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Arts and Culture

London museum to return looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

Agence France-Presse
London museum to return looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria
Thousands of Nigeria's so-called Benin Bronzes -- 16th to 18th century metal plaques and sculptures -- were looted from the palace of the ancient Benin Kingdom and ended up in museums across the US and Europe.
Horniman Museum via Instagram

LONDON, United Kingdom — London's Horniman Museum on Sunday said that it would return dozens of artifacts looted by British soldiers in Nigeria, including 12 of the famed Benin Bronzes.

"Ownership of 72 objects, which were forcibly removed from Benin City during the British military incursion in February 1897, will be transferred to the Nigerian government," the museum said in a statement.

"The collection includes 12 brass plaques, known publicly as Benin bronzes. Other objects include a brass cockerel altar piece, ivory and brass ceremonial objects, brass bells, everyday items such as fans and baskets, and a key ‘to the king’s palace’," it said.

Thousands of Nigeria's so-called Benin Bronzes -- 16th to 18th century metal plaques and sculptures -- were looted from the palace of the ancient Benin Kingdom and ended up in museums across the US and Europe.

Nigeria has been negotiating their return and plans to build a museum in Benin City in southern Edo state, where it hopes to house the bronzes, some of the most highly regarded works of African art.

"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," the museum quoted Eve Salomon, Chair of the Trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, as saying.

The head of Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abba Tijani, welcomed the decision and said he was looking "forward to a productive discussion on loan agreements and collaborations."

Apart from Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have also received requests from African countries to return lost treasures.

Experts estimate that 85 to 90 percent of African cultural artifacts were taken from the continent. 

On July 1, Germany signed an agreement to begin sending back hundreds of Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, the biggest effort yet by a European country to return looted artworks.

Germany has around 1,100 of the artifacts, split between some 20 museums.

LONDON MUSEUM

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