January 4, 2021

Monday, January 04, 2021 - No comments

Another sentencing for Congolese Activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza

On 22 October 2020 Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza entered the Musée du Louvre in Paris and after a brief stroll through the Pavillon des Sessions, where the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum collection is exhibited made the latest in a string of protests regarding colonial-period acquisitions in French museum collections. 

During the disruption, Diyabanza began by making a live-streamed speech stating he was taking back "what was stolen and plundered from us… to take back what was pillaged from Africa".  Like in his previous demonstrations, his protest then crossed the lines of legality when the activist lifted an 18th-century Ana deo figure of the Nage people and began walking through the museum with it. 

Ironically, the artefact Diyabanza then carried a short distance through the museum's gallery, hugged to his chest as if carrying a child, represents the tutelar spirits of a clan house, and comes from Flores Island in Eastern Indonesia, not from Africa.  The activist was then intercepted first by a chastising museum patron and shortly thereafter by security from the Musée du Louvre who detained the activist until police could take him into custody.

For this latest escapade, Diyabanza was sentenced by the Paris court to 5,000 euros in fines, including 2,000 euros in favour of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac which had loaned the artwork to the Louvre.  He was also handed a  suspended prison sentence of 4 months all of which he plans to appeal. 

Diyabanza began his demonstrations during the summer of 2020 and on 13 June entered the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac in Paris and removed a 19th-century Chadian funerary pole from its display, arguing the object was originally stolen from Africa by French colonisers.  Initially accused of attempted theft, he was convicted of aggravated theft, after describing his actions as a protest against colonial looting, not a theft, knowing he would be stopped. In this incident, he was acquitted by a Marseille court and received a fine of €1,000.

On 30 July 2020 Diyabanza was again arrested for taking a ceremonial ivory spear from its display at the Musée Colonial de Marseille founded by Dr. Édouard Marie Heckel but was later acquitted of the charges related to the incident.

On 10 September 2020 Diyabanza visited the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal in the Netherlands and picked up a Congolese statue and marched the statue out of the museum.  The museum staff did not interfere with the demonstration in order to prevent any possible damage to the statue and allowed the group to leave the museum having already notified the Dutch police, who were waiting outside to apprehend the protestors

In early October Diyabanza also visited the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp and symbolically removed a painting from the 100X Congo exhibition before realizing it was a contemporary and not colonial-period work.

Image Credit: Mwazulu Diyabanza Siwa Lemba official Facebook Page