masque Fang

Gabon demands the return of a Fang mask at the heart of a legal battle in France

Bought for 150 euros by a second-hand dealer, then resold for 4.2 million euros at auction, an extremely rare African sculpted mask is the subject of a legal battle in France, with the arrival on Tuesday in the State procedure of Gabon, which intends to recover this treasure, reports France 24.

On Tuesday, two lawyers representing Gabon’s transitional government appeared before the court in Alès, in the south of France, to argue for the cancellation of successive sales of this precious mask. There are only around ten examples of this carved wooden mask left in the world. The Gabonese government also requests his repatriation to Gabon, as well as the consignment of funds linked to this affair.

The origin of this legal battle dates back to a couple of octogenarians who owned the mask, a sacred object of the secret society of the Fang people in Gabon. They sold this mask to a second-hand dealer two years ago for the modest sum of 150 euros. A few months later, the rare object was put up for auction and sold for an astronomical sum of more than four million euros.

The octogenarian couple requests not only the cancellation of the sale, but also, in the event it is impossible to recover the object itself, the restitution of the financial value of the mask at the end of the auction.

In September, the State of Gabon also filed a complaint for receiving stolen goods in Montpellier, following the action of a collective called “Gabon Occitanie”. While the Gabonese government is demanding the return of the artifact, lawyers regret that the current location of the precious mask remains unknown, because it was purchased by an anonymous collector.