To protest against colonialism, he takes artifacts from museums
Only 27 renditions have been announced to date, and only one object was returned.
The funeral post at Quai Branly, according to its museum label, was a gift from a French doctor and explorer who carried out ethnological missions across Africa. But for Mr. Diyabanza and his associates, the contents of the museum are the product of an expropriation. As he said in the speech broadcast live before seizing the object, he had “come to claim stolen goods from Africa, stolen goods under colonialism.”
Mr Diyabanza, who faces a separate trial in Marseille in November, said in the interview that fury drove him to remove the item in a spontaneous and unpremeditated act, and that he chose the post because it was “easily accessible” and not bolted in place.
“Wherever our works of art and our heritage are locked away, we will go and look for them,” he added.
Mr. Diyabanza is not the only one to stage museum actions. A London court on Friday found Isaiah Ogundele, 34, guilty of a harassment charge over a protest at a slavery-related gallery at the Museum of London. According to a museum statement, the protest took place in January in front of four African works on loan from the British Museum.
The concern of museum administrators and cultural officials is that such actions are on the increase, wreaking havoc inside museums and undermining restitution talks between Europe and Africa.
Dan Hicks, professor of contemporary archeology at the University of Oxford and curator at the university’s Pitt Rivers Museum, which has extensive colonial-era collections, described Mr. Diyabanza’s intervention at Quai Branly as “A visual manifestation”, adapted to social media, which involved a reversal of roles: a cultural object was seized in Europe on behalf of African peoples. He said the episode was about “objects in museums and how we feel about them” and raised questions about “culture, race, historical violence, history and memory.”
“When the time comes when our audience feels the need to protest, then we’re probably doing something wrong,” he added. “We need to open our doors to conversations when our postings have hurt or upset people. “