Congolese activist who tried to seize an artefact from the Louvre is fined €5,000

Mwazulu Diyabanza says that “museums do not deserve respect” as restitution debate intensifies

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The Congolese activist Mwazulu Diyabanza has been fined €5,000 and received a four-month suspended prison sentence from a Paris court for attempting to seize an artefact from the Louvre in October. His lawyer, Hakim Chergui, tells The Art Newspaper that Diyabanza was convicted of “attempted theft”.

In a post on his Instagram page, Diyabanza says that “the state has sentenced me [and made me] pay €5,000 for tarnishing its image… in the name of ethics, any thinking person knows that these museums do not deserve respect or consideration.” At the time of writing, the Louvre could not be reached for comment.

After the incident, a Louvre spokeswoman said: “The target was a 'swimming sculpture' (Guardian Spirit Figure) from the end of the 18th century, from the island of Flores (eastern Indonesia). The Musée du Louvre teams intervened immediately and avoided the theft and any damage to the sculpture. The police arrested the perpetrators. A complaint was immediately filed.”

In October, Diyabanza was also fined €1,000 for trying to seize an African funeral pole from the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Initially accused of “attempted theft”, he was convicted of “aggravated theft” in this instance, though Diyabanza described his actions as a protest against colonial looting.

He was also arrested in Marseille on 30 July for attempting to take a ceremonial ivory spear from the Musée des Arts Africains, Océaniens, Améridiens; a court acquitted him and three other activists of theft charges last month.

The debate about restitution continues to intensify meanwhile. In a key development, France will return 27 colonial-era artefacts in museums to Benin and Senegal within one year following a unanimous vote by the National Assembly on 17 December.

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