Benin President Patrice Talon on Saturday ‘proudly’ inaugurated a valuable historic exhibition about Cotonou. The exhibition displays 26 royal treasures to the public after they were returned by France in November, nearly 129 years after they were looted, according to Agence France Press (AFP).
This exhibition represents "pride and faith in what we once were, in what we are and in what we will be. This is the true Benin,” Talon told reporters.
He added that the recovery of these pieces “has broken a taboo. It’s not important anymore to wonder whether we can make it or not, because we did,” noting that Benin will request France to return more antiquities stolen by its colonial troops.
The exhibition, which kicked off on Feb.20 and runs until May 22, extends over a 2,000-square-metre space in the presidential palace in Cotonou under the theme “Benin Art Yesterday and Today.”
The 26 pieces returned by France after two years of negotiations between Paris and Cotonou, are the first of its kind recovery of important historic antiquities to an African state.
Earlier on Saturday, President Patrice Talon accompanied French minister of culture Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, who was visiting Cotonou, to see the 26 pieces that were formerly exhibited at the Quai Branly Museum in France.
“It’s a wonderful exhibition that adds more value to the creativity, and political, historic, and aesthetic heritage of these 26 pieces,” she said.
The pieces were stolen in 1892 by French colonial forces from Abomey, capital of the former Dahomey kingdom located in the south of modern-day Benin.