The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has released a “red list” for West Africa that highlights the cultural objects and artifacts most at risk of being looted, stolen, or illegally exported and trafficked.
The Red List of West African Cultural Objects at Risk is similar to ICOM lists issued for other regions of the world and meant to protect their cultural heritage. The new eight-page guide is not a list of stolen or missing items, but rather an educational tool designed to prevent illegal transactions.
The West African version was inspired by conflict-related damage to antiquities in Mali in 2012, but features art and artifacts from a total of nine countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Niger and Togo.
Arabic manuscripts from Timbuktu, terracotta sculptures from the Niger River Valley, and vessels, tools and jewelry are featured in the guide.
“Individuals or institutions wishing to acquire cultural goods from this part of Africa are strongly encouraged to pay close attention to the provenance and legal documentation of any such objects,” says ICOM. “In the event of any doubt as to the legality of a transaction, buyers should abstain from acquiring the object.”
There are more than 15 ICOM Red Lists covering art and antiquities in some 25 countries, and distributed to museums and art dealers. The Red List for West Africa is available in English and French.
Visit the ICOM website to learn more or download a Red List copy.