This June, a cohort of activists staged a noteworthy intervention at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris to protest its collection of looted African objects. Mwazulu Diyabanza, a member of the Pan-African group Les Marrons Unis Dignes et Courageux (the Worthy and Courageous Maroons), removed a 19th-century funerary post from its display before beginning a march through the museum. During a live-streamed speech, he denounced the collection of colonial artifacts.
On September 30, the five activists stood trial on charges of attempted theft, facing up to 10 years in prison and €150,000 (~$176,000) in fines. While Diyabanza initially stated he intended to repatriate the post, which is from modern-day Chad or Sudan, he denies that the protest was truly an attempt to steal the artifact, but rather a symbolic act in support of repatriation.
According to the Art Newspaper, today’s verdict resulted in respective fines of €250 (~$293), €750 (~$880), and €1,000 (~$1174) for three of Diyabanza’s colleagues, while one of the activists was found innocent. As reported by the Art Newspaper, Diyabanza was ordered to pay €2,000 (~$2,349) total, due to a suspended fine of €1,000 from a previous case.
According to the AP, Diyabanza told reporters he intends to appeal the court’s ruling, asserting that the verdict reflected “the judges of a government that fails in its moral duties.”
“We get our legitimacy from the perpetual idea of trying to recover our heritage and giving our people access to it,” he added.