Plus the lock's forthright views on British museums holding African artefact

In our last issue of the mag, we heard one of rugby’s big characters talk on a passion of theirs, as we got Maro Itoje on African Art.

The Saracens and lions lock also talked at length about his game and mentors, but the below was an interesting insight into something different. Read about Itoje’s ambitions below – as well as his forthright views on British museums holding African artefact.

This extract first featured in an interview, in full, in the April edition of Rugby World magazine.

Maro Itoje on African Art

With rugby, Itoje says, he is internally very honest about where his game is at right now. And as previously explained, he can laser in on the most important aspects. Off the pitch, he has a rotating cast of interests, and to an extent he can compartmentalise.

However, he adds: “I am of the opinion that the other aspects of my life help the other aspects of my life. So me having a passion for African art for example, that’s the refreshment that I need as an individual so that I can fully focus on rugby. Or me having an interest in history or politics. That’s the type of thing I enjoy.”

And it’s on art that we focus, because it’s a window into the future for one of rugby’s modern characters. It’s a line into where he wants to excel next.

“It will be humble compared to some, but I have a bit of an art collection. It’s all in my house. The goal is to have an African art gallery. We’ve started baby steps but that is the ambition. To have an African art gallery in London and then build out from there.

“It’d be great if we had international branches. But the goal is to be part of this new age of African art, spreading the good word as it were, celebrating and championing these African artists, giving them opportunities in the West as well as in Africa.”

So how does Itoje feel about institutions like the British Museum holding onto artefacts from other civilisations around the world?

“My view is reasonably simple on this,” the England star says. “If I’ve taken something that doesn’t belong to me, without someone’s will, then that’s essentially theft, isn’t it? So if I’ve taken something that’s not mine, then the rightful thing will be to return it.

“I’ve had conversations with people in this world (about the need for action) and I think they all acknowledge that something needs to be done in this area. I think some steps are being done. But yeah, if you take something that doesn’t belong to you, that’s theft.”

This extract comes from an interview that first appeared, in full, in the April issue of Rugby World.

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