UNITED KINGDOM/NIGERIA: London museum on Sunday agreed to return a collection of Benin bronzes looted in the late 19th century from what is now Nigeria, as cultural institutions across Britain come under pressure to repatriate artifacts acquired during the colonial era.
The custodians of Horniman Museum and Gardens, say returning stolen Nigeria’s artifacts, including its Benin Bronzes is the “moral and appropriate” thing to do.
The artifacts numbering about 72 were looted in 1897. Among them are 12 brass plaques known as Benin Bronzes. They are to be transferred to the Nigerian government, according to Eve Salomon, Chairwoman of the Trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill, Southeast London.
Other objects include a brass cockerel altarpiece, ivory and brass ceremonial objects, brass bells, everyday items such as fans and baskets and a key to the palace of Benin King, from where they were carted away by British troops in February 1897.
“The evidence is very clear that these objects were acquired through force, and external consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria,” Salomon said.
Nigeria’s Outburst that Triggered Salomon’s words
Salomon’s words came seven months after Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) requested that the items be returned.
Following the request by NCMM, Horniman carried out a detailed research and contacted community members, visitors, schoolchildren, academics, heritage professionals and artists based in Nigeria and the UK, according to Bloomberg.
Afterwards, the Horniman trustees on August 5, decided to return the items as supported by the Charity Commission, a unit that regulates the charitable sector.
Professor Abba Tijani, the NCMM Director-General, said “Nigeria is delighted by the museum’s decision.” He further hinted that some of the artifacts would be loaned to the museums for display, research and education.
“We very much welcome this decision by the trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens,” said Tijani.
He added, “Following the endorsement by the Charity Commission, we look forward to a productive discussion on loan agreements and collaborations between the national commission for museums and monuments and the Horniman.”
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