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Dokolo, Dos Santos art patronage suffer ‘corruption’ crisis

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Olu Oguibe’s obelisk titled Monument for Strangers and Refugees,(50 ft, 2017). PHOTO: Mathias Voelzke


In the attempt to prosecute alleged massive corruption by one of Africa’s controversial families, the dos Santos of Angola, some contemporary art collections are being trapped.

Daughter of former Angolan dictator, Isabel dos Santos and her Congolese husband, Sindika Dokolo’s contemporary African art collections were among assets ordered for forfeiture in Angola and Portugal.

Isabel’s father, José Eduardo dos Santos, was the President of Angola from 1979 to 2017. Forbes magazine, surprisingly, in its last listings of top wealthy Africans, rated dos Santos as the richest woman on the continent.

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Last year, a court in Angola had frozen dos Santos’ assets, over allegation that she and her associates owed the country more than $1 billion. Also, a Portuguese court, last week, ordered seizure of all assets jointly owned by dos Santos and Dokolo.

The assets being probed, technically, belong to dos Santos, but there appears to be a joint collection and patronage by Dokolo and wife. In fact, Dokolo is said to have over 3,000 pieces in his collection, the vast of which may have been trapped in the forfeiture order.

Reports quoted dos Santos describing the judgment against her as “politically motivated.” But neither she nor her husband has launched a counter legal battle, which means that the forfeiture ordered by both courts may also consume the couple’s art collections.

Dokolo, 48, and one of Africa’s top collectors of contemporary art, is also known for his strong support for the return of looted cultural objects of the continent housed in museums abroad.

With such allegation of massive corruption involving his associate and wife, dos Santos, his mission in return of African art already has an integrity clog in the wheel of a progress of the Sindika Dokolo Foundation, which was set up for the purpose of patronage and promotion.

Individually, dos Santos and Dokolo are known to be passionate collectors of African art. As part of his constant effort in promoting art from Africa, Dokolo exhibited, InCarNations, a display of some of his collection in Brussels, Belgium.

When he launched his campaign for the return of African art from Western museums, he said, “works that used to be clearly in African museums must absolutely return to Africa,” and assured, “recovering the stolen pieces is a mission to be accomplished.”

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According to reports, the prosecution was aimed at stopping dos Santos from the sales of stakes in multi-million-Euro companies based in Portugal. Specifically, dos Santos’ assets on target include her 42.5 per cent stake in the investment bank Eurobic, estimated at $200m, and a majority share in the Portuguese engineering giant Efacec, allegedly acquired in 2015 for $220m.

Corruption allegation and controversy have been trailing the couple since the international show at Kassel, Germany, Documenta 14, in 2017. Dokolo’s foundation gave €340,000 to Documenta, which supported each exhibiting artist with €20,000, a German magazine, Kunstforum International, had reported then. Among the works exhibited at Documenta 14, was an installation by the U.S-based Nigerian artist and historian, Olu Oguibe.

When Angola became the first African country to win a major laurel at Venice Biennale in 2013, the success was tainted with Dokolo’s sponsorship of the country’s pavilion. Work of Angolan artist, Edson Chagas, rendered in photographs of doorways and discarded objects, profiled the country’s capital, Luanda. The exhibition won the MOMA Prize, which also had $100,000 in prize money attached.

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