PARIS (AP) — A Nigerian commission has called for the cancellation of an auction Monday of sacred Nigerian statues in Paris, which it alleges were stolen.
Christie’s auction house has defended the sale, saying the artworks were legitimately acquired and the sale will go ahead.
French courts have consistently ruled in favor of auction houses in recent years whose sales of sacred objects, such as Hopi tribal masks, were contested by rights groups and representatives of the tribes.
A Princeton scholar, professor Chika Okeke-Agulu, alongside Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, raised alarm earlier this month that the objects were looted during the Biafran war in the late 1960′s.
Christie’s wrote earlier this month to the Nigerian commission, saying the sale would go ahead.
Okeke-Agulu, who is a member of the Igbo tribe, said the objects were taken through “an act of violence” from his home state of Anambra and that they should not be sold. An online petition with over 2,000 signatures is demanding that the auction be halted.
The petition said “as the world awakens to the reality of systemic racial injustice and inequality, thanks to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we must not forget that it is not just the black body, but also black culture, identity and especially art that is being misappropriated.”
It claims that between 1967 and 1970, as Nigeria's Biafran civil war raged and while more than 3 million civilians were dying, a renowned European treasure hunter was in Biafra "on a hunting spree for our cultural heritage.”
Christie’s could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.