Nigeria’s Looted Benin Bronzes Returned More Than 100 Years Later
The two Benin bronzes, which were looted by British troops, have been returned to a traditional palace in Benin City.
Two Benin bronzes have been returned to a traditional palace in Nigeria, more than a century after they were pillaged by British troops, raising hopes that thousands more artefacts too could also finally be returned to their ancestral home. The artefacts, mostly in Europe, were stolen by the explorers and colonisers from the Benin
Kingdom, now southwestern Nigeria, and are among Africa’s most significant heritage objects. They were created as early as the 16th century, according to the British Museum. At a colourful ceremony in Benin City on Saturday to mark the return of a cockerel sculpture and head of an Oba (king), palace spokesman Charles
Edosonmwan said some of the bronzes had been taken as far away as New Zealand, the United States and the Japan. The two artefacts were also handed over to the Nigerian High Commission in October by the University of Aberdeen and Cambridge University’s Jesus College but have yet to return to their ancestral home. They are
also not just art but they are things that underline the significance of our spirituality, Edosonmwan said in an interview on the sidelines of a ceremony attended by traditional leaders. The return is another milestone in the years-long fight by the African countries to recover looted works, as numerous European institutions are
also grappling with the cultural legacies of colonialism. Some 90 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is believed to be in Europe, French art historians estimate. Musee du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in the Paris alone holds about 70,000 African objects and the London’s British Museum tens of thousands more.