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Nigeria challenges Christie’s over looted treasures

Nigerian historians and government officials are trying to stop the auction of several artifacts from the country.
The artifacts featured in auction house Christie’s collection “Arts of Africa, Oceania and North America” are scheduled to go under the hammer in Paris Monday, with the most valuable expected to raise up to $1 million.

Critics claim the collection includes artworks that were looted during Nigeria’s civil war, as well as other pieces that were taken earlier under British colonial rule.

Christie’s deny that any items in the sale were acquired illegitimately.
Divine sculptures
Controversy has centered around Lot 47 — a pair of sculptures representing Alusi, deities of the Igbo people, one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria.
The sculptures are expected to raise more than $280,000.
The auction house lists the provenance of the sculptures as the collection of Jacques Kerchache, a leading collector of African art, adviser to the late President of France Jacques Chirac, and an influential figure in the creation of the Quai Branly museum in Paris.
The pieces passed to another private collection after Kerchache’s death in 2001.
But Igbo-Nigerian art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu of Princeton University alleges the pieces were looted during civil war between 1967-70, when the majority-Igbo region of Biafra seceded from Nigeria, precipitating a bloody conflict with the national government in which an estimated one to three million people died.
“My mother still mourns the overnight disappearance of countless alusi from communal shrines in my hometown, Umuoji, in Anambra State,” wrote Okeke-Agulu in an Instagram post on June 6, that concluded “these artworks are stained with the blood of Biafra’s children.”

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