In This Review

Plundering Africa's Past
Plundering Africa's Past
Edited by Peter R. Schmidt and Roderick J. Mcintosh
Indiana University Press, 1996, 293 pp

An important book at a time when the booming illicit trade in African antiquities and the despoiling of some of the continent's prime archeological sites generate little concern in the art world. Unless action is taken soon, Africa could lose irretrievable portions of its heritage in the coming generation as affluent art dealers and collectors take advantage of the poverty of petty traders and underpaid government and museum officials. Although the legal terrain is complex and the ethical issues often murky, this work lucidly analyzes the crisis from the perspective of both supply and demand. Of the major art-importing countries, Belgium has done the least to control trade in art acquired through pillage and theft, while the United States has done the most. In Africa, one bright spot is Mali, whose president, Alpha Konar‚, a former archeologist, has pressed for the most serious controls to date.