n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The illicit trade in heritage objects : fact or fiction?

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


The theft of and illicit trade in heritage objects is not specific to South Africa. Although internationally various studies have been conducted on this crime problem, no such studies have been undertaken within the South African context. This article aims to examine the existence of such crime - and to give a voice to South Africa's tangible heritage. Data was gathered through semi-structured, qualitative interviews with participants who are employed in the area of law enforcement or as museum specialists, curators, art dealers and auctioneers within the Gauteng province of South Africa. Additional interviews were conducted in Rome, Italy with two officers of the Italian Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage to supplement the research. Primarily, the researcher explored the possible existence of an active market in stolen or illicitly acquired heritage objects within Gauteng. A further objective was to identify some of the factors that may be contributing to the existence of this market. The article concludes with practical recommendations on how stakeholders can begin not only to create awareness of the importance of protecting the cultural heritage of South Africa, but also to engage authorities in addressing this crime problem more effectively.

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