The Congolese activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza has been arrested in Paris for attempting to seize an artefact from the Louvre. Diyabanza’s lawyer, Hakim Chergui, told The Art Newspaper that the incident took place on Thursday (22 October) and that the activist will go to court later today to hear the relevant charges.
In a tweet posted by an anonymous "street journalist" Le Général, Diyabanza is seen removing the object from its plinth, saying: "I came here to take back what was stolen and plundered from us… to take back what was pillaged from Africa.” Another man in the gallery tries to apprehend him. Diyabanza responds by saying, “Where is your conscience?”
The Musée du Louvre confirmed to The Art Newspaper that an attempted theft did take place Thursday at the Pavillon des Sessions, an area of the museum where the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum collection is exhibited. "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," a spokeswoman added.
A Facebook page dedicated to Diyabanza and his restitution campaign says that protests over his arrest are due to take place today outside a court in the 17th arrondissement of Paris.
Earlier this month, Diyabanza was 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”, although Diyabanza described his actions as a protest against colonial looting.
Three other activists were handed down suspended fines of €250, €750 and €1,000, while another was found innocent. All five defendants are members of a pan-African group, Unité Dignité Courage, which strives for the “liberation and transformation of Africa” and the restitution of African heritage.
Diyabanza was also arrested in Marseilles on 30 July for attempting to take an ivory object from the Musée des Arts Africains, Océaniens, Améridiens, with a decision in that case expected on 17 November.
UPDATE (26 October): The Art Newspaper understands that Diyabanza was released following a hearing at Paris Judicial Court. His trial has been adjourned until 3 December. He has also been barred from visiting any museum. Contrary to an earlier report, it is unclear what the charges are.
UPDATE (27 October): Diyabanza's lawyer says that the charge is "attempted theft [status belongs to a museum]".