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UK museum to return 72 looted Benin artefacts

US group opposes return of stolen Benin Bronzes’ to Nigeria

Posted: August 9, 2022 at 3:31 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The Nigerian government was informed on Sunday by London’s Horniman Museum that it will get 72 artefacts, including 12 bronze plaques known as Benin Bronzes, which were stolen from Benin City by British soldiers in 1897.

The Benin Bronzes are a group of some of Africa’s most important cultural artefacts. They were produced from brass and bronze in the once-powerful Kingdom of Benin in what is now southern Nigeria from at least the 16th century forward.

They were taken during a British military incursion along with hundreds of other objects, and they are now on display in museums around Europe and the US.

While Western institutions struggle with the cultural legacy of colonialism, African nations have fought for years to retrieve works looted by explorers and colonisers.

German officials followed the lead established by Jesus College at Cambridge University and the Quai Branly museum in Paris last year by returning the first of more than 1,100 valuable statues to Nigeria last month.

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) of Nigeria, according to The Horniman, had asked for the repatriation of the artefacts at the start of the year.

It said: “The evidence is very clear that these objects were acquired through force, and external consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria,” said Eve Salomon, chair of the trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens.

“The Horniman is pleased to be able to take this step and we look forward to working with the NCMM to secure longer term care for these precious artefacts.”

Abba Tijani, the director-general of NCMM, applauded the choice and expressed excitement about negotiating financing arrangements and joint ventures with the Horniman.

The British Museum in London, which has the largest and most significant collection of Benin Bronzes, is expected to feel more pressure as a result of the repatriation.

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