Question and Answer Session - DOC

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					                             Question and Answer Session
The following questions on STOLEN CULTURAL HERITAGE OBJECTS were submitted
by Simpiwe Piliso of the Sunday Times newspaper.
Gerard de Kamper, SAMA specialist in this area responded.

1. a) Why has the South African Museums Association decided to compile a
register of stolen cultural heritage objects and artefacts?
The theft of artefacts especially from our museums started to reach alarming
proportions. It was found that if everybody in the country knew what they were
looking for these objects could be found more easily. It deprives South African
Museums if these objects are not returned. The South African Museums
association has been tasked to help the museum sector in South Africa in any
way possible.

b) When was this project started?
The project was started on the 1 July 2005, so only in the beginning stages. The
database would be placed on the website so people can add to the register
at anytime. It is not yet complete and some funding is still lacking in this regard.

c) Is there a deadline for its completion?
The project will never be completed as it is an ongoing project that grows and
shrinks as heritage objects are lost and found.

d) How many items and artefacts have been registered to date?
Like I mentioned before the database is not finished yet. For this reason there are
no accessioned information as yet. In my personal databank I have about 30
works listed. There are two problems in this regard, people are shy to report
stolen objects as they believe it would reflect negatively on themselves and their
institutions. The second problem is that museums, private collectors and other
holders of art and heritage objects do not take photographs of their objects and
if it gets lost they can not be traced.

2. a) If you could compare the situation ten years ago and now, would you say
that the number of thefts of historical items has increased or decreased?
If fluctuates from year to year, at the moment smuggling is a big problem. Some
South African artist are fashionable, in especially the USA so theft and smuggling
in that regard is on the increase.

b) Could you please provide a reason for your answer.
Like I mentioned South African Art is fashionable at the moment.
Centenary celebrations are a big problem, while the Anglo Boer war was being
celebrated numerous artefacts disappeared. At the moment huge problems are
experienced with 2nd World War items due to the 60th anniversary of the end of
the war.
Next year (2006) world wide Rembrandt paintings are going to be at risk due to
the 400th anniversary of his birth.

3.Could you please list at least three of the most important cultural and historical
treasures that have been stolen — and have yet to be recovered — from the
At the moment:
Pierneef from the SABC offices,
Ceramic jar from the Fehr collection in Cape Town
Gerard Sekoto collection from Ford Hare University

4. It’s been reported in the past that even when stolen property are tracked
down it is not always easy to get it returned to SA. One of the reasons was that
the onus is on SA to prove the goods are theirs.
Has this changed in any way in the last 10-years and has it become easier for SA
to reclaim stolen treasures from abroad?
You have to remember there are a great difference between thing removed
from the county and stolen property. Repatriation of objects removed from the
country before the signing of the UNESCO convention was lawful. Stolen property
has never been a problem if sufficient prove exists that the property belongs to
someone. That is where Interpol gets involved.
The problem is people do not have sufficient prove that they own a certain
object. It is very important that photos are taken from objects to try and identify
the objects. Interpol has a list of information they need to track stolen works
down and to prove this ownership.

5. If a particular stolen artefact, painting or historical Cape silver piece was
valued at R150 000 in 1995, how much — on average — would the item be
valued to date?
It depends on so many factors that it would be impossible to answer this
question. Art doesn't escalate in value at a given rate. A certain piece as this
might have a stabilised value for the last 50 years. Each piece of art fluctuates in
value everyday so I would not be able to answer this question.

6. What impact does the theft of cultural and historical treasures have on the
The cultural impact is enormous. This type of thief not only robs the country of
its valuable cultural heritage objects or artefacts, but also has a negative impact
on research because such objects or artefacts are no longer available to

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