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‘Red list of cultural objects to protect West African artefacts

By Editor   |   08 January 2017   |   4:04 am
With a Red List documentation, stolen, but recovered artefacts like these could have been protected.

With a Red List documentation, stolen, but recovered artefacts like these could have been protected.

Spurred by the carnage against cultural objects during the 2012 Malian crisis, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is taking what could be rescue mission to prevent illicut sales and movement of any artifacts that hav e been victims of looting. ICOM, according to a srarement on its website is publishing a “Red List of West African Cultural Objects at Risk.” The publication will also include a specific focus on “Mali “Emergency.”

With the complexity of the antiquity market that is shrouded in secrecy, given the illegitimate movement of the art pieces, ICOM hopes that potential buyers would begin to demand for provenance before buying art. “The Red List of West A frican Cultural Objects at Risk aims to highlight the types of artefacts that are in demand on the art and antiquities market, protected by legislation, and vulnerable to being looted, stolen or illegally exported,” a press statement from the world body explains. “ Individuals or institutions wishing to acquire cultural goods from this part of Africa are strongly encouraged to pay close attention to the provenance and legal documentation of any such objects. In the event of any doubt as to the legality of a transaction, buyers should abstain from acquiring the object.”

The publication has received the support of the Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the U.S. Department of State.


In addition to its production of the Red Lists and ongoing cooperation with customs and law enforcement agencies around the world, ICOM assures that continuity operating systems of surveillance for emergency situations through its Disaster Relief Management Committee (DRMC) and to fight illegal trade of cultural goods, particularly through the establishment of the International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods in 2013.

Exceprts from the statement: “This Red List is published in English and French. A German version is being prepared to adapt to the different regions concerned.

“The Red Lists classify the endangered categories of archaeological objects or works of art in the most vulnerable areas of the world, in order to prevent them from being sold or illegally exported. They therefore contribute to the protection of cultural heritage in the countries concerned. These tools are transmitted to police and customs officials worldwide through INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization. They are also distributed to museums, auction houses and art dealers.

“With more than 15 ICOM Red Lists concerning 25 countries, it is easy to imagine how many illicitly trafficked objects could be seized should the Lists be used consistently by law enforcement officials at the world’s largest ports of entry.

“New Lists are currently being developed, namely for Yemen and Southeast Europe.”

However, the issue of protectuin of artefacts by various national laws and international treaties, particulalrly as related to West African cultural objects is among the most sensitivity on the global space. In fact, ICOM notes that they “are in high demand on the art and antiquities market and are thus at risk of being illegally traded.”

The world body cites how the “ conflict in Mali also highlighted the need for a new Red List for West Africa, particularly in light of the risks to manuscripts and of the looting of sites in the north of the country.” For this reason, ICOM has included in this Red List an “Emergency” section specifically dedicated to Mali

The unveiling of the Red List was held on Friday December 16 at 10 am at the National Museum of Mali under the High Patronage of the Minister of Culture Mrs. N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo.


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