Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FASHION

Paris, Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015.

Read more

REPORTERS

Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

2014-07-11 21:47 AFRICA NEWS

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Finally, a good use for new app "Yo"

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Politics: parties under pressure

Read more

FOCUS

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more

  • UN Security Council calls for Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire

    Read more

  • The third-place playoff: the World Cup game no one wants to play

    Read more

  • Afghan presidential candidates agree to full vote audit, Kerry says

    Read more

  • France’s Kadri wins eighth stage at Tour de France

    Read more

  • Legal challenge to French mayor’s ban of Muslim hijab on beach

    Read more

  • Last of the Ramones, Tommy Ramone, dies aged 62

    Read more

  • Video: Outrage in wake of deadly Casablanca buildings collapse

    Read more

  • Iraqi forces ‘executed prisoners in reprisal’ for ISIS killings

    Read more

  • Ukraine promises retaliation after rebel assault

    Read more

  • Putin revives old Cuban flame and eyes Latin American minerals

    Read more

  • Amazon snubs French free delivery ban with one-cent charge

    Read more

  • Cleveland's NBA fans hail 'return of king' LeBron James

    Read more

  • Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

    Read more

  • Magnitude 6.8 quake, small tsunami hit east Japan

    Read more

  • Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting drops extradition appeal

    Read more

Culture

Abidjan museum mourns artefacts stolen in unrest

©

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-08-17

At least 100 artefacts were stolen from Abidjan's Museum of Civilisation during the fighting in April that lead to the ouster of former president Laurent Gbagbo, museum director Silvie Memel Kassi said.

AFP - Bullet holes pock the vault door and empty display boxes litter the showroom floor of Abidjan's Museum of Civilisation, robbed of 100 ancient artefacts under the cover of deadly conflict in April.

"A piece of our history has been wiped out," museum director Silvie Memel Kassi laments of the collection's lost crown jewels, some dating back to the 17th century, that may now be melted for the gold.

"It is a huge loss."

Worth an estimated three billion CFA francs (4.5 million euros, $6.5 million) but irreplaceable, the looters made off with masks, sabres, crowns and gold-handled fly swatters -- objects described by the museum as "authentic, unique and rare".

"I had dreamt of leaving a museum of reference for future generations," Zoko Djowa, the museum's curator for the last 30 years and just months from retirement, said bitterly as he walked around the devastation.

Opened by the then-French administration in a white, colonial-style building in 1942, the museum could not have been worse placed during the conflict that engulfed Ivory Coast's economic capital after a disputed November vote.

In Plateau, the neighbourhood housing the presidential palace, the building also borders Camp Gallieni army headquarters and came under fire from both sides to the four-month conflict.

Fighting ended on April 11 with the arrest of strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who sparked the conflict by refusing to concede defeat to Alassane Ouattara.

Shelling left a large hole in the museum facade.

Inside, the shattered state of the exhibition hall would break the heart of any art lover hoping to see the once rich collection of artefacts telling the story of the peoples of Ivory Coast.

Bullet marks have been left on the double glass that used to enclose sabres used by the royal Agni people from eastern Ivory Coast.

Glass display boxes lie strewn on the floor, empty.

In the middle of the room; the massive, hundred-year-old skeleton of an elephant -- the national emblem -- towers over the few masks and statuettes left of the once proud collection.

Among the items lost: pendants worn by the central Baule people in the seventeenth century, statuettes of the western We and northern Senufo tribes, crowns and fly swatters with solid gold handles from the central and coastal regions, and sacred masks from the Dan people in the west.

While the pillagers failed to reach most of the estimated 11,000 items locked up in the vault, they did make off with the museum's flagship collection.

"All of Ivory Coast" was exhibited there, Memel Kassi told AFP in her small office, surrounded by traditional masks. Each of the stolen objects "taught us something about its culture, its civilisation, its beliefs".

Without holding out much hope, the museum had issued a search notice for the plundered items via cross-border policing organisation Interpol, and urged the public to help.

But chances of recovering the items are slim, said Jules-Evariste Toa, a communication professor at the University of Abidjan.

"One can melt the gold or start a private collection. We fear never to see the items again," the once-regular museum visitor told AFP.

Now closed to the public, the museum -- which has seen its visitor numbers dwindle in recent years -- will have to stretch its meagre 76,000-euro budget to cover vital refurbishment and security improvements.

"We need an alarm system and weapons", said museum security guard Jean-Claude Agniman.

But by far the worst consequence of the looting, say Ivorians, is the loss of patrimony invaluable to helping forge a common national identity as the nation embarks on reconstruction after a decade of crises and tensions.

"Ivory Coast is losing its points of reference with the disappearance of these pieces," said Ivorian poet and writer Paul Ahizi, describing the theft as "a desecration of the spirit of (our) ancestors".

"The country will have a problem defining its own identity and spirituality," he said.
 

Date created : 2011-08-17

  • IVORY COAST

    Scores of Gbagbo officers charged over post-election strife

    Read more

  • IVORY COAST

    UN blames spate of killings on Ouattara forces

    Read more

  • IVORY COAST

    Gbagbo allies charged over election violence

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)