Africa reclaims its heritage as more artefacts come home

The African conservation community and governments are gradually demanding the return of cultural artefacts looted by governments and individuals during the colonial era.

They are, however, facing the challenge of inadequate global and local repatriation laws as well as opposition from American and European museums, which argue that African museums lack the resources and facilities to conserve the objects if they are to be returned.

The demands for restitution have been going on covertly, with most African governments preferring to take a bilateral negotiation approach.

Ethiopia negotiated for the return of its 1,700-year-old Obelisk, a religious granite post that was in 2005 returned after 68 years in Italy. It was looted by the troops of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini

But now more African museums and governments are openly demanding the return of the cultural objects that were carted away to the US and Europe and constitute some of the leading exhibitions in Western museums.

Some museums tend to lease the artefacts for a period of time, but have opposed repatriation strongly.