Saturday 10 December 2022

Return stolen colonial art, Dutch Council for Culture tells minister

This statue’s ownership is disputed. Photo: Ferry Herrenbrugh, Stichting Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

The Dutch Council for Culture has said that Dutch museums should return statues and other artifacts which were stolen during the colonial era to their countries of origin.

In recommendations made to culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven, the council says that artifacts should be returned if there is ‘reasonable certainty’ that the objects were taken by force.

‘Injustices that took place in the colonial past cannot be undone,’ the council said. ‘But a contribution can be made to repairing that injustice by taking responsibility when dealing with colonial objects.’

The report focuses on objects taken during either colonial wars or when the Netherlands counted Indonesia and Suriname as colonies – specifically, the beginning of the 17th century when Dutch ships first set sail for Asia and 1975, when Suriname was declared independent.

The recommendations, the council says, apply to 100,000 items, ranging from ceremonial weapons to flags, religious objects and even human remains.

The council also recommends looking again at objects which come from places  where the Netherlands did not have colonies, specifically if they have special cultural, historic or religious importance.


In September, five French-speaking activists were arrested after trying to steal a Congolese statue from the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal.

The five live streamed a long video on YouTube entitled ‘recovering our heritage’ saying that they were repatriating a religious statue which had been ‘stolen’ from Africa, filming themselves taking it from a display and walking out with it.

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments. has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.