A Public Museum Has Repatriated Its Collection of Benin Bronzes to Nigeria in a First for the U.K.

Date:

A Public Museum Has Repatriated Its Collection of Benin Bronzes

  • news by AUN News correspondent
  • Thursday, December 01, 2022
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • The Horniman Museum and Gardens in southeast London is the first major public institution in the UK to send its collection of Benin bronzes back to Nigeria.

  • Each artifact was taken in 1897 when the British invaded Benin City, which is now in Nigeria. A contract between the Horniman and the NCMM says that six things, including two bronze plaques from the royal palace in Benin, will be sent back to Nigeria immediately.

  • The other 68 items will stay on loan to the museum until a later date.

  • It has, however, always turned down requests to return the objects, citing the British Museum Act of 1963, which says that the organization can’t sell its things.

  • At a ceremony on November 28, 2022, Horniman Museum and Gardens treasures from Benin will be on exhibit.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens in southeast London is the first major public institution in the UK to send its collection of Benin bronzes back to Nigeria.

At a ceremony yesterday, November 28, the anthropological museum gave representatives from Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) ownership of 72 items. Each artifact was taken in 1897 when the British invaded Benin City, which is now in Nigeria.

A contract between the Horniman and the NCMM says that six things, including two bronze plaques from the royal palace in Benin, will be sent back to Nigeria immediately. The other 68 items will stay on loan to the museum until a later date.

In response to a formal request from the African nation that arrived in January of this year, the Horniman’s Trustees decided in July to return the unethically sourced pieces, calling the decision “moral and reasonable.”

“Today’s transfer of ownership to Nigeria is the final step in the Horniman Trustee’s plan to get back the things that were stolen from Benin City in 1897,” says the trustee. The process is not over, though, according to Michael Salter-Church, the institution’s trustees’ chair, in a statement. We think this will be the start of a good relationship between the Horniman and its counterparts in Nigeria.

Abba Tijani, in charge of the NCMM, liked what the museum did and told other British museums to “follow the Horniman’s example.”

The British Museum has the world’s most extensive collection of Benin artifacts, with 900 pieces. It has, however, always turned down requests to return the objects, citing the British Museum Act of 1963, which says that the organization can’t sell its things.

At a ceremony on November 28, 2022, Horniman Museum and Gardens treasures from Benin will be on exhibit. Photo courtesy of Getty Images and Joshua Bratt/PA Images.

At the ceremony on Monday, according to the BBC, Tijani added, “I think the British Museum is watching.” “Every museum in the world is saying it is not acceptable for them to cling on to these things, so I believe they are now taking it seriously to see that they do something,” the author says.

The resolution by the museum trustees to return the Benin bronzes came after consultation with the Nigerian diaspora community in London and neighborhood students, according to The Horniman’s chief executive, Nick Merriman, who spoke to reporters at the ceremony.

According to the Guardian, “the overwhelming opinion was that the artifacts had been robbed.” “They should be given back because they were taken by force and trickery,” the statement said.

Most likely, the items will wind up at the Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City, a brand-new building created by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye to house all returning Benin bronzes. It is scheduled to debut in 2026.

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