Bibliography – Culture – London has returned to Nigeria what it once stole

Benin City arose as an independent kingdom in what is now Nigeria in the 19th century. In 1897, British forces arrived in the city, its royal palace was set on fire, and the governor was exiled. Here began the long adventure in the treasures of the city, which seems to be slowly drawing to a close. Some of the treasures that were pocketed at that time were donated to the officers, but most of them were taken to London and sold at auctions, thus hundreds and hundreds of artifacts scattered around the world.

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A representative of the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Antiquities, Abba Tijani, arrived in London a few days ago because they had finally managed to come to an agreement with the Horniman Museum in the south of the city. According to this agreement, six artifacts were handed over to Tijani on Monday (November 28), which were returned to Nigeria, and a further 66 will remain in the museum’s possession for 12 months on loan, before they are permanently returned to their original location, reports Watchman.

This is the first time that a British public institution has agreed to return some of the treasures looted by British soldiers in the past.

Also brought back to Africa were two bronzes from Benin, one from the University of Cambridge and the other from the University of Aberdeen.

At the same time that these steps were being implemented, the British Museum was also asked to return the artifacts in its possession, which represented the nearly 900 treasures stolen from Benin, the largest collection in the entire world. Meanwhile, the Foundation claims it cannot do so, citing the British Museum Regulations of 1963 and the Heritage Regulations of 1983.

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Earlier this year, Germany also returned nearly 1,000 Benin sculptures and artefacts in its possession to Nigeria. According to German Foreign Minister Annalina Berbock, “It was wrong to take the bronzes and it was wrong to keep them. It’s time to right the wrongs.”

cultural memories

Last month, Nigeria’s culture minister called for action from the British Museum when the Smithsonian Institution in Washington returned 29 artifacts to his country. Lay Muhammad spoke about:

It is not a matter of if it will be returned, but when. They will be forced to return them, because the campaign is getting stronger every day, and when they see how other museums are doing, they will have no choice but to return them… These artifacts tell us about who we are, about our religion is our history, our values ​​and our morals.

The Hornimann Museum’s decision was unanimous on this issue. According to the head of the foundation, Nick Merriman, it is clear that these are stolen treasures and must be returned as such, and he also believes that the handover ceremony will not be the end of everything, but on the contrary, it will mark the beginning of a new and prosperous relationship. Tijani feels the same way. According to him, cooperation with museums and other institutions can bring benefits to both parties.

Meanwhile, English museums have to grapple with demands for compensation on other fronts as well.

To this day, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis demands the return of the Elgin Marbles and the marble statues and reliefs of the Acropolis buildings in Athens. Perhaps he was trying to take a chance regarding the Beninese bronze, so he arranged a meeting with King Carole at Windsor Castle on Monday. The marble ruins came into the possession of the British Museum in the nineteenth century, after Lord Elgin (according to him) managed to bring them from Greece with the permission of the Turkish authorities, a fact still in dispute.

(Cover photo: Joshua Bratt/PA Images/Getty Images)