Reclaiming History

The Return of Stolen Works from the Dundo Museum

June 15, 2018 By: Adenike Cosgrove

Just over a year ago, we interviewed African art collector, Sindika Dokolo about the work his foundation, the Sindika Dokolo Foundation, is doing to identify and repatriate artworks stolen from the Dundo museum during Angola’s civil war—a war that started just after the country’s independence from Portugal in 1975 and ended in 2002.

Chokwe Pipe, Angola
Dundo Museum Collection
Chokwe Pipe, Angola
Dundo Museum Collection

A year on from our first interview with Sindika and our discussion about the return of the first set of identified works—two mwana pwo masks and a statuette—07 June 2018 saw the foundation announce that the Angolan government would receive an additional six recovered artworks stolen from the Dundo museum.

A ceremonial pipe, a figurative bowl, a Chokwe chihongo mask, and a Chokwe ngundja ceremonial chair form part of the latest group all identified in private collections. Interestingly, the chihongo mask was found in Sindika’s own personal collection of classic African art and the ngundja chair was returned by the French sculptor, collector, and dealer Daniel Hourdé, who refused payment and said he was just happy to know it would go back to the museum.

In addition, 60 pieces missing from the Dundo Museum are also said to have been identified.

Chokwe Chihongo Mask, Angola
Dundo Museum Collection
Chokwe Chihongo Mask, Angola
Dundo Museum Collection

In his blog post ‘Looted Chokwe art to be returned to Dundo Museum in Angola‘, Bruno Claessens, Head of African and Oceanic art at Christie’s urged for the creation of a website “featuring an inventory of all objects that went missing from the Dundo Museum, so that each new Chokwe object that appears on the market can be checked.” Well, that’s in the works too! The Sindika Dokolo Foundation plans to launch a database detailing the missing artworks identified.

Chokwe Ngundja Ceremonial Chair, Angola
Dundo Museum Collection
Chokwe Ngundja Ceremonial Chair, Angola
Dundo Museum Collection
Chokwe Bowl, Angola
Dundo Museum Collection

In our latest podcast, we speak with Sindika to learn more about how the repatriation effort of the foundation has evolved.


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