Mr. Mwazulu Diyabanza has been a trending figure in the news for some time now for the approach he has adopted to retrieve artifacts that were stolen from Africa during the days of slavery.
He identified himself as “a pan-African activist, campaigning for reparations for the crimes against African people committed during colonialism” and also the leader of a pan-African activist group called Unité, Dignité, Courage; a group that fights for the liberation and transformation of Africa. “We believe the wealth amassed by western nations through our works of art must be returned, and the goods given back to the African people,” he stated
The Congolese activist and his team usually enters notable Museums across Europe and search for specific African artifacts to retrieve. He narrated that, “I go to museums that exhibit African artifacts; I tell the truth about how these items were looted and stolen from Africa and then I take them.” adding that, “People have to understand that if someone stole their heritage they would react as I am now. Many of my ancestors died protecting these items: they were beheaded. They refused to accept that these objects be taken, and they were killed. Their pain is inside me.”
Recounting his experience at the various Museums he has visited so far to retrieve these highly important historical items, the activist stated that “I traveled to the Quai Branly museum in Paris with a few other activists. A recent report commissioned by Emmanuel Macron found that France has about 90,000 objects from sub-Saharan Africa; more than two-thirds are at the Quai Branly. I took a 19th-century Bari funerary post; when a king died, the post would be placed in front of the grave. It was the only piece that was within our reach.”
He added that he took a sword from the MAAOA museum in Marseille, and a Congolese religious statue from the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal in the Netherlands, in September. He clarified that in each of these cases they were stopped by police, and the items were returned. “In October, I went to the Louvre to take a 19th-century Ana Deo swimming sculpture from Indonesia. I was arrested and detained in prison for three days.” He stated.
Some see his ‘unusual’ approach as a crime but he thought otherwise; he has been arrested and charged severally; according to him, “the charges had a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a €150,000 fine; I was fined €1,000 for aggravated theft. The judge recognized the activist nature of my action, but said he wanted to discourage such stunts.”
The activist is determined to retrieve these items and also very committed to his approach irrespective of the threat it poses to his life and freedom. He added that “At the time of writing, I am awaiting trial for our other three actions, on charges of attempted theft in Marseille, the Netherlands, and Paris for the act at the Louvre. But, whatever the country, I will continue.”
What is your personal view on this approach? Do you think African activists should take matters into their own hands and seek reparations the hard way or weight and use the law?