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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 09:22 GMT
Louvre deal for Nigerian statues
Louvre
The Louvre museum has a wing for primitive art
France and Nigeria have come to an agreement over the provenance of three statues on display at the Louvre museum in Paris.

The three 1,500-year-old terracotta figures, known as the Nok statues, were uncovered during a mining operation in Nigeria in the 1990s.

Nigeria has agreed to allow the statues to remain in Paris on a 25-year renewable basis in return for France's admission that they are undisputedly the property of Nigeria.

The statues left the country at a time when Nigeria prohibited the export of any archaeological relics.

Portaits

In April last year Nigeria officially requested their return.

Nok sculptures are among the oldest sculptures found in Africa.

The small figures are often a series of portraits made out of stone, terracotta or bronze.

Art historians believe they were used as cult objects to commemorate the dead and also as spirit figures for the benefit of the living.

France's minister for European affairs, Pierre Moscovici, has told the French Parliament that the deal between the two countries should be signed in "the next few days".

He was speaking in response to a question in the parliament during an examination of an international convention aimed at stopping the smuggling in cultural treasures.

About $10bn (7bn) worth of art treasures are stolen and traded around the world every year, according to French insurance group, Argos.

Criticised

Hundreds of primitive art relics have been removed from Nigeria over the last 50 years, with many pieces sold on the open art market.

The former French president Jacques Chirac was strongly criticised when the Nok statues were bought for the Louvre from a Belgian art dealer.

Mr Chirac is a passionate admirer of primitive art and was a key supporter of the Louvre's decision to open a wing of the museum devoted to its works.

The Nok pieces will be displayed in a new museum, currently under construction close to the Eiffel tower in Paris.

Earlier this year the Nigerian parliament called for the return of Nigerian works of art in the British Museum.

See also:

29 Mar 01 | Arts
Louvre's new wonder boy
29 Mar 01 | Arts
New boss at Louvre's helm
24 Jan 02 | Arts
Nigeria demands treasures back
06 Mar 99 | Entertainment
A new look to African art
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