Table of Contents

International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage

International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage

Legal and Policy Issues

Edited by Christoph Beat Graber, Karolina Kuprecht and Jessica Christine Lai

The book is unique in taking a multi-faceted approach to cultural heritage, incorporating discussion on tangible and intangible, moveable and immoveable elements of indigenous peoples’ culture. From the perspectives of several international legal fields, including trade law, intellectual property, cultural property, cultural heritage law and human rights, the book explores how indigenous peoples could be empowered to participate more actively in the trade of their cultural heritage without being compelled to renounce important traditional values. The national and local legal realities in four jurisdictions (New Zealand, Australia, United States and Canada) lay the scene for a wide-ranging analysis of various possibilities and proposals on how this might be achieved.

Chapter 10: International trade in moveable tangible cultural heritage of indigenous peoples: a European perspective

Karolina Kuprecht and Kurt Siehr

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, intellectual property law


Indigenous cultural heritage in the form of moveable, tangible objects has been travelling to Europe since the discovery of indigenous peoples’ territories. Treated as curiosities in early times, the objects today form an important part of ethnographic collections kept in European museums, scientific institutions and private collections. They also nourish a flourishing international market in tribal art. Sotheby’s auction sales in tribal art of May 2011 exceeded US$21.8 million and went way beyond prior expectations. At the third ‘Parcours des mondes’ in Paris of 2011, 40 tribal art dealers exhibited and the number of visitors tripled. In the law, indigenous objects qualify as ‘cultural property’ if they are of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, art or science and thus fall under the broad definition of cultural property according to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (UNESCO Convention 1970). As such they are protected by national and international cultural property regulations which not only prohibit the damaging and taking of cultural property in times of war, but also punish theft and clandestine excavation in times of peace.

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