National Gallery recovers stolen artworks

HARARE - Stolen National Gallery of Zimbabwe, NGZ, artworks smuggled to Europe seven years ago were returned to the national arts institution on Thursday during a ceremony attended by several government officials.

The stolen artefacts that included four headrests (mutsago) and two masks arrived back in Zimbabwe from Germany on October 3.

According NGZ, the artefacts were recovered from a Polish national after the Zimbabwean art institution had alerted the global Museum Security Network.

Doreen Sibanda, NGZ,director said at the unveiling ceremony that the country is overwhelmed by the recovery of the valuable artworks.

“We are very overwhelmed to have them back where they belong.

“It is a victory for small museums in Africa who have long been victims of wanton plunder of our heritage and material culture,” said Sibanda.

“We do hope that by celebrating their return, we are increasing the awareness of our local audiences as to their importance to the nation and the great lengths we all need to go to safeguard and treasure them as our heritage is our inheritance.”

Sibanda recalled how the artworks were stolen in 2006.

“The theft was so dramatic occurring when a lone visitor removed the items, put them inside a bag and ran out of the door. An extensive chase ensued but to no avail as he managed to escape,” she said.

“Five months later, beginning of November 2006, an American collector of African antiquities contacted the website because someone had offered him objects that looked very similar to those published on the site.

“The collector was advised to get in touch with his local police.

It appeared that the stolen Zimbabwean objects were offered by a resident of Poland who tried to evade being charged by the police by claiming the objects had belonged to his father who had worked in Zimbabwe during the Rhodesian era.

“The story was proved false. The Polish police performed a great job and managed not only to recover the stolen objects but also arrested the person who had offered these objects for sale. He turned out to be the very same person who had committed the crime in Harare,” she said.

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