A Kakuungu mask is prepared for shipment to Congo, at the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren on Tuesday 31 May 2022. The mask was loaned to the National Museum in Congo, awaiting an official ruling allowing stolen art to be officially returned. Credit: Belga / Virginie Lefour
Belgium’s planned restitution of cultural artefacts to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was the focus of a meeting this week in Kinshasa between the Congolese Minister of Culture, Catherine Kathungu Furaha, and the Director General of the AfricaMuseum, Bart Ouvry.
Ouvry, a former diplomat who became the Director of the Royal Museum for Central Africa last May, has been visiting the DRC since Monday to “make progress together in the search for the provenance and restitution-reconstruction of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the Congolese people,” the official Congolese press agency (ACP) reported on Friday.
The visit is part of the implementation of a Belgian law, passed on 30 June 2022, which provides a legal framework for the restitution of objects illegitimately appropriated during the colonial period, mainly in the DRC.
It concerns property held by the federal state, most of which is in the AfricaMuseum.
This law should lead to the signing of a bilateral Belgian-Congolese treaty to organise the transfer of objects that could be repatriated after a provenance study, the office of the Secretary of State for Science Policy, Thomas Dermine, told the Belga agency on Friday.
According to Kathungu, quoted by press agency ACP, the DRC has set up a national commission responsible for the repatriation of Congolese cultural property, archives and human remains