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African mask sold for 4.2 mn euros in France despite protest

A 19th-century carved mask from Central Africa was auctioned in France for 4.2 million euros ($4.6 million) on Saturday, despite Gabonese protesters at the auction house asking for the item’s “restitution,”

The unique wooden “Ngil” mask, used in ceremonies by Gabon’s Fang ethnic group, smashed its estimate of 300,000-400,000 euros at an auction in Montpellier, southern France.

“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”.

As far as he knew, auctioneer Jean-Christophe Giuseppi stated the auction was “completely lawful.”

The demonstrators left the auction chamber calmly, but continued their demonstration against the sale of African works of art, escorted by security guards.

A Congolese chair that sold for 44,000 euros was also included in Saturday’s auction.

With additional charges and fees, the winning bidder spent a total of 5.25 million euros for the Fang mask, which is close to a record for such an item.

Recall that a similar Fang mask sold for 5.9 million euros at a Paris auction in 2006.

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Naija Times