A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Protected African art can simply be bought in Antwerp
Friday 21 October 2005 by Rudy Pieters
In Belgium you can buy without problem African archaeological treasures that never should have left Africa .
Morgen found in Antwerp four Nok statues at antique dealer David Norden, who has
his shop at the katelijnevest. He already sold three statues. Most recent was
2.200 years old *. The fourth figurine is still for sale. Nigeria prohibits the
export of Nok statues , as the one you can see on the picture**. These statues
belong to the oldest sophisticated sculptures in black Africa. Despite this they
circulate in the antiques circuit. The international Council or museums (Icom)
put Nok entirely at the top on its `red list`. David Norden say that no blame
falls on him. ` I have bought those things directly from a Nigerian, with all
official export papers. According to my data it is not prohibited to deal Nok
statues in Belgium.
ANTWERP ANTIQUES GALLERY SELLS WITHOUT PROBLEMS THREE OLD NOK STATUES
In Belgium you can buy without problem African archaeological treasures that never should have left Africa. De Morgen traced in Antwerp four Nok statues, whereas Nok is on top of the list of threatened African heritage.
A very fine sculpture, such as one that stands on the Internet site of Antwerp antique trader David Norden ( www.african-antiques.com ) represented: a human figure in terracotta, 65 centimeters high, 2.200 years old.
Originating from the Nok culture, named as the Nigerian village where in 1928, the first finds were done. This culture made likely the oldest sophisticated sculptures of black Africa, a cradle of the African culture. A laboratory certificate confirms the old age.
Norden ask 12.000 euro. Or rather asked, because he has the sculptures recently sold.
"Not at that price. I have sold it to a French trader. I think that he has sold it to a private collector.”
Norden sold as well two Nok sculptures just as large. Now he still has a small Nok figurine in its shop at the katelijnevest.
Asked price: 1.000 euro. That is the price for a small figurine.
For a head the price fluctuates around three -, four thousand euro, for complete characters between ten - and twenty thousand euro.”
Nok statues shouldn't be found outside Nigeria. The laws in the country are so that export is irrevocably prohibited , says Michel van Rijn, a Dutchman who continuously nails unethic practices in the art business.
Despite the Nok pieces circulate in the antiques circuit. In such a terrible way that the International Council or museums (Icom) put Nok entirely above on its ` red list of threatened archaeological objects in Africa. " These objects are systematically looted ", writes Interpol on its Internet site. " They are protected by law and can never be offered for sale. We request museums, auction houses and collectors urgently never to buy such objects.”
David Norden bought the figures through Burkina Faso. I had there a couple of contact people who had found me through the Internet and they offered them to me.”
Norden does not have details concerning the finding place. The antiquarian says that nothing can be blamed to him . " I have directly bought those things of a Nigerian. I have got them with all official papers of export and could pick them up simply here in the airport of Deurne. " if you pay someone, you will probably receive an export license. It's so simple", reacts Michel van Rijn.
That a Nigerian civil servant breaks its own legislation, is not fault of the Belgian trader, finds Norden. People in the museum in Nigeria has seen those pieces.
What can a Belgian trader still do more? Norden knows the Icom list, but he doesn't feel it's his duty to informs the police force. " Then you must wonder yourself if you are an art trader or a profit taker from the situation ", concludes van Rijn.
Norden know also about the Unidroit convention of 1995, a continuation on the Unesco convention of 1970 that protect culture objects internationally. Belgium has not ratified the Unidroit convention, says the antique dealer. According to my informations dealing in Nok figures is not prohibited in Belgium. " Then you use a loophole in the law", parries van Rijn " You are of course nevertheless guilty. Perhaps not guilty in Belgium but in Africa.”
Moreover, the small Nok figurine still owned by Norden, comes from an exchange with a Belgian collector and is not accompanied with documents, says Norden himself.
For Nok you get not only help in Antwerp. A little googling and you get immediately a range of American antique dealers with Nok on your screen. "There are regularly sales by auction houses in France and Belgium where you can find Nok statues", says Norden.
On the renowned art fair Tefaf in Maastricht van Rijn found in 2000, five on the stand of Emile Deletaille, a famous Brussels antique dealer. On his website the Dutchman published addresses of Brussels art dealers selling Nok statues and proclamed Belgium "Fort Noks" . "If you visit the Sablon in Brussels you just still stumble over them ", said van Rijn yesterday.
"There is a sea of art in which you can deal with and then you must nevertheless, whereas you don't need it financially, deal in sepulchers. How low can you fall?” ***
According to Norden and many other Belgian antique dealers Nok statues are better of at collecotrs then in Africa, where none or little interest exist in it. Van Rijn strongly nuances that. You have even villages where every night villagers are put at the burial place to protect it. It is sacrilege to remove them.”
Antique dealer David Norden: "There are regularly sales by auction houses in France and Belgium where you can find Nok statues"
Read also in English: Nok statues
Read also in French: Faut-il brûler lesson collectionneurs
remarks on this article by David Norden:
* In fact it was the oldest, the youngest was 1800 years old
** The illustrated Nok is on view in the Louvre http://www.quaibranly.fr/article.php3?id_article=1265 and was not sold by me but by Samir Borro, not as you could think when reading the journalist paper. Not a very ethical copyright use. Also the images taken from my website where not given my name as author of the pictures.
*** Nok statues where used in temples and not on sepulchers, according the information's I have, and are found as a side product in Mines excavations.
Belgium did not sign the Unidroit convention making it completely legal to deal with Noks.
Also what is a much higher problem for Nigeria to me, and directly related on the Nok matter, is the fact that all the old western computers and televisions - for 70% unusable - are dumped in the Nigerian ground where the Noks are found.
I have read that 400 containers comes every week in Lagos from the United States.
I guess that to put them in the ground you have to make VERY BIG HOLES, and that you don't have time to get all does NOKS you'll find then in protection !!
Also these computers and television contains many toxic components, and can be recycled, but that cost money, in Belgium you even have to pay a contribution for this recycling when buying electronics, but I guess it is going the same way. Who is filling it's pockets, and acting unethically here ??
Are art dealers scavengers or saviors ? read more at computer dump
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