London Museum to return 72 objects looted from Nigeria in the 19th century


A museum in London has announced that it will return to Nigeria artifacts looted in the 19th century, during the time of the Kingdom of Benin.

The Horniman Museum said ownership of 72 objects would be transferred to the Nigerian government.

Items include 12 bronze plaques known as the Benin Bronzes, a bronze rooster and a key to the king’s palace.

The decision followed a request from the National Commission of Museums and Monuments of Nigeria (NCMM) made in January.

The museum, in south east London, says it has consulted with community members, visitors, schoolchildren, academics, heritage professionals and artists based in Nigeria and the UK.

“All his views on the future of Benin objects were considered, along with the provenance of the objects,” the museum explained.

The museum’s president said it was “moral and proper” to return them.

In recent years, political pressure has increased on European governments and museums to return looted artifacts – including ivory carvings and metal sculptures known as the Benin Bronzes.

Germany also returned

“It is very clear that these objects were forcibly acquired, and the external consultation reinforced our view that it is moral and appropriate to return their property to Nigeria,” said Eve Salomon, president of the museum.

“The Horniman Museum is pleased to be able to take this step and we look forward to working with the NCMM to ensure long-term care for these precious artifacts.”

Items in the Horniman’s collection are just some of the artifacts returned to Nigeria in recent months from museums in Western countries.

Last month, Jesus College in Cambridge (England) and the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) returned a sculpture of a rooster and another of the head of an oba (king).

German authorities also returned more than 1,100 artifacts to the West African country.

The NCMM says that some of the priceless sculptures will be stored at the National Museum of Benin once it is expanded and others will be stored at the Lagos Museum.

The British Museum has the largest collection of Benin bronzes in the world. But it says it is barred from returning items permanently under the British Museum Act 1963 and the National Heritage Act 1983.

This text was originally published here.

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