26 objects taken during the French colonial war against Dahomey kingdom returned to Benin in November 2021. After high dignitaries and local kings, representative of Benin’s ethnic diversity, and the President paid their respect, the “national treasures” were put on display at the Palace of the Republic for three months, from March to May 2022. Admission was free and waves of people attended the exhibition, almost 200 000, far exceeding the organizers’ expectations. The exhibition reached such large success that it reopened for 6 additional weeks in the summer, from July 16 to August 28, 2022.

In parallel, thirty-four Beninese artists are also exhibiting their artwork, falling under three themes: Transition(s) with exhibited artists such as Dominique Zinkpe, Ishola Akpo or Tchif, Trangression-Hybridisation with George Adeagbo, Romuald Hazoume or Louis Oke Agbo, and Recurrence-Variations with Cyprien Tokoudagba, Ludovic Fadaïrou, Euloge Ahanhanzo-Glele… Two temporalities are brought together around artistic themes. Another dialogue is occurring, articulated around the old objects and more recent pieces of art. New stories and conversations are being written, weaving old to new. What will the new stories tell? To what extent the symbolism of the object will be altered? How should the returned object be seen, using which lenses, if any? What duality is created between the object that is now considered as a piece of art?

The objects returned to Benin Republic came from the Musée du Quai Branly. In Benin, their finlal host will be the MEARD (Museum of the Epic of Amazons and Danxome’s Kings). It is assumed that the objects will maintain their artistic status as they are being transferred from one museum to another.