France returns “Djidji Ayokwe”, famous drum speaker long claimed by Côte d’Ivoire

The forthcoming restitution by France of Djidji Ayokwe, the speaking drum of the Ebriés of Côte d’Ivoire, constitutes “a highly historic gesture“, greeted Monday the traditional chiefdom of this people of the region of Abidjan.

“I am very happy to hear this news. We did not even expect a return of this tom-tom which was our loudspeaker, our Facebook”. congratulated AFP Clavaire Aguego Mobio, current holder of traditional power of the Ebriés.

On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the return to Benin at the end of October of 26 works looted in 1892, during the sacking by colonial troops of the palace of Abomey, the historic capital of the kingdom of Dahomey.

Three large statues from the ancient kingdom of Dahomey (Benin), at the Quai Branly museum (November 23, 2018) (CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / EPA / Newscom / MAXPPP)

Other works will be donated to Côte d’Ivoire, including the Djidji Ayokwe, the famous drummer-speaker, long claimed by Abidjan.

This drum, which was used as a communication tool to transmit messages between different localities, had been confiscated by French settlers in 1916 and is currently kept at the Quai Branly museum in Paris.

“We thank President Macron and expect a favorable response to this announcement” insisted Clavaire Aguego Mobio, who announced the upcoming holding of a grand ceremony for “to inform the seven villages which constitute the Ebrié people”.

For him, “this tam-tam speaker will recall our history and revalue the Ebrié people whose traces are disappearing with the savage urbanization of the agglomeration of Abidjan, home to more than five million inhabitants”.

Côte d’Ivoire officially asked France at the end of 2018 for the return of 148 works of African art. “The first object we are asking for is the Djidji Ayokwe, the speaking drum of the Ebrié people. It is a symbolic object of great importance which was torn off during colonization”, had specified the director of the Museum of Civilizations of Côte d’Ivoire, Silvie Memel Kassi.

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“The disappearance of the drum had greatly destabilized the social and traditional organization of the Ebriés”, Chief Mobio recalled on Monday.

The restitution of works of art looted from Africa is a highlight of the “new relationship” that the French head of state intends to establish with the continent.

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