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African Mask Sold For $4.6m In France Despite Protest

Channels Television  
Updated March 27, 2022
This photograph taken on March 24, 2022, shows a “Ngil” mask of the Fang people of Gabon which is estimated at 300,000/400,000 euros and which will be auctioned on March 26, 2022, at the Montpellier auction house. Pascal GUYOT / AFP

 

A carved mask from Central Africa, dating from the 19th century, was sold in France for 4.2 million euros $4.6 million) on Saturday, despite Gabonese protesters in the auction house calling for the item’s “‘restitution”.

The rare wooden “Ngil” mask, used in ceremonies by the Fang ethnic people of Gabon, smashed its estimate of 300,000-400,000 euros at the auction in the southern French city of Montpellier.

“It’s a case of receiving stolen goods,” a man describing himself as a member of the Gabonese community in Montpellier exclaimed from the back of the auction room, surrounded by half a dozen compatriots.

“We’ll file a complaint. Our ancestors, my ancestors, from the Fang community, we will recover this object”, the protester added, describing the mask as a “colonial ill-gotten gain”.


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Auctioneer Jean-Christophe Giuseppi poses next to a “Ngil” mask of the Fang people of Gabon which is estimated at 300,000/400,000 euros and which will be auctioned on March 26, 2022, at the Montpellier auction house, on March 24, 2022. Pascal GUYOT / AFP

 

Auctioneer Jean-Christophe Giuseppi said the auction was “entirely legal”, as far as he was aware.

Accompanied by security guards, the demonstrators left the auction hall calmly but continued their protest against the sale of African works of art.

Saturday’s auction also included a Congolese chair which sold for 44,000 euros.

With added costs and fees the total paid by the successful bidder for the Fang mask was 5.25 million euros, close to a record for such an item.

In 2006 a similar Fang mask brought in 2.09 million euros at a Paris auction.

AFP