A gallery in the Quai Branly Museum (via Ninara/Flickr)

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. 

YouTube video

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.

Jasmine Weber is an artist, writer, and former news editor at Hyperallergic. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.