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African Mask Auctioned for $3.4 Million

African Mask Auctioned for $3.4 Million

Tuesday, 29 March, 2022 - 05:45
This photograph taken on March 24, 2022 shows a "Ngil" mask of the Fang people of Gabon on display on March 26, 2022 at the Montpellier auction house. (AFP)

A carved mask from Central Africa, dating to the 19th century, was sold in France for 4.2 million euros ($4.6 million) on Saturday, despite Gabonese protests in the auction house calling for the item's "recovery", reported Agence France Press (AFP).

The rare wooden "Ngil" mask, used in ceremonies by the Fang people of Gabon, smashed its estimate of 300,000-400,000 euros at the auction in the southern French city of Montpellier.

"It's a case of receiving stolen goods," a man describing himself as a member of the Gabonese community in Montpellier said from behind the auction room, surrounded by half a dozen compatriots.

"We'll file a complaint. Our ancestors, my ancestors, from the Fang community, we will recover this object", the protester added, describing the mask as a "colonial ill-gotten gain".

Auctioneer Jean-Christophe Giuseppi said the auction was "entirely legal", as far as he knows.

Accompanied by security guards, the demonstrators left the auction hall calmly, but continued their protest against the sale of African artworks.

Saturday's auction also included a Congolese chair which sold for 44,000 euros.

With added costs and fees, the total paid by the successful bidder for the Fang mask was 5.25 million euros, close to a record for such an item. In 2006 a similar Fang mask brought in 5.9 million euros at a Paris auction.

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