Home Arts Nigeria transfers ownership of Benin bronzes to royal ruler, confusing European museums’ plans to return artefacts

Nigeria transfers ownership of Benin bronzes to royal ruler, confusing European museums’ plans to return artefacts

by godlove4241
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The Benin Bronzes restitution saga took a new turn after the Nigerian government officially recognized the Oba of Benin (Oba Ewuare II) as the owner and custodian of the objects looted in the late 19th century. The announcement took the form of a presidential statement, published in the official journal.

The official notice, titled “Notice of Presidential Statement on the Recognition of Ownership and the Order to Award the Custody and Management of Beninese Objects Repatriated and Looted in the Oba of Benin,” was published on 23 March.

“[According to the proposed] law, all objects must be handed over to the Oba of Benin who exercises the rights of original owner. This covers those who have already been repatriated and those who are yet to be repatriated,” a report on the Arise says the news site. The Oba, the current traditional ruler of Benin, wants the bronzes to be kept by his family in a museum or a royal palace.

Barnaby Phillips, author of Loot: Bronzes from Great Britain and Benin (2021), recount The arts journal: “For many inhabitants of Edo, it is right and proper that such objects should return to the Oba because they were looted from his great-great-grandfather. This has, however, caused confusion among many European museums who are negotiating deals with the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) – they are now asking who our partner is?This has also blindsided the NCMM.

the said Bronzes from Benin have become a touchstone to test the will of European museums to restore the heritage looted in Africa during the colonial era. After the violent looting and devastation of the royal palace in Benin in 1897 by British troops, at least 3,000 artifacts were scattered around the world. The Kingdom of Benin was later incorporated into the British Protectorate of Nigeria, which became the independent Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1960.

The latest development complicates matters for Western institutions aiming to return the Benin Bronzes. The NCMM is responsible for coordinating efforts with European museums. For example, last year the German government transferred ownership of 1,117 Benin bronzes from five German museum collections to Nigeria and the care of the NCMM.

Above all, Godwin Obaseki, the local governor of Edo State, has supported the West African Art Museum in Edo to house the Benin Bronzes, which is expected to open in stages from 2024. Edo is overseen by the Emowaa Trust, a Nigerian non-profit organization. organization. We reported earlier this month that the prospect of hundreds of looted treasures returning to Nigeria has given impetus to a series of museum building projects. The museum had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

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