The Angolan government has frozen the assets of Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman, and her husband Sindika Dokolo, who recently appeared on ARTnews’s 50 Collectors to Watch list.

Dos Santos is the daughter of Angola’s former president and the former head of the country’s state oil firm, Sonangol, according to a report in the Art Newspaper. She is currently at the center of a legal and financial scandal in which Joao Lourenço, Angola’s current president, is attempting to recover some $1 billion in state loans he says dos Santos borrowed and has so far failed to repay.

Speaking to the Financial Times, dos Santos called Lourenço’s move a “politically motivated witch-hunt” meant to “erase the legacy” of her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, who had chosen Lourenço to take over their political party. Shortly after Lourenço’s election in 2017, he reversed Isabel dos Santo’s appointment as head of Sonangol.

Dokolo, who is Congolese and has been based in Angola for a number of years, has amassed one of Africa’s leading collections of contemporary international art, with over 5,000 works. Among the artists represented in his collection are William Kentridge, Tracey Rose, Wangechi Mutu, Otobong Nkanga, Yinka Shonibare, Ana Mendieta, Kehinde Wiley, Andres Serrano, Hank Willis Thomas, Adrian Piper, Lubaina Himid, Roger Ballen, and Zanele Muholi. The collection was the subject of a 2019 exhibition, titled “IncarNations” and co-curated by Dokolo and artist Kendell Geers, at the Bozar Center for Fine Arts in Brussels.

His eponymous Angola-based foundation also has hosted three editions of the Luanda Triennial. In 2017, the foundation partnered with Documenta 14 to bring work by 16 artists of African descent to Luanda for an exhibition.

Dokolo has also long been an advocate for the repatriation of African art and objects from Western institutions back to the continent through his foundation. He works with a team of researchers to identify possible works that might have been looted from Africa. Most notably, he has been able to secure the return of objects by the Chokwe people, a group indigenous to northeastern Angola and the Southern Congo, to the Dundo Museum in Angola.

Speaking to ARTnews in 2018, Dokolo said, “Art has a political and moral dimension to it that you cannot wash your hands of and say, ‘It’s not our problem—it’s the way it was when I got here.’ That is not acceptable anymore.”

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