14 October 2013

Zimbabwe: Stolen Artefacts Returned to Art Gallery

It was all smiles by art enthusiasts last week when they thronged the National Gallery of Zimbabwe to witness the official unveiling of recovered stolen traditional artefacts. The pieces which went missing seven years ago include four headrests or mutsago of Shona origin and two masks from Tanzania acquired by the gallery in 1964.

The gallery's executive director, Mrs Doreen Sibanda, said the country's prized possessions stolen in 2006 were returned last week.

"The artefacts stolen in 2006 were retrieved and the works arrived from Germany on October 3 this year.

"Together with the National Museums, we recently engaged a professional international art theft organisation led by Mr Tom Cremers .

"Our photographs of each piece proved useful as the collections manager Lilian Chaonwa discovered that the stolen items were on salel on the internet.

"The culprit was subsequently tried in a court of law and is currently serving a jail sentence for the offence," she said.

Mrs Sibanda added that it appeared the stolen objects were offered by a resident of Poland who tried to evade being charged by the police citing that they belonged to his father who had worked in the country during the Rhodesian era.

"The gallery made the unveiling public because it wants to make an increasing awareness of how important these treasures are to the entire nation and how they should be safeguarded by local citizens," said Ms Sibanda.

The event was graced by the principal director of Sports, Arts and Culture, Rev Paul Bayethe Damasane, and National Arts Council director Mr Elvas Mari.

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