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French museum chief hits back at call to return African art

The head of France's greatest collection of African art hit back Tuesday at a report urging the return of thousands of artworks to the countries from which they were taken.

Stephane Martin, of the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris, which holds more than two-thirds of the 90,000 African treasures in French public collections, told AFP the report had tainted "everything that was collected and bought during the colonial period with the impurity of the colonial crime."

His comments come days after a report by French and African specialists commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron urged the return of thousands of artworks in a radical shift of policy.

But Martin said changing the law to enable treasures to be returned, as the report recommended, "opened the door to complete maximalist restitution". 

The director said he would prefer that great African artworks "be circulated more widely" rather than handing them back. 

 

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