Nigeria Wants Stolen Artifacts, British Say They’ll ‘Loan Them Back’
By Sharelle Burt
Nigeria is the latest country trying to take back what belongs to them.
Benin bronze statues belonging to the country are being showcased in the British Museum and want them returned. The London-based museum is willing to give them back but at a cost, wanting to ‘loan’ the artifacts. Temporarily is better than nothing because Nigerian officials are actually willing to accept those terms.
“Whatever terms we can agree to have them back so that we can relate to our experience, relate to these works that are at the essence of who we are,” Governor of Edo Godwin Obaseki said, “We would be open to such conversations.”
A majority of the Benin Bronzes were taken to the museum, but some items went to museums in Oxford and Cambridge, and others have ended up in institutions in other parts of Europe and the United States. The stolen treasures were taken in 1897 during a looting expedition in Benin City and since gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria has been fighting to get them back.
Even though some countries like Greece and Ethiopia are opposed to the idea of loans, it could be looked at as a good thing according to the Benin Dialogue Group. The group was set up in 2007 in an effort to work out a way to showcase the bronzes in their home of Benin City. Before being stolen, they were beautifully displayed in the palace of King Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, the wealthy ruler of Benin.
With numerous museums under watch to return items, a spokesperson from the British Museum Hannah Boulton says that not all artifacts should be looked at as stolen.
“It is absolutely not the case that everything in the museum’s African collection was plundered or looted or whatever phrase you want to use,” Boulton said. “But obviously there are certain circumstances or certain events that happened, and certain examples like the Benin Bronzes, where that material wouldn’t have come into the collection the same way today.”
To date, the British Museum hasn’t received any formal request for loans from the Nigerian government.