Congolese activist Mwazulu Diyabanza went to court today after being arrested for attempting to take an artifact from the Louvre in Paris. The Art Newspaper reports that the incident took place on October 22, and a video posted to Twitter shows Diyabanza in the museum saying, “I came here to take back what was stolen and plundered from us… to take back what was pillaged from Africa.”
A representative for the Louvre told ARTnews that the object involved in the incident was an 18th-century sculpture from Flores, an island off the coast of Indonesia that was once a colony of Portugal. “The Musée du Louvre teams intervened immediately and avoided the theft and any damage to the sculpture,” the representative said.
Diyabanza was released from his hearing, and a trial has been scheduled for December 3. The judge said the “complexity” of the case accounted for the trial’s delay.
Earlier this month, a French court ruled that Diyabanza would not receive a prison sentence after attempting to take a 19th-century African funeral pole outside the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac in Paris. The activist was fined €2,000 (about $2,320) for the incident, which the activist argued during the trial was part of a protest rather than an attempted theft.
Diyabanza is widely known for activism surrounding repatriation and histories of colonialism. He has previously staged protests at the Museum of African, Oceanic and Native American Arts in Marseille, France, and the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal, the Netherlands.
“The fact that I had to pay my own money to see what had been taken by force, this heritage that belonged back home where I come from—that’s when the decision was made to take action,” Diyabanza told the New York Times in September.
The repatriation of looted objects has been the subject of other recent headlines out of Europe, with directors at the Rijksmuseum and Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam voicing support for an organized effort in the Netherlands to return an estimated 100,000 objects stolen from former colonies and currently held in Dutch institutions.