New Relational Ethics and Old Orientalisms in Arno Bertina’s “Des lions comme des danseuses”

The colonial era is not over. Despite the waves of decolonization seen across Africa in the second half of the 20th century, the legacy of colonialism continues to structure the lives of African people and to define relations between Western and African nations. This is evident in countless works of literature that attest to the colonial realities of every-day life for many Africans, as well as in the terms of economic agreements, such as for trade, mineral rights, and debt relief, between African and Western nations.

In their seminal report on the restitution of African cultural heritage, Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy advocate for what they call a new relationality — “une nouvelle éthique relationnelle” (32) — to support efforts to end to this latent colonialism. As the authors explain, achieving this new relationality will require “un travail sur l’histoire et les imaginaires d’une relation qui, elle-même, reste à être décolonisée” (30). In their report, Sarr and Savoy focus specifically on how the restitution of cultural heritage contributes to this travail, however, other fields can play an important role as well. Elara Bertho has noted how, within the realm of literature, for example, works of fiction that address questions of restitution, such as the 2018 blockbuster Black Panther and the 2014 Nigerian film Invasion 1897, “racontent le profond et lent oubli des sociétés coloniales sur leur propre passé.” This reflection on the past, and on the crimes of colonialism committed by Western European nations, is an important part of working toward a new future.

Fiction can also contribute to Sarr and Savoy’s travail, and thus support their nouvelle éthique relationnelle, by imagining beyond the colonial status quo. Arno Bertina’s novel Des lions comme des danseuses, first published in 2015, is a case in point. The novel, which uses the restitution of African artifacts as a point of departure to imagine a new geopolitics between Europe and Africa, has even received praise from the likes of Savoy herself. Yet, the extent to which Bertina’s text ultimately helps to foster the kind of new relationality envisioned by Sarr and Savoy becomes more ambiguous when we take into consideration the novel’s relationship to colonial discursive traditions, such as orientalism. While Bertina’s text may propose an anti-colonial politic in its plot, it simultaneously supports the colonial status quo through its orientalist representations of African cultures, people, and places. As such, while Des lions comme des danseuses carries the potential to help foster une nouvelle éthique relationnelle, the novel ultimately reinscribes the existing relational order as much as it imagines a new one.

Envisioning a New Relational Ethics

In November of 2017, French president Emmanuel Macron broke with decade of French silence on the question of restitution and declared to an audience at the University of Ouagadougou, “Je veux que d’ici cinq ans les conditions soient réunies pour des restitutions temporaires ou définitives du patrimoine africain en Afrique” (“Discours du Président”). As a first step toward putting his declaration into practice, Macron commissioned Sarr and Savoy to write a report recommending how restitution ought to be pursued.

When the report was published, a year later, many European cultural leaders were shocked by how far it went in its recommendations for restitution. In their text, Sarr and Savoy press, for example, for the immediate, permanent restitution of thirty-odd objects to Benin, Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mali, and Cameroon that representatives in each country have been requesting for decades, most of which were originally looted during military and ethnographic raids in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (54–57). The majority of these objects are held at the Musée du Quai Branly — Jacques Chirac in Paris.

Central to the report’s argument for permanent restitution is its adamance that the legacy of colonialism continues to condition the lives of African peoples and their relations with the world at large: “Les mémoires de la situation coloniale influent sur la présence au monde des peuples africains contemporains” (30). This historical regime “continue à structurer les manières d’être, les relations entre nations anciennement colonisées et colonisatrices, et entre les peuples qui en sont issus, aussi bien sur le continent africain que dans ses diasporas” (30).

As previously noted, Sarr and Savoy write that moving beyond these relations structured by colonialism will require “un travail sur l’histoire et les imaginaires d’une relation qui, elle-même, reste à être décolonisée” (30). For the authors, objects play an important role in mediating relations both between individual people and between collective political bodies. They write: “les objets, devenus des diasporas, sont les médiateurs d’une relation qui doit être réinventée” (32). As such, the restitution of eligible artifacts plays an important role in the travail required to move beyond the colonial era. Sarr and Savoy outline numerous ways that restitution can contribute to this work, such as by serving as an acknowledgement of the illegitimacy of France’s current ownership of these objects (25), by reactivating collective memory in communities across Africa that was lost when these objects were taken (32), by destabilizing Europe’s unilateral control of what these objects signify and what kinds of narratives they produce (32), and by helping individuals and communities rebuild a sense of identity (30).

Of particular interest is Sarr and Savoy’s observation that, “la réappropriation des objets restitués permettra aussi de renverser les catégories coloniales, de re-fluidifier des géographies rendues fixes …” (32). More specifically, in certain cases, “le patrimoine aura pour fonction d’abolir les frontières tracées par la conférence de Berlin (1884–1885) en mobilisant des communautés autour de biens matériels symbolisant leur unité et leur identité dynamique dans des géographies transfrontalières” (28). To illustrate this idea, the authors point to the heritage of El Hadj Omar Tall, individual artifacts of which are currently housed across National Museum of the Havre, the Fond Archinard at the French National Library, and Musée de l’Armée in Paris. Every year, the descendants of El Hadj Omar Tall, who currency live in different parts of Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Guinea, organize a gathering around this absent heritage. Since 1994, this community has requested the return of these objects from French authorities, to no avail (28). According to Sarr and Savoy’s argument, the restitution of this heritage would strengthen identification with a community that cuts across the political borders drawn at the Berlin Conference and thus diminish, or at least challenge, the authority of these colonial-era borders. Hence, this restitution would, in effect, renverser les catégories coloniales and re-fluidifier des géographies rendues fixes.

Imagining Beyond the Status Quo in “Des lions comme des danseuses”

As a work of literature, Des lions comme des danseuses contributes to the travail that Sarr and Savoy call for by imagining beyond the colonial status quo. Specifically, the novel portrays a fictionalized version of this idea of renverser les catégories coloniales and re-fluidifier des géographies rendues fixes.

The story begins in 2014 when the narrator, a French writer, is in residence at a foundation in Bangoulap, Cameroon. The narrator visits Yonkeu Jean, a Bamileke chief, at his home in the region. The two get to talking about Paris, and the chief brings up the Musée du Quai Branly. He notes the absurdity of being charged twelve or fifteen euros to see Bamileke artifacts on display there: “Payer pour voir les oeuvres de ses ancêtres ?!” (location 83). The narrator suggests, jokingly, that the Minister of Culture ought to charge admission only to French museumgoers and to offer free admission to visitors of other nationalities, “ou au moins aux Africains et aux Amérindiens, ainsi qu’aux pays d’Asie qui furent colonisés” (loc. 87). This casual conversation sets in motion a series of increasingly ambitious demands made by a group of Bamileke chiefs to the Musée du Quai Branly and other European institutions.

In spring 2016, the chiefs request free admission to the museum for all Bamileke people. When they receive no response, they resend their letter that fall with an added paragraph threatening to claim restitution of three Bamileke chefs d’oeuvre held at the museum, with the support of UNESCO, if free admission is not granted. Desperate to retain the artifacts in question and to keep UNESCO out of the matter, the museum yields to the chiefs’ request.

Emboldened by their success, the chiefs up the ante with successive demands, each made under threat of restitution. In 2018, they demand that all traveling exhibitions from the Musée du Quai Branly of arts premiers be made free of change, wherever they are presented, for citizens of the nations where the exhibited works originally came from. European cultural officials are of two minds on how to respond to this new demand. On one side are those who prefer simply to open the door to claims of restitution rather than make exhibits free; on the other are those who protest that African artifacts are in fact part of a universal cultural heritage and, therefore, are part of European heritage too: “La première femme, Lucy, était du rift éthiopien ; c’est notre ancêtre. Renoncer aux arts premiers ce n’est pas renoncer à notre passé colonial et aux rapines qui l’ont accompagné, c’est de manière plus folle nous couper de nos racines, si anciennes que nous ne les connaissons pas…” (loc. 161).

In the midst of this absurd debate, the Bamileke chiefs add to their latest demand a stipulation that, in order for non-Europeans to be able to visit their cultural heritage in Europe, they must also receive free visas to enter the continent. Unsurprisingly, the European Commission rejects the idea. The Bamileke chiefs then give the Commission, and EU member states, a choice: if the Commission doesn’t want to grant free visas, then EU nations must loan works of European art inspired by African artifacts to African countries:

Si vous ne voulez pas que nous réclamions l’ouverture des frontières au nom de la propriété imprescriptible de nos totems et de nos trônes, ainsi que la gratuité des visas etc., vous devez accepter de nous confier certaines oeuvres pour que nos populations puissent les découvrir facilement et dans de bonnes conditions. (loc. 225)

“Certaines oeuvres,” in this case, means chefs d’oeuvre: “Si l’origine du geste menant à la Joconde ou au David était à trouver dans l’art africain, l’Afrique était en droit de réclamer une sorte de propriété morale sur ces oeuvres-là, et d’obtenir un droit de visite, ou une garde alternée” (loc. 221). When the Commission compels conservators at the Louvre to comply, they desperately hope it’s a joke, all the while knowing that “elle pratiquait peu la blague, la Commission européene …” (loc. 228).

Meanwhile, cultural and political leaders in other European nations begin to resent what France has put into motion here by submitting to the Bamileke chiefs’ initial request: “« Je veux voir ces vieilles plumes d’un perroquet de la Haute-Volta exposées à Grenade ou à Manchester’ et hop tu passes gratos ?! Vous êtes en train de nous dire que nous ne pourrons refuser aucun visa à personne ?! »” (loc. 198). The Italians, feeling both resentful of France and sore from the restitution to Ethiopia in 2005 of the Obelisk of Axum, throw a curveball and demand free admission for Italians at all European museums, “à commencer par le Louvre, messieurs les Français, où, ne vous déplaise, se trouvent tant de chefs-d’oeuvre de l’art italien” (loc. 208). Furious at the Italians for stirring the pot, France claps back in 2019 with a final demand for “la gratuité pour tous dans tous les lieux de culture” (loc. 264) across Europe.

The story ends here, with the continent rife with internal strife. “On ne savait plus qui réclamait quoi, ni qui était avec ou contre qui. La colère était unanime. Mais de quoi parlait-on ? Du ressentiment français à l’égard des Italiens ? … Ou de celui des Anglais à l’égard du reste de l’Europe britanniquement perçue comme un piège et un boulet ?” (loc. 246). With the European Commission insisting that member states yield to the Bamileke chiefs’ demand to circulate European masterpieces in African nations — again, free visas must be avoided at all costs — such circulation seems just over the horizon. Either way, an opening of borders between Europe and Africa is assured, be it for objects, for people, or, given the chaos, perhaps even both.

It seems the greater win for the chiefs, however, is economic: Europe is in the process of becoming gratuite. Given the “rapports infinis existants entre les deux continents” (loc. 269), this gratuité carries implications for African countries as well: “L’Afrique ait, elle aussi, à brûler certaines idoles, dont le dieu Pognon ; à réapprendre une certaine gratuité” (loc. 270). Like the borders drawn at the Berlin Conference, this obsession with the dieu Pognon is itself a product of colonialism, as remarks one of the Bamileke chiefs: “Il y a tant de choses qui sont devenues payantes chez nous (comme les photos qu’on vous laisse prendre avant de vous demander un billet au nom de l’amitié) quand vous nous avez appris, par l’exemple, à devenir ces rapaces que nous n’étions pas” (loc. 180).

At the novel’s end, then, by threat of restitution, the Bamileke chiefs have renversé les catégories coloniales and re-fluidifié des géographies rendues fixes by both provoking an opening of borders and undermining facets of capitalism — the economic paradigm of colonialism. By imagining such a future (or such a present, given the timeline of the story), the novel contributes to the travail outlined by Sarr and Savoy required to foster une nouvelle éthique relationnelle between former colonizer and former colonized.

Savoy herself has even applauded the novel’s imaginative ingenuity, in this regard. In her 2016 essay “No Humboldt 21: réflexions sur un conte politique d’Arno Bertina: Des lions comme des danseuses,” Savoy discusses Bertina’s novel in relation to the movement “No Humboldt 21,” which has fought against the establishment of a new ethnographic museum in the Berlin Palace, in the heart of Berlin. Savoy writes that, through the events of his novel, “Bertina nous transporte dans l’avenir fantasmé, à la fois proche (les années 2016–19) et très lointain, de relations possibles entre « pays donateurs » et musées” (259). As a result, “comme souvent, la littérature vient à notre secours pour proposer une sortie à l’impasse intellectuelle, morale et politique dans laquelle nous nous trouvons” (258). Even Savoy, then, regards Des lions comme des danseuses as instrumental in helping us imagine beyond the status quo.

While the book ultimately imagines a future similar, politically, to that imagined by Sarr and Savoy in their report, it’s important to note that the novelist and the scholars each treat the subject of restitution itself very differently. After all, it is not through restitution that colonial categories are renversées and geographies are re-fluidifées in Bertina’s novel, but in spite of it; restitution is valued only as leverage in the novel, rather than as a meaningful goal with the potential to heal communities and transform relations in the other ways noted by Sarr and Savoy. Even so, the novel can be said to support arguments for art restitution, if indirectly, through its satirical critiques of arguments against the practice.

We have already seen one example this satire in the argument that to restitute African artifacts is to cut Europe off from its own ancestry: “La première femme, Lucy … c’est notre ancêtre…” The argument is clearly absurd. Bertina even writes of the officials championing this cause, “les délégués qui tenaient ces discours étaient eux-mêmes surpris par ces mots” (loc. 161). Since no real-life cultural leaders in the West are making such a case against restitution (as far as I’m aware), the satire here is general. Indeed, generally speaking, it is not uncommon for Western museum officials to present arguments against restitution that don’t hold up under scrutiny. Many curators are quick, for example, to argue that African museums don’t have the conservation abilities to adequately care for the objects they are requesting back. This is not true. While Sarr and Savoy themselves acknowledge that conservation infrastructure varies from museum to museum in Sub Saharan Africa (28), there are certainly museums on the continent equipped to receive and conserve the works in question, such as the Musée des Civilisations Noirs in Dakar. New museums are also being constructed with the specific intent to receive and maintain repatriated African cultural heritage in the future, like the Edo Museum of West African Art in Nigeria (Marshall).

Bertina’s satire also extends to specific arguments made by real cultural officials. It is not uncommon for curators and conservators to point out that while, yes, many works of African art were indeed pillaged, stolen, or acquired through coercion, many African artifacts in Western museum collections were originally sold or traded on ethically sound terms. True. In certain circumstances, however, this argument of legitimate acquisition is applied to works whose original theft is well-documented. The Benin Bronzes, for example, are a collection of over 2,000 bronze plaques known to have been originally pillaged by British soldiers from the kingdom of Benin (modern day Nigeria) in 1897. The objects are widely considered to merit restitution — Sarr and Savoy recommend the immediate repatriation to Nigeria of the Benin Bronzes at the Musée du Quai Branly (55). Yet officials at certain museums with Benin Bronzes in their collection defend keeping objects not only on legal grounds but on ethical grounds. Hermann Parzinger, Director of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Germany, has said of the Bronzes held in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, “It’s too easy to say it’s all stolen, so send it back, especially since many pieces were already purchased on the market before the British Punitive Expedition” (Brown). Given the wealth of documentation on the initial theft of the Bronzes, and Nigeria’s persistence in requesting that these works be returned to the country, Parzinger’s argument rings hollow. (Legally speaking, the ownership of cultural property that was illicitly taken from its country of origin is generally protected under the UNESCO Convention of 1970, as long as it was acquired prior to ratification of the convention [“Convention on the Means”].)

Bertina satirizes this position held by Parzinger, among many other real-life cultural leaders, early on in Des lions comme des danseuses. When curators at the Musée du Quai Branly initially receive the letter threatening restitution, they reflect on the ethics of the museum’s acquisition of different African artifacts. Bertina writes that, in their public statements, these curators had always defended the museum’s acquisitions: “on avait beau jeu d’affirmer qu’elles [les oeuvres] avaient été achetées” (loc. 121). Privately, however, each museum official knew “que la plupart des dossiers d’oeuvre étaient lacunaires, sombrement … car certains explorateurs ou certains représentants de l’état français — quand ce n’était pas certains scientifiques eux-mêmes — avaient sans doute troqué ces oeuvres contre peu d’argent, ou des babioles, ou des menaces” (loc. 121). It’s as if Bertina were mocking Parzinger, specifically.

Taken together, Bertina’s critiques of arguments against the restitution of African art arguably function as advocacy in support of it. Consequently, Bertina’s novel contributes to the travail outlined by Sarr and Savoy not only by portraying a world of catégories coloniales renversées and géographies re-fluidifées with open borders and a shifting economic paradigm, but also by supporting arguments for the restitution of African art.

Orientalist Caveats

As significant as the contributions noted above of Des lions comme des danseuses to Sarr and Savoy’s travail may be, they do not tell the full story. While the novel may topple select catégories coloniales, it simultaneously continues the colonial tradition of orientalizing African cultures and contexts. Specifically, the novel perpetuates certain orientalist stereotypes of African people, devalues African art and institutions relative to their European counterparts, and belittles symbols of Bamileke power and authority.

Des lions comme des danseuses perpetuates stereotypes of African people as unpunctual and as passively dependent on European support. Bertina introduces the stereotype of Africans as unpunctual, as having a relaxed relationship to time, early on in the novel. During his stay in Bangoulap, Bertina’s narrator visits Yonkeu Jean at his home. The chief is running late. At first the narrator suspects the late arrival to be an intentional exercise of power, but then he remembers an anecdote about the Cameroonian writer Eugène Ebodé being late to a panel for a radio program (loc. 46). In this anecdote, Ebodé arrives, “tout sourire,” just as the program is ending. When one of the other panelists reproaches him for his lateness, “il répondit dans un éclat de rire : « Vous, les Européens, vous avez la montre ; nous, en Afrique, nous avons le temps »” (loc. 52). The cliché of “African time” is then used to explain Yonkeu Jean’s late arrival as well.

Bertina portrays his African characters as passively dependent on European support through literary devices such as indirect speech. As Nadia Hebaz notes in her essay, “Des lions comme des danseuses d’Arno Bertina: lieux et contraintes de la double commande,” Bertina often uses indirect speech to filter the voices of the African characters through the European narrator: “la parole africaine est rapportée au discours indirect ou au discours indirect libre : autrement dit, aucune voix africaine ne se fait entendre et ne se distingue. Tout passe par le filtre de la voix européenne” (par. 21). In contrast, European characters “s’expriment tantôt au discours direct, tantôt au discours indirect libre” (par. 21). This dependence of African characters on the European narrator is reinforced in the novel’s plot, in that the idea of asking for free admission to the Musée du Quai Branly originally comes not from the Bamileke chiefs but from the narrator. As Hebaz notes, here again, “réduits à n’être que les porte-voix de leur conseiller blanc, les princes endossent un rôle conventionnel, passif et attendu” (par. 33).

Concerning representation of artistic heritage, African artifacts are devalued in the novel relative to European works. African objects are generally not identified by name or even described in the novel, with the exceptions of references to “le trône de Bangoulap” (loc. 114) — one of the three works that the Bamileke chiefs threaten to reclaim — and to the Obelisk of Axum. In contrast, individual European works of art are consistently identified by title (la Joconde, le David) or by the names of their authors: when the Brits hear they may be expected to begin loaning European works to African nations, they retort, “Envoyer au Nigeria un Gainsborough ou un Turner ?! You must be joking !” (loc. 249). This specificity of identification gives European works an implicit artistic value in the novel that is not accorded to most of African artifacts. Regarding the Obelisk of Axum — the only African artifact identified by title — Bertina’s narrator disparages the Obelisk, referring to it as “ce grand truc en granit épais bien moche” (loc. 248). The comment undermines any implied value accorded to the Obelisk through its individual identification.

This disparity between representations of Europe and Africa is also evident in Bertina’s characterization of institutions on each continent. While Europe’s various institutions with a stake in questions of restitution are identified by name — the European Commission, the Musée du Quai Branly, and the Louvre, to name a few — the Cameroonian interests are represented, in vague terms, by “l’assemblée des chefs du pays Bamiléké” (loc. 93) and “les juristes conseillant les chefs” (loc. 126). No political or cultural institution in is identified as representing Bamileke (or Cameroonian, or African) interests. Moreover, when a group of European conservators imagine where a work like The Raft of the Medusa will be displayed in Bangoulap, it is not in a cultural institution but in “la salle des mariages qui est aussi la salle du trône où on partage la Kro de l’amitié” (loc. 235). While this acerbic dismissal could arguably reflect the ethnocentrism of the curators as individual characters more than it reflects the orientalism of the novel as a whole, no other possible sites for displaying works of art in Bangoulap are mentioned in the text; it’s as if la salle des mariages were the only conceivable option. The discrepancy between representations of European and African institutions has a similar effect to the discrepancy between representations of European and African art: while European institutions are framed as implicitly important and authoritative, individual African institutions are erased from the picture and replaced, in true orientalist fashion, by an informal group of chiefs — an entity that reflects the West’s ideas about Africa as much as, if not more than, it may reflect the political realities of Bangoulap.

As for the ways that the novel belittles symbols of Bamileke power and authority, we can return to the scene in Bangoulap where the narrator awaits Yonkeu Jean at his home. While waiting to meet the chief, the narrator describes his surroundings:

Nous entrons dans une première pièce qui pourrait faire office de péristyle en étant ouverte à tous les vents. Des scènes de chasse, au mur, mais brouillonnes, ou inachevées — le programme n’est qu’ébauché, les arrière-plans n’existent pas. Un galop d’essai en quelque sorte, avant la salle principale dans laquelle nous débouchons après un couloir très biscornu. Là, sur cent mètres de murs, toute une frise représente les Namtchema, des notables, des guerriers et des chasseurs. Au sol, ou adossés aux pilastres soutenant le toit de tôle, des totems, des peaux, des panneaux en bois sculpté. (loc. 68)

As Hebaz notes of this scene, “le regard européen ne voit qu’incomplétude, désordre et dysharmonie [sic]” (par. 17). The effect is to undermine any representations of grandeur in Yonkeu Jean’s home and belittle the authority of this site of power.

This judgmental regard is also evident in the narrator’s description of the house’s entrance, from which the novel gets its title: “De part d’autre de l’entrée, deux lions sculptés. S’ils sont un peu trop sveltes, presque dressés comme des danseuses, ils sont néanmoins visibles, et signalent comme les fresques et la forme des premiers toits qu’on trouvera ici, en contrebas, le personnage le plus important de Bangoulap” (loc. 61). Here, again, Hebaz points out the power politics embedded in the narrator’s description:

Le lion prototypique … symbole de royauté voit ses attributs — masculinité, pouvoir, majesté, puissance imposante — associés à ceux des danseuses — féminité, grâce, gracilité, sveltesse. La tournure concessive, en le mettant sur le même plan que les fresques et la forme des toits, en fait un simple indice du pouvoir. (par. 17)

This indice du pouvoir is all the more remarkable in that, as a source of the novel’s title, it frames and informs the text as a whole. Hebaz adds that this devaluation of the symbol of the lion is that much more piercing for the Cameroonian reader, as the lion is largely considered to be a national symbol and is the namesake of the national soccer team, Les Lions Indomptables (par. 17).

Examined together, the novel’s stereotypes of African people, devaluation of African art, erasure of African institutions, and belittling of Yonkeu Jean’s authority all function to orientalize African cultures and contexts. This orientalism reinscribes the same colonial power dynamic that Sarr and Savoy hope to overturn in their call for une nouvelle éthique relationnelle. As a result, Des lions comme des danseuses ultimately reinscribes the existing relational order even as it imagines a new one.


Des lions comme des danseuses is an important case study of how fiction can support the work of imagining the kind of nouvelle éthique relationnelle that Sarr and Savoy call for in their report. The novel reminds us that, despite Savoy’s praise for the way it proposes “une sortie à l’impasse intellectuelle, morale et politique dans laquelle nous nous trouvons,” imagining a world of catégories coloniales renversées and géographies re-fluidifées is only part of the equation; we must also consider the extent to which a given work of fiction reinscribes the colonial status quo through its discourse, its literary devices, and its representations of people and places. While Des lions comme des danseuses then marks a significant contribution to the “travail sur l’histoire et les imaginaires d’une relation qui, elle-même, reste à être décolonisée” that Sarr and Savoy call for in their report, we can learn as much from the novel’s orientalism as we can from its imaginative innovation.

Works Cited

  • Bertho, Elara. “Restitutions du patrimoine africain: Fictions et réalités.” Multitudes, vol. 74, no. 1, 2019, pp. 23–29.
  • Bertina, Arno. Des lions comme des danseuses. Kindle ed., (Éditions) La Contre Allée, 2015.
  • Brown, Kate. “Benin’s Looted Bronzes Are All Over the Western World. Here Are 7 Museums That Hold Over 2,000 of the Famed Sculptures.” Artnet, 27 July 2018,
    . Accessed 10 May 2021.
  • “Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970.” UNESCO, Accessed 10 May 2021.
  • “Discours du Président de la République à la communauté française de Ouagadougou.” Élysée, 1 Dec. 2017, Accessed 10 May 2021.
  • Hebaz, Nadia. “Des lions comme des danseuses d’Arno Bertina: lieux et contraintes de la double commande.” COnTEXTES, no. 29, 2020, OpenEdition, doi:10.4000/contextes.9843. Accessed 26 April 2021.
  • Marshall, Alex. “A New Museum to Bring the Benin Bronzes Home.” New York Times, 13 Nov. 2020, Accessed 15 May 2021.
  • Sarr, Felwine, and Bénédicte Savoy. Rapport sur la restitution du patrimoine culturel africain: Vers une nouvelle éthique relationnelle. Ministère de la Culture, 2018.
  • Savoy, Bénédicte. “No Humboldt 21: réflexions sur un conte politique d’Arno Bertina: Des lions comme des danseuses.” Literatur leben : Festschrift für Ottmar Ette, edited by Albrecht Buschmann, Iberoamericana Editorial Vervuert, 2016, pp. 257–265.

John is a writer and artist in New York. Find more of his work at