A London museum will return its stolen Benin bronzes to Nigeria

Written by Zoe Soutil, CNN

A London museum has agreed to return 72 objects Plundered from Benin City in 1897 to the Nigerian government.
Horniman Museum and Gardens, based in South London, announced the transfer News release sunday All the objects were taken from Benin State, now the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria, during a British military operation in February 1897, the museum said.
The artefacts include 12 brass plaques that are part of a style known as “Benin Bronze”. These bronze sculptures were created to decorate the royal court in Benin from at least the 16th century. According to the British Museum.

In 1897, British forces launched a “bloody and devastating” military occupation of Benin Kingdom, and thousands of artifacts were stolen and transported to the United Kingdom as “spoils of war,” the museum said.

Horniman’s Benin collection includes other brass objects looted during the occupation, such as altar pieces, bells, fans and baskets.

“We welcome this decision by the trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens,” said Abba Tijani, Director General of the National Museums and Monuments Commission of Nigeria.

“Following the recommendations made by the Charity Commission, we look forward to productive discussions on the loan agreement and cooperation between the National Museum and Monuments and Horniman,” Tijani said.

The decision comes as a victory for Nigeria and other African countries that have struggled to recover cultural artifacts seized during military occupations and kept in museums, mostly in Europe, but also in the United States and Australia.

A bronze sculpture called Okuoba (Messenger of the Oba) is one of the items being brought back to Nigeria. Credit: Horniman Museum and Gardens

Nigeria’s national commission requested the return of the items in January, Horniman said. Some items may still be given to Horniman for display and research, according to the release.

Eve Solomon, chairman of the museum’s trustees, called the transfer “ethical and appropriate.”

“The evidence that these items were obtained by force is very clear and external consultation supports our view that it is ethical and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria,” Solomon said in the release. “Horniman is pleased to be able to take this step, and we look forward to working with NCMM to provide long-term care for these precious artifacts.”

Horniman follows in the footsteps of several other museums that returned their looted Benin bronzes to Nigeria.

University of Aberdeen and Jesus College of Cambridge University in February Two Benin bronzes returned. Last year, the French government Dr 26 artifacts returned Seized from Benin in 1892.
And in November 2021, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art In Washington, DC, it removed all of its Benin bronzes from display and announced plans to bring them back.

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