Sacred objects from North America's Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes went on sale Monday in Paris, despite a request from the US embassy and a legal challenge from the Hopi to suspend the sale. The sale of such artefacts is outlawed in the US.
Sacred objects from the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes native to North America were auctioned in Paris on Monday despite objections from the United States and a legal challenge filed on behalf of the Hopi tribe, the EVE auction house said.
The US embassy had asked France to suspend the sale of the 32 ceremonial masks, head-dresses and other objects after a legal challenge by advocacy group Survival International filed on behalf of Arizona's Hopi tribe was dismissed on Friday.
The embassy said in a letter to the auctioneers that it had asked for the delay so that the two tribes "might have the opportunity to identify the objects, investigate their provenance and determine whether they have a claim to recover the items under the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, to which France is a signatory, or under other laws".
The convention aims to fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property across the world.
"The Hopi tribe was able to argue their case before a judge (last week) and was rebuffed,'' said a statement from the auction house. EVE also noted that "an exchange of detailed letters took place with the San Carlos Apache tribe".
"The sale will therefore take place in an entirely legal manner," auctioneer Alain Leroy said in the statement.
US prohibition not valid in France
The sale of sacred Indian artefacts has been outlawed in the United States since 1990, but the law does not extend to sales overseas.
The judge who ruled on the legal challenge filed on behalf of the Hopi acknowledged that the sale of the objects could "constitute an affront to the dignity" of the tribe.
But she said "this moral and philosophical consideration does not in itself give the judge the right to suspend the sale of these masks, which is not forbidden in France".
The Hopi say the objects – which are worn by some tribe members during religious ceremonies – are blessed with divine spirits and insist that describing them as masks or artefacts is highly offensive.
The battle is a repeat of one earlier this year in which French firm Neret-Minet ignored international appeals to halt the sale of some 70 Hopi masks that eventually fetched around €930,000 ($1.3 million).
Many decried that auction as a sacrilege, including Hollywood legend and activist Robert Redford.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2013-12-09