Society & Culture

Couple Loses African Mask Case Worth Millions


Agencies – Sudan Events

A second-hand dealer has won a case to keep the €4.2m (£3.6m; $4.6m) proceeds from the sale of a rare African mask he found in an elderly French couple’s attic.

He had been brought in to help clear the attic of the couple, who sold him the mask for €150 (£129; $165).

The couple sued, arguing that they had been misled about the item’s value.

But the judge disagreed, saying they had failed to appreciate the artwork’s true worth.

The rare Ngil mask, made by the Fang people of Gabon, is believed to be one of only about 10 in the world.

It would have been worn by members of the Ngil secret society. Historians believe members travelled through villages searching for troublemakers, including suspected sorcerers.

The 19th-Century wooden mask was probably acquired “in unknown circumstances” around 1917 by René-Victor Edward Maurice Fournier, a French colonial governor and the plaintiff’s grandfather.

It was held in the family’s possession until it was sold to the dealer. It was later resold at auction to an unknown buyer.

The couple had gone to court to claim a share of the proceeds of the sale, alleging the dealer had misled them about the true value of the mask.

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