Restrictions on African activist upheld after Paris protest

PARIS (AP) — A French court refused Wednesday to lift restrictions placed on a Congolese activist who dislodged an African funeral pole in a Paris museum, demanding that France return art to its former colonies in the continent.

Activist Mwazulu Diyabanza was briefly detained after the protest in the Quai Branly Museum and then put under restrictions that ban him from travel outside France and visiting museums. He sought to lift those restrictions in a hearing Wednesday, but his demands were denied.

Diyabanza and four other activists who participated in the June 12 action will stand trial on Sept. 30.

“It’s insulting,” he said while noting that tens of thousands of African artworks remain in the Quai Branly despite promises by President Emmanuel Macron to return some of them.

“First, museums should close in the West,” Diyabanza told The Associated Press. “Then, those works need to be returned.”

In a state-commissioned 2018 study, experts said at least 90,000 African artifacts remain in France, 70,000 of which are in the Quai Branly. The experts criticized the deprivation of cultural heritage caused to African youth.

Macron promised France would return art to African nations that request them. Following the publication of the study, plans were made to return 50 works to Benin, and about half of them have been handed over.

Diyabanza’s protest came amid growing calls to expose crimes of the colonial era as part of protests for racial justice in France and around the world.

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