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‘Artistic Awakening’ in Benin as Return of Royal Artifacts Attracts Huge Crowds

Despite the slow pace by which Western governments have repatriated African art, Benin has managed to amass enough works to stage an exhibition, and the people are coming in droves. With lines around the block, primarily of Beninese, its huge success is unprecedented and has some believing that it could launch an ‘artistic awakening’ in the country. More than 200,000 people have visited a free exhibition in the presidential palace, “Art of Benin From Yesterday and Today: From Restitution to Revelation.” 90% of them are Beninese. Children have asked their parents to bring them because they didn’t want to miss what friends were discussing at school, and spiritual leaders have traveled from across Benin to contemplate the ancient artifacts. The exhibition is also showcasing 34 contemporary artists. When the exhibition finishes at the end of August, the objects will travel to Ouidah, once a slave port, where a new slavery museum is being built.