Five activists, who were arrested at the Africa Museum in Berg en Dal on Thursday after trying to remove an African statute from the museum, were all released from custody. According to the activists, the statue in question was stolen from their country, Congo, during colonialism. They’re planning more such actions, they said to Omroep Gelderland.
The group of activists call themselves Unité Dignité Courage, which stands for unity, dignity and courage. “We have to leave the country now, but there are two or three museums with African art here, so we will be back,” activists Mwazulu Diyabanza said to the broadcaster. “We want our heritage back. It was forcibly stolen from us and now we want to take it home.”
“It is not up to the museums and governments of Europe to decide when and how something is returned. That is up to us,” Diyabanza said.
Stijn Schoonderwoerd, director of the Africa Museum, has questions about the activists’ claim. “These people claim the statue is theirs, but who are they themselves?” he said to Omroep Gelderland. According to him, he often sees requests for at to be returned. “But we have never experienced it before with stealing and such a media circus.”
A few years ago the Africa Museum returned a piece to the Maori people in New Zealand, Schoonderwoerd said. This happened through an organization, he said. “That is the normal way. Or through a government, but at the moment we have no claim whatsoever from the governments of Congo, Angola or other African countries.”
The statue in question was not damaged. It will be placed back in the Africa Museum next week, according to the broadcaster.