More Woes in the United States of America; Inflation There; Money Talks Here in the UAE; Some Stolen African Art is Being Returned But Not All; The British Museum Should Be Called the Museum of Rape and Pillage; Will the Abu Dhabi Louvre Return Its African Art; Photos of Abu Dhabi African Art; Lyrics to the Last Thing on My Mind

As if things are not bad enough in the United States listen to this from the New York Times. “ The overall cost of gas, food and other everyday items is increasing at its fastest rate in more than 40 years. And experts cannot say with confidence whether price increases will speed up or slow down in the coming months. The accelerating price rate – in other words, inflation – hit 8.5 percent in March over the previous year, according to a federal report released yesterday. That was the fastest increase since 1981.”

That is bad news for them, but not necessarily for me. I do not live in the United States, nor do I plan to live in the United States and the consumer price index determines my ‘raise:. I receive a Cost of Living ‘bonus’ every year. Unlike most people in this world, money is the least of my worries. Most people are poor, so concerned about money, But, at the other end of the spectrum, they are rich and rich people worry about money all of the time. They never can get enough of it. Greed becomes their middle name and nowhere is that more apparent than in the UAE. The Qur’an cautions agains extravagance – the palaces of the rulers of this country have to be seen to be believed and most, if not all,  of the Middle East rulers own palatial homes in London, Scotland and all parts of the world. Not only that but huge yachts that sail the seven seas. It was not always thus, Sheikh Zayed built the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi which is a tribute to Allah. I have worshipped there, it is magnificent. But when I first visited on October 20, 2021 it resembled Disneyland with people in all states of undress were using it as a background for photographs of one another. Thankfully, that has changed, at the present time there are clothing restrictions and designated spots for photography. When one goes to the Grand Mosque to worship you are guided to magnificent prayer rooms which are tourist free.
It seems that during the days of Expo 2020 there was a relaxation of standards – it has everything to do with greed.

But onto something completely different. A story in The New Yorker caught my eye. The article is about African art. I was actually considering a move to Uganda but that plan has been abandoned, even though it is the Pearl of Africa. It is a fascinating tale. “In May, 2018, the Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku shouted for help in the lobby of the Musée d’Aquitaine, in Bordeaux. “I want to go home,” he cried. “Benin. Edo . . . Take me back home!” Dressed as a bronze warrior, with limbs bound and a British flag trailing at his heels, he mimed the desperation of an artifact trapped in the museum—which he fled stripped to the waist, revealing metallically painted skin. The performance dramatized Nigeria’s long-frustrated efforts to recover the Benin Bronzes, a collection of several thousand sculptures seized, in 1897, during the British sack of Benin City. Today, they’re dispersed among more than a hundred collections, with the greatest number kept at the British Museum.
For decades, the bronzes have served as emblems of the African struggle to reclaim art expropriated under colonial rule. More than half a million such objects—by some accounts, more than ninety per cent of all cultural artifacts known to originate in Africa—are held in Europe, where they have long seemed destined to remain. Only twenty years ago, a group of the world’s self-designated “universal” museums declared that many stolen works had, over time, simply become “part of the heritage of the nations which house them.” In 2018, Benin’s minister of culture described meaningful restitution as about as unimaginable as “the reunification of North and South Korea.”

The good news is that things seem to be changing.”In May, 2018, Now, in a very short time, a tectonic shift has occurred. In March, the Smithsonian agreed to transfer most of its thirty-nine Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, following a similar decision by Germany’s national museums. Belgium, which keeps the world’s largest single collection of African art in a gloomy palace near Brussels, has promised to review all colonial-era acquisitions with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The wave of returns has many causes, from geopolitical jockeying to the reckonings prompted by social movements like Rhodes Must Fall and Black Lives Matter. But it was France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, who tipped the first domino. In 2017, during a state visit to Burkina Faso, he declared that “African heritage cannot solely exist in private collections and European museums.” The next year, his government issued a report that shocked many in the museum world, calling for permanent returns of looted art. France has since repatriated dozens of major works to Senegal, Madagascar, and Benin, where President Patrice Talon hailed their arrival as the return of “our soul.”
Museums rise across Africa to welcome the prodigals, from the cities of Benin to Benin City, Nigeria, where plans have been announced for a sprawling, David Adjaye-designed Edo Museum of West African Art. Yet there are also rumblings of a backlash. Only a handful of objects have actually been restituted, despite thousands of outstanding requests. Few governments have enacted general return policies. And some of the largest institutions, like the British Museum, have actively avoided the conversation. Could the West’s museums be waiting out the clock, making tactical concessions before reverting, at the stroke of midnight, to what Ishmael Reed once described as “Centers of Art Detention”? Quiet as it’s kept, they’ve done so before.”

However do not get your hopes up says the author of a revelatory new book.
“Nearly every conversation today about the restitution of cultural property to Africa already happened forty years ago,” Bénédicte Savoy writes, in “Africa’s Struggle for Its Art: History of a Postcolonial Defeat.” Her revelatory new book—translated, from the German, by Susanne Meyer-Abich—charts the course of an all-but-forgotten movement, which began in the nineteen-sixties, Africa’s decade of independence, and faded in the eighties, when European museums succeeded in burying its demands. In the twenty years between, battles raged in magazines and on television, at conferences and exhibitions, on the floors of West Germany’s Bundestag and Britain’s House of Lords. The debate even reached the United Nations, where, in 1978, the Director-General of unesco, Ahmadou-Mahtar M’Bow, issued a moving appeal on behalf of the world’s culturally plundered peoples. “Everything which has been taken away, from monuments to handicrafts—were more than decorations,” he said. “They bore witness to a history, the history of a culture and of a nation whose spirit they perpetuated and renewed.”
Here is the link to the article:

Significantly the British Museum is holding onto everything, not even in conversation with the African nations. I lived just around the corner from the British Museum for one year during my London years. I was constantly struck by its acquisitions from its colonial countries. I laughingly said that there was nothing British in the British Museum, it should be called it the Museum of Rape and Pillage. That appears to be the only joke you are getting from me today.

The photographs attached to this blog are ones taken at the Abu Dhabi Louvre. Do I think they will be returned to their country of origin. Absolutely not! The Abu Dhabi Louvre is driven by money . There is no dress code, unlike the National Museum in Qatar. There is not a volunteer docent program as money is made from tours who provide their own guides. There is no introduction to the museum so no one knows of the history and therefore cannot appreciate the Museum thoroughly. My January 26,2022 blog should be read to all tourists as an Introduction. Will it be?  Never.

As one can clearly see Disillusionment With Almost All in the UAE has begun and is pervasive. Believe it or not, I cannot change it or have an impact whatsoever. I can say die which is another way of saying I can quit, I can depart. There is an evocative song The Last Thing on My Mind.

It’s a lesson too late for the learnin’
Made of sand, made of sand
In the wink of an eye my soul is turnin’
In your hand, in your hand

Are you goin’ away with no word of farewell?
Will there be not a trace left behind?
Well, I could have loved you better, didn’t mean to be unkind
You know that was the last thing on my mind

[Verse 2]
You’ve got reasons a-plenty for goin’
This I know, this I know
For the weeds have been steadily growin’
Please don’t go, please don’t go

Are you goin’ away with no word of farewell?
Will there be not a trace left behind?
Well, I could have loved you better, didn’t mean to be unkind
You know that was the last thing on my mind

[Verse 3]
As I lie in my bed in the mornin’
Without you, without you
Each song in my breast dies abornin’
Without you, without you

Neil Diamond sadly sings the song. Go to You Tube and listen  The UAE should have treated me better and been kinder. Remember that song that began: I am Leaving On a Jet Plane. That is going to be me. I do laugh.

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