Ivory Coast national museum ransacked

Ivory CoastDuring the civil war earlier in the year, the national museum in Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, was nearly stripped bare by looters, Art Daily reports.

An estimated $8.5 million worth of art and artifacts were taken while the city suffered bitter warfare between political factions. Some of the most severe fighting swirled around the museum itself, which was used as a sniper’s nest.

Once famous among African museums for its fine collection of art, it is now a pale semblance of its former self, with all the most valuable artifacts gone. The Ivory Coast is home to a rich variety of cultures and a long history of ancient civilizations. A wide variety of arts are practiced there, including making masks like the one shown in this photo courtesy Guérin Nicolas. Luckily, this particular mask is in the Museum Rietberg in Zurich where it remains safe.

Civil unrest and cultural looting go hand in hand. In places like Iraq and Afghanistan, criminals have taken advantage of the chaos and lack of law enforcement to steal their own heritage and sell it on the international antiquities market. By doing so, they take away evidence of their common history, thus making it easier for factions to emphasize their differences and renew the cycle of violence.