Belgian King returns looted mask to DR Congo

King Philippe has handed over to the Democratic Republic of Congo the first of some 84,000 artefacts looted during the colonial era that Belgium has agreed to return. It is a mask, called Kakungu, that was previously exhibited at Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde are on a visit to DR Congo at the invitation of President Félix Tshisekedi. Belgium’s colonial record in DR Congo was one of the most brutal in Africa.

The newly returned mask was used during healing ceremonies by the Suku community, from the south-west of the country.

It was bought by an art dealer 70 years ago before being exhibited at the Belgian museum.

King Phillipe said the object was on “indefinite loan” to DR Congo.

“I wanted, during our visit at the National Museum and in your presence, to return to you this exceptional work in order to allow Congolese to discover and admire it,” the king said.

“It marks the symbolic beginning of the reinforcement of the cultural collaboration between Belgium and Congo,” he continued.

Many more artefacts are to be returned from the Royal Museum for Central Africa, nearly 70% of whose art objects were seized during the colonial period.



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