UK museum agrees to return looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria



LONDON — A London museum agreed Sunday to return a set of Benin Bronzes looted within the late nineteenth century from what’s now Nigeria as cultural establishments all through Britain come below stress to repatriate artifacts acquired in the course of the colonial period.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens in southeast London stated that it could switch a set of 72 objects to the Nigerian authorities. The choice comes after Nigeria’s Nationwide Fee for Museums and Monuments formally requested for the artifacts to be returned earlier this yr and following a session with neighborhood members, artists and schoolchildren in Nigeria and the U.Ok., the museum stated.

“The proof may be very clear that these objects had been acquired via drive, and exterior session supported our view that it’s each ethical and acceptable to return their possession to Nigeria,’’ Eve Salomon, chair of the museum’s board of trustees, stated in a press release. “The Horniman is happy to have the ability to take this step, and we stay up for working with the NCMM to safe long term look after these valuable artifacts.’’

The Horniman’s assortment is a small a part of the three,000 to five,000 artifacts taken from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 when British troopers attacked and occupied Benin Metropolis as Britain expanded its political and industrial affect in West Africa. The British Museum alone holds greater than 900 objects from Benin, and Nationwide Museums Scotland has one other 74. Others had been distributed to museums all over the world.

The artifacts embody plaques, animal and human figures, and objects of royal regalia comprised of brass and bronze by artists working for the royal court docket of Benin. The final time period Benin Bronzes is usually utilized to objects comprised of ivory, coral, wooden and different supplies in addition to the metallic sculptures.

Nations together with Nigeria, Egypt and Greece, as nicely indigenous peoples from North America to Australia, are more and more demanding the return of artifacts and human stays amid a worldwide reassessment of colonialism and the exploitation of native populations.

Nigeria and Germany just lately signed a deal for the return of a whole lot of Benin Bronzes. That adopted French President Emmanuel Macron’s determination final yr to signal over 26 items often called the Abomey Treasures, priceless artworks of the nineteenth century Dahomey kingdom in present-day Benin, a small nation that sits simply west of Nigeria.

However British establishments have been slower to reply.

The British Museum says it has held discussions with Nigerian authorities since not less than 2018, and the Federal Ministry of Data and Tradition submitted a written request for the return of antiquities in October of final yr.

“The museum is dedicated to energetic engagement with Nigerian establishments in regards to the Benin Bronzes, together with pursuing and supporting new initiatives developed in collaboration with Nigerian companions and colleagues,” the British Museum stated on its web site.

The Horniman Museum additionally traces its roots to the Age of Empire.

The museum opened in 1890, when tea service provider Frederick Horniman opened his assortment of artifacts from all over the world for public viewing.

Amid the Black Lives Matter motion, the museum launched into a “reset agenda,’’ that sought to “handle long-standing problems with racism and discrimination inside our historical past and collections, and a dedication to set ourselves on a extra sustainable course for the long run.’’

The museum’s web site acknowledges that Frederick Horniman’s involvement within the Chinese language tea commerce meant he benefitted from low costs resulting from Britain’s sale of opium in China and the usage of poorly compensated and generally pressured labor.

The Horniman additionally acknowledges that it holds objects “obtained via colonial violence.”

These embody the Horniman’s assortment of Benin Bronzes, comprising 12 brass plaques, in addition to a brass cockerel altar piece, ivory and brass ceremonial objects, brass bells and a key to the king’s palace. The bronzes are at the moment displayed together with info acknowledging their pressured elimination from Benin Metropolis and their contested standing.

“We acknowledge that we’re firstly of a journey to be extra inclusive in our tales and our practices, and there may be way more we have to do,” the museum says on its web site. “This contains reviewing the way forward for collections that had been taken by drive or in unequal transactions.”

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