‘By the end of the 1960s, the price of Benin works had soared so high that the Federal Government of Nigeria was in no mood to contemplate buying them.
When, therefore a National Museum was planned for Benin City in 1968, we were faced with the problem of finding exhibits that would be shown to reflect the position that Benin holds in the world of art history. A few unimportant objects which were kept in the old local authority museum in Benin were transferred to the new museum and a few more objects were brought in from Lagos. Still the museum was “empty”. We tried using casts and photographs to fill gaps but the desired effect was unachievable. We therefore thought of making an appeal to the world for loans or return of some works so that Benin might also be to show its own works at least to its own people. We tabled a draft resolution at the General Assembly of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) which met in France in 1968, appealing for donations of one or two pieces from those museums which have large stocks of Benin works. The resolution was modified to make it read like a general appeal for restitution or return and then adopted.
When we returned to Nigeria, we circulated the adopted resolution to the embassies and high commissions of countries we know to have large Benin holdings but up till now we have received no reaction from any quarters and the Benin Museum stays “empty.’ Ekpo Eyo. (1)
One can say what one likes about the British Museum but one cannot deny that when it comes to defending its interests such as trying to keep the looted Benin artefacts, the venerable museum will go to any length to ensure it comes out victorious or at least not seriously damaged.
Most readers will remember that a few months ago, and till now many persons have been talking and writing about restitution of looted African artefacts:
- Macron’s declaration at Ouagadougou (2017).
- Sarr-Savoy report on restitution (2018).
- UNESCO Conference Circulation of Cultural Property and Shared Heritage: What New Perspectives (2018).
- German efforts at handling of artefacts acquired in colonial contexts (2018/2019).
- Reopening of Africa Museum in Tervuren, Belgium (2018).
- Diyibanza’s attempts to take looted African artefacts from Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac (2020).
- Dutch efforts to settle restitution of looted artefacts (2020).
- Passing of new legislation on restitution to Republic of Benin and Senegal by France (2020).
- Black Lives Matter activities, protests against museums in USA and Western Europe (2020).
Even the Arts Council England (ACE) has announced a contract for preparation of guidelines for English museums on handling of colonial artefacts (2020).
One could say restitution was in the air and there was no doubt that museums such as British Museum, were under tremendous pressure to do something about this centuries-old colonial and imperialist problem. Suddenly, we read about a project that reminded us of the colonial days: the British Museum is leading a project to excavate in Benin City at the site of the legendary great wall of Benin.
This archaeological enterprise is within the context of the projected new museum to be built in Benin City as a result of the deliberations of the Benin Dialogue Group that consists of the British Museum, Humboldt Forum, and other leading European museums. The archaeology project will start in 2021 and will continue for five years, to look for further royal treasures, and to enable the construction of the museum.
The new museum could be ready in 2025 whereas the excavations may last longer. (2)
Readers will recall that the Benin Dialogue Group removed the item of restitution from its agenda and suggested that Nigeria discuss the issue directly with each of the European States holding the looted artefacts. The group recommended only loans of artefacts. (3)
The British Museum that for decades has refused to contemplate restitution of the artefacts looted by the British Army in 1897 in Benin City with great violence and destruction by the notorious Punitive Expedition, has now been invited officially to excavate in Benin City on a $4 million excavation project that will be the groundwork for the new museum in Benin City, Edo Museumof West African Art (EMOWAA),designed by the Ghanaian architect, David Adjaye. Any building designed by Adjaye is bound to be excellent and impressive.
The Director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, was delighted about the opportunity for the British Museum to excavate in Benin City and declared that:
‘The British Museum’s mission was to work in partnership with colleagues from around the world to develop our shared understanding of cultural heritage’. (4)
Anyone with the slightest idea about the violent British invasion of 1897 and the arrogant way the British Museum has hitherto treated all requests for restitution either by the Benin Royal Family, the Nigerian Government or by various United Nations/UNESCO resolutions, would be surprised by this development. (5)
We do not have full information about the financing of the construction of the new museum nor about the financing of the excavation. Will the notorious partage system, much beloved by James Cuno, that was applied to much colonial excavations be applicable here? By this system, those financing the excavation took a certain portion of the results and left the remaining part to the source country. (6)That was the system applied to excavation at Asmara, Egypt that left us with the historical dispute as to the ownership of the bust of Nefertiti with Germany and Egypt both claiming ownership over the bust of the Egyptian queen. Is the Association of Archaeologists of Nigeria connected with this excavation or are we going to have similar disputes as those that arose with the Nok excavations in Nigeria by archaeologists from the University of Frankfurt, Germany? It was said that the Germans had control over certain areas where no Nigerians could enter and when discoveries were made, they were taken under one pretext or another to Germany. In any case, new discoveries were first shown in Germany and not in Nigeria. (7)
The statement that the idea of excavation came from Nigeria and was supported by the British Museum must be qualified by the fact that it is well-known that the British destroyed in 1897 several monumental structures in Benin City as has been described by Graham Connah in his book, The Archaeology of Benin: Excavations and other researches in and around Benin City, Nigeria. (8)The very mention that the idea of excavation came from Nigeria convinces many that the idea came from the British Museum that is very keen to lay hands on Nigerian artefacts.
How does the situation as regards restitution of the Benin artefacts now looks? As far as we know, the British Museum and the other members of the Benin Dialogue Group have not reversed their decision to remove restitution from their agenda. They have also not changed their stand that only loans can be granted to Nigeria for the Benin artefacts. It is not likely that whilst receiving assistance and support for the construction of the new museum and also being assisted in excavating in Benin City, Nigeria will seriously ask those helping her to restitute the looted artefacts. To raise the issue will be to irritate those who are helping in two important projects. In the meanwhile, most people in Nigeria and elsewhere continue to believe that restitution is round the corner when they hear that the Benin artefacts will be returned to the new museum. Nobody explains that the objects are coming temporally and for only three years as revealed inadvertently by Lord Renfrew. The permanent exhibition envisaged in the new museum will consists of objects loaned for a period of time, three years but constantly replaced by new objects. The exhibition will be permanent, but the objects will not be permanently in Nigeria and will be revolving all the time. The Nigerian public, relying on the media both Nigerian and foreign, is thinking that at last the looted artefacts are coming home and is not aware that the artefacts are coming on temporary loans. Nobody seems interested to disabuse the public of this serious illusion. From the moment that the Benin Dialogue Group formally announced in 2018 that it had removed restitution from its agenda and advised that this issue is a bilateral matter to be pursued by Nigeria with each of the European States concerned, it was clear that the group was not working on restitution. Still many in Nigeria and abroad think the group is+ busy working on the restitution question.
The explanation given by the British Museum over decades why it cannot restitute the looted Benin artefacts, of which the museum holds 900, is that it is prevented by the law, the British Museum Act 1963, to give any object away. But this has not prevented the museum from selling Benin artefacts on the free market and even to Nigeria. (9) However, the museum interprets the law narrowly when it serves its interest. The British Act gives enough flexibility for the museum to return some Benin artefacts if it wanted. (10). But even if the law were so restrictive as it is sometimes presented, the question is why has the law not been amended as was done in the case of Nazi looted artefacts? (11)
What has the British Museum done in the last hundred years in the direction of obtaining a modification of the law to enable restitution of Benin artefacts? Can anyone cite a single instance where the museum approached the British parliament with proposals for changes of the law but was unsuccessful? The British Museum Act has not been tested in court as regards restitution to Benin. A court dealing with this matter now may not necessarily adopt the same attitude as the colonialists of 19th century and their present supporters.
It appears that the British Museum and the other European museums on the one hand, and the Nigerian authorities on the other, have tacitly or explicitly reached an understanding to put on hold the issue of restitution, letting the public labour under the illusion that the loaned Benin artefacts will be restituted despite express statements to the contrary; once the public sees the new magnificent building with Benin artefacts that have not been seen before in Nigeria,nobody will raise questions about restitution. But how does this correspond to Nigeria’s role as a leading African country in the quest for restitution?
In the meanwhile , the British Museum is continuing, in its mendacious, pseudo
polite language that was perfected by Neil MacGregor, to issue statements that are only partially true or misleading regarding looted Benin artefacts. Under the heading, concerning the Benin artefacts What has been requested? We read
as follows:’ While no formal written request has been received for the return of the Museum’s Benin collections in their entirety, the Benin Royal Court has made various public statements asking for Benin collections to be returned.
These requests have been framed within the context of longstanding dialogues with the museum, including the visit of the Director of the British Museum to the Benin Royal Court in August 2018. (12)
The reader of such a statement would most likely not know that a formal request has been submitted in 2000 to the British Parliament by Prince Edun, great grandson of Oba Ovonramwen during whose reign the British invaded Benin City in 1897 and stole thousands of Benin Artefacts. This demand which has gone down in history as APPENDIX 21 has been recorded in Hansard, the official report of the British Parliament. (13) How more formal can anyone be than a submission to the British Parliament? As everyone will agree the Benin loot was taken by British Army acting on behalf of the British Government and monarchy. Does the British Museum not report to the British Parliament? Can the museum ignore parliament?
The previous Oba of Benin, Erediauwa, himself made a request in the catalogue of the famous 2007 Benin exhibition Benin—Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria:
‘We are pleased to participate in this exhibition. It links us, nostalgically, with our past. As you put this past on show today, it is our prayer that the people and government of Austria will show humaneness and magnanimity and return to us some of these objects which found their way to your country.’(14)
Did the British Museum not hear this or must an Oba go on his knees to the venerable museum and prostrate himself directly before the Director of the museum? The British Museum has responded to every demand by the Nigeria or Nigerian officials or the Benin Royal museum with disdain and arrogance. In the international symposium on restitution, organized as part of the Benin exhibition in Vienna, the delegation of the Benin Royal Family declared that they would be satisfied if each of the Western museums represented at the meeting returned 1 Benin artefact. To our astonishment, the Western museums, through Christian Feest, then Director of the Ethnological Museum, Vienna, now World Museum, Vienna responded immediately in the negative. (15)The extreme selfishness of the Western museums as well as their lack of respect for Africans prevented them from recognizing the golden opportunity they were being offered. They were determined to keep whatever they had even if it was looted.
When Professor Tunde Balewale ,Director of The Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) Lagos, requested the Queen-Mother Idia ivory hip mask for the purpose of the Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of FeSTAC’77, Neil MacGregor, then Director of the British Museum answered Balewale without even addressing the request of the mask and preferred to describe the cooperation between British Museum and Nigeria. (16)
Thus, there was nothing in Nigeria’s experience with the British Museum in restitution questions that indicated that the voracious museum which is regarded by many as the greatest depot of looted artefacts would be entrusted now to dig in the very place from which the British soldiers stole Benin artefacts that they refuse to restitute. (17)The memory and respect for the thousands of innocent children, men and women the British killed because Oba Ovonramwen resisted British hegemonic attempts, did not suggest that the museum of the looters would be best suited to conduct fresh excavations on the same soil where many lost their lives.
When we reported on the fact that restitution of Benin artefacts has been removed from the agenda of the Benin Dialogue Group, a Nigerian member of the group criticised us, saying that the people of Benin know how to defend their interests. (18)In plain language, this meant mind your own business. What the writer forgot was that in so far as Benin art has become a symbol of Pan-African art and unity, Benin art has also become the business of other Africans. It is paradoxical that one accepts that Austrians, British, Dutch, Germans and other Westerners can freely express their opinions about Benin artefacts and nobody seems surprised or irritated but Cameroonians, Chadians, Egyptians, Ethiopians, Ghanaians, Ivoirians, and other Africans doing the same seem to upset some people. Neo-colonialism seems to be victorious. What is forgotten is that many Africans have their looted artefacts in the European museums. One forgets that whatever solutions are imposed by the British and other Europeans on Nigeria, will also be imposed on Ethiopia and Ghana, for example. We can imagine, the British, fair as usual, saying to Ghana that it would be unfair to Nigeria if we proposed to you another solution. Ethiopia will be told; you will have to accept loans of your own looted artefacts as the Nigerians have done.
We note that the new museum in Benin City is to be a museum of West African art, Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA). The term ‘ West African Art’ reminds one of colonial British West Africa or Afrique Occidentale française indicating the spheres of colonial influence. Let us remember, divide and rule. Since Independence we have become used to thinking in terms of the Continent and not portions of it. We talk of African Art and not of North African Art, West African Art, East African Art or South African. Besides, Benin art has become a symbol for African Art and not West African Art since FESTACT and other Pan-African festivals and exhibitions. One can understand those museums pretending to be ‘universal museums’ or ‘world museums’ preferring to restrict the perspective of the Benin museum to a regional sphere while they themselves lay claim to a wider world perspective, justifying the retention of Benin artefacts in their museums. We would be told that Benin art is better appreciated in the British Museum where you can also see other African artefacts and not only West Africa art in isolation. Nigerians would still have to go to London if they are interested in African art because the Benin Museum is limited to West African art.
Nigerians should not allow anyone to limit Nigeria’s perspectives and ambitions to West Africa. When leading Nigerian intellectuals write about culture they adopt an African perspective even if they ground their writings in concrete Nigerian situations and facts. Soyinka may discuss concrete Nigeria situations and facts, but his perspective has always been African, unless I have misunderstood the Nobel Prize laureate. Nigerian writers would be surprised if they were to be characterized only as West African writers and not as African writers or simply and better, as writers. To thus limit the scope of their writings or their perspectives and appeal to readers would be a disservice. Similarly, our artists aim their works at a larger public than West African. Some even reject the description of Nigerian artist but accept the description of African artist for specific political reason.
Nigeria is not simply giant of West Africa, but a giant of Africa and its new museum should not limit its perspective orambit to West Africa. Nigeria’s cultural achievements are not to be limited to West Africa but must be extended to all of Africa where the vast cultural resources of that country should grant it the cultural pre-eminence that it deserves despite attempts by others to prevent it from assuming its manifest destiny on the Continent and in the world.
Many European museums, including the British Museum, are now willing to talk about the Benin artefacts and freely admit they are looted objects, and sometimes reveal the number of Benin artefacts. But after many decades of reticence and secrecy, can we have confidence in the figures they provide? Would they tell us the number of artefacts they have sold or exchanged for others, and how many have been destroyed or damaged? What the museums, led by the British Museum, are not really willing to talk about is the ownership question. If they do, they appear to be interested in holding symposia, seminar and other talks that appear to show they are doing something. They are certainly interested in knowledge production but most of Africans are at this stage, mostly interested in the transfer of ownership rights.
No one doubts that the Benin artefacts are stolen objects that belong to the people of Benin and Nigeria. What would we recommend?
All those museums, including the British Museum, should put an end to the unseemingly situation where all agree that the Benin artefacts are looted/stolen objects and yet those holding them illegally refuse to acknowledge that they should be restituted to the legal owners in Benin.
Europeans must ask themselves what morality they are teaching their children when stolen objects of others are largely displayed in public places. The rot has gone so far that even religious places such as Westminster Abbey harbour looted religious objects of others such as the looted tabot of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. (19)
‘The public interest must surely be in upholding the rule of law, rather than promoting an international free-for-all through the unrestricted circulation of tainted works of art. Do we really wish to educate our children to have no respect for history, legality and ethical values by providing museums with the opportunity freely to exhibit stolen property?’(20)
- Nigeria should send a team of experts to each European museum holding Benin artefacts to determine which artefacts Nigeria will be willing to let the European museums keep.
- The status of Benin artefacts left in the European museums should be clearly defined to avoid unnecessary disputes in future.
- We expect a considerable number of the looted artefacts to return to Nigeria within the next years, independent of the completion of the new museum at Benin. We expect, for example, out of the 900 Benin artefacts in the British Museum(assuming that the figure given is accurate) at least 700 will be ear-marked for return to Benin City. From the 580-500 objects in the Humboldt Forum/Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin,400 should be marked for return to Benin. From the 200 Benin objects in World Museum, Vienna, 100 artefacts should be marked for return to Benin City, From the Museum at Rothenbaum, Hamburg at least 100 from the 200 objects it holds illegally should be restituted.
- Activities of the experts mentioned above should be publicly available on the internet and other media.
- .Independently of this exercise, the European museums must, in due course, publish a list of other Nigerian artefacts they are holding in their museums so that discussions of restitution of other looted Nigerian artefacts, Yoruba, Igbo ,Nok, etc may begin soon.
When we look at the salient points of the discussions, the British Museum and its European allies come out better than Nigeria. The initial mistake was made when Nigerians on one side, accepted to be faced with several Europeans on the other side instead of discussing the issue of restitution separately with each European museum. Did anyone expect Nigeria to prevail over Austria, Britain, Germany, Holland etc, former colonial masters, acting in conjunction to defend their interests derived from colonial military interventions? The correct procedure was declared by the Benin Dialogue Group when they removed restitution from their agenda.
Again, when the Benin Dialogue Group decided to remove restitution from it agenda, it was clear that the illegal holders of the looted artefacts were winning. The main motivation for talking to the European museums had been, at least as seen by outsiders, to seek to implement the demand made by all Nigerian parliaments, governments and the Nigerian public since Independence: the restitution of the looted Benin artefacts.
The Europeans gained the upper hand the moment it was accepted to link the substitution of restitution by loans to the construction of a new museum in which the Europeans were to play a major role. From that moment, Nigerians were disarmed from pressing the issue of restitution of the Benin artefacts and could only please Nigerians by the lack of clarity in publications and announcements of the fundamental difference between mere return and restitution. Misleading impressions were sometimes given that loans could be a preliminary step towards restitution, not explaining clearly that loans imply recognition of the ownership of the Europeans in the Benin objects which they are now proposing to lend to Nigerians, the original owners. When we commented that for those who stole the Benin artefacts to propose now to loan them to the people of Benin and Nigeria was an insult, a Nigerian member of the Benin Dialogue Group criticised us sharply, adding that we were probably ignorant of the French loan to Korea of looted Korean manuscripts. A woefullywrong assumption. (21)
Despite expressions of solidarity and sympathy for Black Lives Matter, the British Museum has not changed a bit its standing policy of refusal of restitution of looted Benin artefacts. This makes us wonder whether the director of the museum understands the significance of Black Lives Matter for African Americans and for Africans. He may even be wondering about what the current protests against racism and discrimination have to do with restitution of looted Benin artefacts.
The British Museum may probably gain a respite for a while from the current demonstrations and pressures for restitution of the Benin artefacts due to the following:
- The current pandemic may offer excuses for not doing anything about restitution.
- The digitalization of Benin artefacts under the leadership of the Museum at Rotthenbaum, Hamburg, may offer some excuse, confuse, and even disarm a few protesters.
- The construction of a new museum at Benin City will not encourage demands for restitution from the Nigerian government and its officials.
- The excavations at Benin City may probably delay demands for restitution from the Nigerian authorities.
But such respite will surely be short on the part of those who argue on principle that looting of artefacts in the colonial period, and in particular, the violent invasion of Benin in 1897, the destruction of the City, the killing of thousands of innocent children, women and men, and the looting of thousands of artefacts cannot be legally or morally justified.
If after keeping looted Benin artefacts for some 123years since the looting in 1897 and some 60 years since Independence, the British Museum is not willing to restitute any artefacts, then there must be something wrong in Nigeria’s approach or at least, the method must be defective. We must remember that the British Museum has over 900 Benin artefacts of which, according to the museum, only few can be displayed and yet it is not ready to return some to Nigeria. Can contempt and disrespect be more clearly displayed? And yet Nigeria is inviting the British Museum to dig more artefacts in Benin City. Is this a compensation? Have most of us misunderstood the significance of the British invasion of Benin City in 1897 not only for Nigeria but for the whole of Africa?
‘There was a dim grandeur about it all, and also there seemed to a fate. Here was this head-centre of iniquity, spared by us from its suitable end of burning for the sake of holding the new seat of justice where barbarism had held away, given into our hands with the brand of blood soaked into every corner and relic; fire only could purge it, and here on our last day we were to see its legitimate fate overtake it ,and see this ,the centre of bloodshed, burn before our eyes in retribution for the millions of lives that had been wilfully sacrificed’. – R. H. Bacon, the Punitive Expedition’s Intelligence Officer wrote on the burning of the Benin Royal Palace. (22)
1. Museum, Vol. XXL, no 1, 1979, Return and Restitution of cultural Property, pp. 18-21, at p.2, Nigeria. See also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh2Tac1gNPU&feature=share http://www.modernghana.com/news/241980/1/youtube-crown-fraud-stolen-benin-bronzes-british-m.html http://www.youtube.com
‘British Museum to help dig for Nigerian treasures’ https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-54933273
‘New museum in Nigeria raises hopes of resolution to Benin bronzes dispute’ https://www.theguardian.com/…-hopes-of-resolution-to-benin-bronzes-dispute-david-adjaye
3. K. Opoku, ’Benin Dialogue Group Removes Restitution of Benin Artefacts From its Agenda’ https://www.modernghana.com/news/924239/benin-dialogue-group-removes-restitution-of-benin.html
List of Participants in the Benin Dialogue Group, Benin City, 2019 Edo State Government, Nigeria The Royal Court of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abuja, Nigeria Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna, Austria Ethnologisches Museum, State Museums of Berlin, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Berlin, Germany Museum am Rothenbaum, Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK), Hamburg, Germany Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Museum für Vӧlkerkunde Dresden und GRASSI Museum für Vӧlkerkunde zu Leipzig, Germany Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Germany Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Leiden, The Netherlands National Museums of World Culture, Stockholm, Sweden Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK British Museum, London, UK Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
4. ‘British Museum to help look for Benin royal treasures in archaeological dig’ https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/…for-benin-royal-treasures-in-archaeological-dig/
5. K. Opoku,’Parzinger’s Cri De Coeur: Genuine Plea for UN/UNESCO Assistance or Calculation to Delay Restitution of Artefacts?https://www.modernghana.com/news/830590/parzingers-cri-de-coeur-genuine-plea-for-ununes.html
6. James Cuno, a vehement supporter of the partage system who has called for a return to that system, has some interesting remarks on partage in his book Who Owns Antiquity? Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2008:
‘The question then is: should the fate of the archaeological record – and of antiquities alienated from their archaeological context – remain under the jurisdiction of national governments? Is there an alternative? Yes. And it was once in place and encouraged the scientific excavation of the archaeological record and the preservation and sharing of ancient artifacts between local governments and international museums. It is called partage. Under that policy, foreign-led excavation teams provided the expertise and material means to lead excavations and in return were allowed to share the finds with the local government’s archaeological museum(s). That is how the collections of archaeological museums at the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard and Yale Universities were built; as well as important parts of the collections of the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was also how the collections in archaeological museums in Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkey were built. Foreign museums underwrote and led scientific excavations from which both the international archaeological and local political communities benefited. While local tensions increased over time as nationalist aspirations took hold, partage served both communities well. It was only with the flood of nationalist retentionist cultural property laws in the second half of the twentieth century that partage all but disappeared. The collections of the university museums mentioned above now could not be built, and the directors and faculty curators of those museums, many of whom are the loudest proponents of national retentionist patrimony/cultural property laws, could not teach and research as they do now. Much of their work is dependent on a policy no longer legal in the countries with jurisdiction over the archaeological materials they study.’ p. xxxiii (Preface)
7. K. Opoku, Newly Discovered Nok Sculptures Exhibited for The First Time, Not in Nigeria but in Germany https://www.modernghana.com/news/499121/newly-discovered-nok-sculptures-exhibited-for.html
The dispute between Nigerian and German archaeologists has been discussed in various publications. See inter alia, Germans Loot Nigerian Artefacts | Leadership Newspapers www.leadership.ng
‘LOOTING OF NIGERIA’S ANTIQUITIES: MUSEUM OFFICIALS, ARCHAEOLOGISTS SET NEW RULES’,http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/looting-of-nigerias-antiquities-museum-officials-archaeologists-set-new-rules/#sthash.6kLkIuts.dpuf
8. 1975,Oxford Clarendon.
9.‘The British Museum (BM) has sold more than 30 Benin bronzes since World War II, according to a file that has been declassified at the request of The Art Newspaper. Most went to Nigeria and were bought for under £100, although fine examples currently fetch up to £100,000. The selloffs are now strongly regretted by BM curators’. https://www.forbes.com/2002/04/03/0403conn.html
10. Hermann Alexander, ‘British Museum must recognise its own powers in matters of restitution’ https://www.theartnewspaper.com/comment/british-museum-must-recognise-its-own-powers
11.Holocaust (Stolen Art) Restitution Bill https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmbills/035/09035.i-i.html
12. The British Museum, Benin Bronzeshttps://www.britishmuseum.org/about-us/british-museum-story/objects-news/benin-bronzes
13.APPENDIX 21The Case of Benin Memorandum submitted by Prince Edun Akenzua https://publications.parliament.uk/…meds/371/371ap27.htm
14. Barbara Plankensteiner (ed). Benin—Kings and Rituals: CourtArts from Nigeria, 2007 ,Snoeck, Introductory Note, p.13.
15. Plankensteiner, Ibid. p.17.
16 .Peju Layiwola, Benin 1897.com, Art and the Restitution Question, pp. 204-205,Wy Art Editions, Ibadan, Nigeria.
17. K. Opoku, ‘UK Rejection of Restitution of Artefacts: Confirmation or Surprise?’ https://www.modernghana.com/…uk-rejection-of-restitution-of-artefacts-confirma.html
18. K. Opoku, ‘Looted Ethiopian Tabot Concealed Permanently in Westminster Abbey, London. Is There Somewhere A Minimum Sense of Shame?’
A study on looted African objects in holy places in Europe could be revealing. How do Christians explain or justify the presence of looted Ethiopian Orthodox crosses and other looted African artefacts in religious and respectable European places?
19. Extract from a letter by several members of the British House of Lords http://www.timesonline.co.uk
20. K. Opoku, ‘Benin Dialogue Group Removes Restitution of Benin Artefacts From its Agenda’
21. R. H. Bacon, Benin: City of Blood, London (pp. 107-108) cited by the great Ekpo Eyo, “Benin; The Sack that was”, http://www.edo-nation.net/eyo.htm
Queen-Mother Idia, Benin, Nigeria, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom. Will she finally be allowed to return home in Benin City from British exile since 1897? Will the British play the same game as they played when Nigeria asked for the sculpture for FESTAC?
Members of the nefarious British Punitive Expedition of 1897 posing proudly with looted Benin artefacts.
Pair of leopard figures, now in Her Majesty, the Queen of the United Kingdom, Admiral Rawson Collection. London, UK. The commanders of the British Punitive Expedition force to Benin in 1897 sent the pair of leopards to the British Queen soon after the looting and burning of Benin City.
Oba Ovonramwen in whose reign the British looted the Benin Bronzes with guards on board a ship on his way to exile in Calabar in 1897. The gown he is wearing hides his shackles. Could the new museum in Benin have been named after him? Photograph by the Ibani Ijo photographer J. A. Green. From the Howie photo album in the archives of the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Queen-mother Idia ,Benin, Nigeria, now in Humboldt Forum ,Berlin, Germany. Looted by the British in 1897 and sold to the Ethnology Museum/Humboldt Forum that holds 850-508 Benin artefacts.
Salt cellar, Benin, Nigeria, looted in the 1897 Punitive Expedition, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom.
The author has 273 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KwameOpoku
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