The revered “Djidji Ayokwe” a West African “talking drum” which was used to communicate warning messages up to thirty kilometers around villages, confiscated in 1916 by the French colonial administration and transferred to France in 1930 is set to return home.
Nathalie Richard, head of the conservation-restoration department at the Quay Branly Museum supervised its restoration in a workshop near Paris. Speaking to the restoration process he said;
“You can see that it has been quite badly affected by wood-eating insects which have dug galleries, certainly repeatedly, and that this has structurally weakened the drum”
“We consolidated the material, the wood itself, by impregnating it with a resin carried by a solvent. So the resin makes it possible to regain a slightly solid structure and to avoid small breakages on the edges, on the edges of the galleries, on the edges of the gaps, and so that vibrations and handling do not damage the drum any more”, concluded the head of conservation.
The drum is three meters long and weighs 430 kg. This wooden instrument is seen as carrying mystical properties and was used to warn of dangers, mobilize for war or summon villages to ceremonies or festivals.
It is the first of a list of 148 works that Ivory Coast officially requested for restitution to France in late 2018. This traditional object, long claimed by Abidjan, is a central piece of the musical art of the Ebriés, an ethnic group in Ivory Coast.
The arrival of the Djidji Ayokwe at the Museum of Civilisation in Abidjan can only be confirmed once the French Parliament has voted on a law allowing its official return, similar to the restitution of historical pieces to Benin approved by the French parliament in December 2020.