Activists who want museums to return artifacts taken during eras of colonialism tried to take a wooden statue from the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal. Mwazulu Diyabanza was taken into custody by Dutch police along with colleagues of the M-UDC organization, he said on social media.
The entire action was streamed live to Diyabanza’s Facebook page. He said it was “part of the recovery operation of our works of art which were ALL acquired by looting, theft, and violence” during the period of colonization and the slave trade.
While on camera, Diyabanza gave a short speech before a colleague handed him the statue and he walked out of the Gelderland museum with the item in his hands. Diyabanza said he had more right to the tomb statue of Congolese origin, because he himself is of Congolese heritage, museum director Stijn Schoonderwoerd alleged during a conversation with broadcaster NOS.
He and his colleagues were met by Dutch police a short distance from the museum. Three men and two women with no known address were taken into custody.
Diyabanza said he believed that there were as many as a half million items taken out of Africa during colonialization which were housed in the museum. Schoonderwoerd acknowledged that the Afrika Museum does have looted art in its collection, but that the museum cooperates when someone makes a claim to the items.
“But these people wanted to make a statement and to do it publicly,” he told the broadcaster. He said he was happy police obtained the statue and gave it back to the museum without incident.
“It could have just ended in a scuffle, and the artwork was not damaged.”