from leaving the building with the artifact as they knew police were nearby.

The Facebook livestream ended with police handcuffing one of the activists on a road near the museum. Diyabanza did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment that was left on his cellphone voicemail Friday.

The Afrika Museum is part of a group of Dutch museums that last year published a set of principles for handling claims on cultural objects in their collections. A spokesperson for the museums could not immediately be reached for comment.

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