Looted Benin bronzes to be provided back to “The Great Kingdom of Benin”

A brass plaque (16th017th century) commonly referred to as “bronze” from the Benin kingdom (Nigeria) British Museum, London © Michel Wal, 2009

A group of major cultural institutions in the UK and Europe, including the British Museum, will satisfy in the Netherlands next year to settle prepare for an irreversible screen in Nigeria of items took from the Benin kingdom in the late 19th century. The museum consortium, known as the Benin Dialogue Group, is looking for a way to end years of wrangling over the approximated 4,000 bronze and ivory artefacts robbed by the British army from what is now southern Nigeria as part of a punitive expedition in 1897. Because the 1960s, Nigeria has actually consistently required their repatriation.The works were dispersed among

museums and private collections in Europe and The United States And Canada, with the largest numbers going to the Ethnological Museum in Berlin(part of the future Humboldt Online forum)and the British Museum. In March, agents from both institutions participated in a meeting at the University of Cambridge of the Benin Dialogue Group, which is laying the foundations for a system of turning loans to Benin City. The conference was led by Prince Gregory Akenzua(Enogie of Evbobanosa) of the Benin royal household and gone to by 4 agents of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.The group, formed in 2007, has actually begun to create an action strategy”to the facility of a long-term display screen in Benin City”, a university representative says. Its members(see listed below) gone over fundraising to support proper conservation and security conditions for the things in Benin City as well as a legal structure that will guarantee their resistance from seizure in Nigeria.The Nigerian federal government must ensure that the loans will be returned after a fixed term of”perhaps three years”, says Colin Renfrew of the university’s McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research study, who went to the meeting. In 2015, the university removed a controversial bronze cockerel from display screen after calls from students for it to be repatriated to Nigeria.The group’s conference next year at the Museum Volkenkunde( National Museum of Ethnology)in Leiden will focus on usefulness such as the expenses for insurance and transport, and security against theft or damage in Benin City, Renfrew says.”It might be needed to approach people or business to gather this financing, “he adds.Restitution is not part of this plan, though related propositions might later emerge, Renfrew says.”There are no legal commitments, other than to return the loans. The goodwill is essential. As self-confidence is developed for many years, the very finest pieces can be sent out to Benin for a variety of years so that there is always a major display screen of high quality there. “A British Museum spokesperson says that it has not gotten any official requests to lend objects to Nigeria. However, she includes:”We remain in ongoing discussion with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, and are open to thinking about any particular proposals when they are made.”

Major United States and French museums that hold Benin artefacts are especially not part of the Benin Dialogue Group. According to Nicholas Thomas, the director of Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Sociology, the consortium has held “preliminary conversations”with United States museums.”It is hoped they will

take part in future,”he says.The Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris is involved in its own restitution battle with Benin, which called in 2015 for the return of Guezo, Glele and Behanzin treasures in the museum’s collection. The disputed works were seized in 1892 from a kingdom that extended across exactly what is now Benin and Nigeria when the French army raided the royal palaces of Abomey in Benin. In August 2016, the Benin federal government officially asked the French foreign ministry to repatriate the works. The then minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said last December that restitution is difficult since the collection, like those of all French public museums, is “inalienable”. French culture ministry officials decreased to talk about the policy of the government under Emmanuel Macron.Meanwhile, Lionel Zinsou, the previous prime minister of Benin, has made a psychological case for the items ‘return, telling Le Monde in August:”Can we consider this an exclusively legal matter? I do not think so. The need to bring back to Africa as much as possible of its identity is deeply felt by its individuals. “The Benin Bronzes at the British Museum British Museum Who is in the Benin Dialogue Group?Representatives of the following 10 European museums participated in the meeting of the Benin Discussion Group at the University of Cambridge in March Museum of Archaeology and Sociology, University of Cambridge Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford Museum für Völkerkunde, Hamburg Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen, Leipzig and Dresden Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden Världskulturmuseerna, Stockholm

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