This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
JOHN PICTON ON RESTITUTION OF BENIN ARTEFACTS
Queen-Mother Idia, Benin, Nigeria. Hip-mask that Galway’s descendants attempted to auction at Sotheby’s but had to be withdrawn because of protests by Nigerians.
I read with interest and sometimes, with astonishment the article by Professor John Picton, Emeritus Professor, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, in the Art Newspaper of 24 January 2011, entitled “Compromise, negotiate, support”. (1) To start with, I was surprised that Picton describes the British military force, the so-called Benin Pre-emptive Strike Force that went to Benin on 4 January 1897 and was almost annihilated as “British personnel”. “Personnel“evokes in the average English-speaking person, a group of employees other than a military force. One thinks of the personnel of Shell or other British firms in Nigeria or elsewhere. Perhaps the Professor did not reflect on this but he, as a specialist on African art must surely know that this military force consisted of 9 British military officers and some 250 African mercenaries disguised as carriers. The mission of this army was to launch a surprise attack on Benin City, overthrow Oba Ovonramwen and put in his place an Oba amenable to British imperialism. Frank Willet, in writing about this military force, said they had their guns at the
bottom of their boxes.” I have serious difficulty in understanding Picton’s characterization of the renewal projects by Eweka as “anti-colonial”. (2) What Picton does not mention but would have painted a more accurate picture of the situation is that the Oba had stated clearly. From where did Picton get this idea that rebuilding Benin City. making the best of such political authority as the colonial overlords would allow within their policy of government by indirect rule. after all had not been exiled nor their skills somehow taken away from them. reflecting the view of Captain Phillips that Oba Ovomramwen constituted the main obstacle to British imperialist expansionist designs in that part of West Africa and that his removal was imperative if the British were to achieve their aims. kingdom and empire. 2 .colonial”? Most of us will understand by “anti-colonial” activities directed against the colonial authority and intended to bring about the downfall of that regime or at least to hasten its demise. Since when do we visit monarchs when they expressly state their inability or unwillingness to receive us? But why did the military force visit Benin despite warnings not to come? It would appear. reviving its ritual and ceremonial culture. women and men as well as for the destruction of property in that city. It was an army that intended to surprise the Oba but were themselves surprised. Thus the group went to Benin despite the warning from Benin not to come. after the wanton destruction by the British in 1897 was an “anti-colonial project”? It should be noted that to this day the British have not paid any compensation for the killing of thousands of innocent children. It was altogether the greatest and most successful of all anti-colonial projects in sub-Saharan Africa. (3) Picton states that Eweka II set about to rebuilt Benin City when he was made Oba: “Eweka set about the wholesale reinvention of Benin City. from messages sent to the British Foreign Office by Captain Phillips. Eweka also commissioned new works of art. and commissioning the writing of an authorised history of the city. acting Consul-General that a decision had been taken long ago. when informed of the intention of the British to send a group to visit him. So the military force Picton calls British personnel was not an innocent group killed by “rebel chiefs in the area”. setting up altars dedicated to his father and grandfather. and their predecessors: the artists. by a local chief. The Oba must have believed in the need to set up “altars dedicated to his father and grandfather. that he could not receive them at the time proposed because he would be involved in some traditional rituals and during that period no foreigners were allowed to come into contact with the Oba. and their predecessors” Why must the performance of such a filial duty that Africans expect of their rulers be considered as “anti.
even though many parts of Africa are by means near the Sahara Desert in any sense.We leave uncommented the objectionable habit of describing many areas of Africa as “sub-Saharan”. a) There is no requirement in Municipal or International Law that an owner must first make a formal request to a person who has looted. (8) d) Prof. should also echo the worn-out argument that there has not been any formal demand for the Benin artefacts by a competent authority. The people of Benin have been asking for the restitution of their artefacts which constitute an essential part of their culture for a very long time without success. stolen or illegally taken his property before the wrongdoer can return the object. we would like to draw attention to the following facts which provide a background against which one may evaluate the tendentious statements often made by Westerners regarding the absence of a formal demand for the restitution of the Benin artefacts. It is enough that the wrongdoer is informed whereupon he has to act. (5) For the benefit of all. or even litigation”. Picton himself states that “The prestige of kingship and the ownership of works of art are indeed so intertwined that it should come as no surprise that there is hunger in Benin City for the return of the material looted in 1897” It is rather disappointing that Professor Picton who has written extensively on African art. (6) b) The United Nations. the Athens Conference on Restitution (2008) as well as the ICOM (International Council of Museums) Code of Ethics require the holder of the cultural property of others to initiate discussions for eventual return of the objects to their countries of origin. (7) c) The late Bernie Grant. including African textiles. He also wrote to museums such as the Glasgow Museum. UNESCO. Member of the British Parliament. always reminded the British Parliament and the British public that the people of Benin requested the return of these objects. Director of British 3 . Picton states “Yet there has been no formal request by a competent authority for the repatriation and no attempt at diplomatic negotiation. Director/Chief Executive. (4) My great surprise was to see that Professor Picton also subscribes to the idea propagated by many supporters of the detention of the cultural artefacts of others that the original owners have not asked for their return even though all the records show that there have been constant reclamations for these objects. Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) which was established to perpetuate the gains of FESTAC’77 wrote in 2007 to Neil MacGregor. Tunde Babawale.
first Director-General of Nigeria’s Commission on Museums and Monuments. (9) e) Numerous Nigerian governments and Parliament have expressed the wish to have the looted objects returned. asking on behalf of Nigeria and Africa. (12) 4 . Eyo. for the return of the Queen-Idia hip mask in the British Museum.Museum. (10) Members of the British Punitive Expedition of 1897 against Benin with looted Benin ivories and bronze objects f) Prof. known as Appendix 21 and the discussion thereon are published in the Parliamentary reports of the British Parliament. (11) g) The Oba of Benin mandated his brother to submit a petition to the British Parliament in 2000. None of the States thus contacted through their embassies even bothered to reply and consequently sent no artefacts. These requests were reported by several British media such as the BBC NEWS of 27 March 2002. as usually happens when Africans are insulted. The Nigerians were persuaded to withdraw the resolution and instead sent letters to all the embassies in Lagos. MacGregor responded to the Nigerian professor by a letter which did not even refer to the request and left the demand unaddressed. Besides Western commentators. I am yet to see an explanation or apology for this singularly discourteous behaviour towards Nigeria and Africa. London. do not seem to have noticed this behaviour. has written about the efforts made to obtain the return of a few Benin artefacts at the time of opening the Museum in Benin City and mentions in that context that discussions were held in UNESCO on a resolution to that effect. The petition. Photos of the Benin bronzes had to be used at the opening of the museum in Benin City.
there have been recently many restitutions to Egypt. Director. Why must Benin restitution involve litigation? 5 . Up to today. If a demand to the British Museum and to Parliament is not enough. Chairman. litigation is not the best solution. Italy and Peru without resort to litigation. (13) i) After the Benin exhibition in Chicago a letter was sent on behalf of the Oba to the Directors of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum in Chicago requesting the return of some of the Benin bronzes. A European government going all the way from Europe to Africa to cause wanton destruction and steal/loot the artefacts of the Africans is clearly a matter beyond the courts for true justice. is to ignore the particular nature of the case and the particular circumstances leading to the loss of the artefacts. As Picton knows.h) Emmanuel N. One cannot go on forever repeating that there has been no formal demand for the return of the Benin bronzes primarily because such a formal demand is not required by any law and secondly. Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum for the return of the Benin bronzes. also wrote to Julian Spalding. this argument is a ploy to wave off all possible demands. West African Museums Programme. the venerable museum directors have not even bothered to acknowledge receipt of the request. there may be situations where it would be necessary to institute legal proceedings but for the solution of the general question of restitution. the Nigerian authorities reported being in contact with the British authorities to find a solution to the issue of restitution of the looted Benin artefacts. Moreover. Insofar as the artefacts are objects of property rights. In other words. what else remains for the holders to do? The pity though is that many intelligent persons do not seem to realize that the argument of there being no formal demand is simply a refusal to come to grips with the issue and a determination to continue the illegitimate detention of the cultural artefacts of others. This is not a kind of situation envisaged for the normal legal system. Ethiopia. they are very careful not to say exactly how this formal demand should look like. (15) In view of the above. (14) j) During the recent protests by Nigerians and other Africans against the attempted auction of a Queen-Idia hip mask. it becomes difficult to understand the assertion made that there has not been any formal demand by a competent authority for the restitution. Arinze. (16) I do not know how familiar Picton is with litigation but to suggest somehow that the absence of litigation with regard to the Benin artefacts is surprising. None of those denying that there have been formal demands has said that they are only waiting for such a demand in order to return the looted objects. there have been more than enough formal demands. including letters to the holders of the artefacts and to the British parliament.
He seems to forget that only one entity was responsible for the looting of the Benin artefacts: Government of Great Britain that sent armed forces to attack Benin and later sold the artefacts to others. All who have argued for restitution of the Benin bronzes. We think that the objects to be returned to Benin should not be on loan but a straightforward return to the original owners. the loan of material from reserve collections for display in Benin City. which suggests that some kind of compromise ought to be possible. for example—might collaborate so that Nigerians get to see this material in Nigeria”. the auctioneers always mentioned this fact to potential buyers who were invited 5 months or so after the invasion to purchase. Many have been thinking along these lines even though they have avoided the word “compromise” since it has unacceptable connotations. such as the Germans. we would rather suggest that there should be recognition by the governments and museums of Europe and America that their privileges of possession are tainted with illegitimacy ab initio. I was happy to read the following from John Picton: “The moral argument in favour of Benin City remains nevertheless. Those who bought the artefacts from the British. It is encouraging that Picton has adopted the idea of a compromise. The real question is what kind of solution or compromise? Picton has made some suggestions which differ from our own. travelling exhibitions in which some of the great museums—the British Museum. that the king of Benin might have a case. whether of a temporary or permanent basis. He refers to “the recognition by the museums of Europe and America that they do not have unproblematic ownership rights to this material. Here are some suggestions: the recognition by the museums of Europe and America that they do not have unproblematic ownership rights to this material—some recognition. not least because the looting of its art is not in dispute. What kind of objects ought to be transferred to Benin? Picton is thinking of “the loan of material from reserve collections for display in Benin City”. Either we agree on the historical 6 .” In view of the undisputed historical facts and the violence involved in the looting. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. including the present writer. Austrians and Americans could of course be considered as accessories for they all knew that the artefacts were stolen objects recently looted from Benin.Picton throws in the idea that the Benin bronzes are in so many museums in America and Europe and that this creates a complex situation for litigation. indeed. Indeed. “the looting of the art is not in dispute”. The Museum of Ethnography at Berlin’s Dahlem complex. have suggested that a solution ought to be possible given that the basic facts of the case are not disputed by anyone or as Picton puts it.
We still do not have exact figures of the Benin bronzes the British Museum has in its possession nor do we know what is in its reserve. will be immensely useful for a just distribution of the objects. The Committee should also work out a formula for division of the objects.facts of the situation or we do not. permanent or temporary but the restoration of its rights. UNESCO and ICOM. hardly anybody knows exactly how many of the Benin bronzes are in the possession of the British Museum. Thus if the museum is now holding 150 objects. Picton stated:”The location of almost all works of art from Benin City is published public knowledge. Peju Layiwola. A few weeks ago. (a descendant of the legendary Oba Ovonramwen from whose palace the Benin bronzes were looted) who had suggested that we need exact figures about the Benin artefacts that were looted. Thus his suggestion to give to Benin objects from reserve collection would ensure that the best pieces remain with Western museums. Our own formula would be two thirds for Benin and a third of the total for the British Museum. Surely. Besides. especially the British Museum. Picton criticised Prof. First of all. accurate figures. Picton knows that the most coveted Benin pieces such as the QueenIdia hip mask are on display and not among the reserve collection. 100 would go to Benin and 50 would remain in London. The argument in favour of repatriation is not helped by rhetorical questions and inaccurate data”. after those they have sold or exchanged with others. the museums. Picton should not state that the facts are not in dispute and turn round and write as if Benin were a beggar. Benin is not seeking a loan. Whatever formula is adopted must reflect the historical facts. for a proper compromise.C. a Committee should be set up including 2 representatives from Britain and 2 representatives from Benin. (17) Once we have full and exact figures of the Benin bronzes. With all respect to the emeritus professor. should stop playing cat and mouse games and tell us how many of the Benin bronzes they have had at the beginning and how many remain. a representative from United Nations. A compromise that should bind future generation must be based on full disclosure of the facts. This is suggested on the basis of the historical facts that are not in dispute. can a book published thirty years ago on such matters as the locations of the Benin artefacts be still up to date? What about sales and exchanges of the objects by the museums? Clearly. when writing about the abortive auction of the Queen MotherIdia mask. Dark's An Illustrated Catalogue of Benin Art (1982) published almost thirty years ago is out of print and not easily available to those working in non-Western countries. 7 . even though not absolutely necessary for commencing the restitution process if there is goodwill. Furthermore Picton writes that the objects should come “from reserve collections“of the museums. Philip J. We do not accept this. This Committee should do the selection of objects that should go to Benin and those that should remain in the British Museum. science gains from accurate information.
unfortunately. “The problem here. And please. Museum Security Network and other internet sites report daily and often hourly. But suppose that a secure display facility were to be built in Benin City that conformed to modern international standards of conservation and climatic control: the moral case would then be very hard to ignore. and must. New Acropolis Museum at Athens only to hear the British Museum Director declare that the question of the location of the Marbles is no longer relevant. according to MacGregor. improve the conditions of its museums. Netherlands and Germany. 8 . let us not talk about climate control with respect to Benin objects. The Greeks built a super modern museum. For several decades. including the so-called developed countries of the West. There are other reports showing that American museums are not secured against fire and water damages. the British Museum which is detaining the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles had argued that there were no adequate facilities in Athens to house the Marbles. we should bear the following in mind: a) We are all in favour of secure museums and nobody contests the fact that Nigeria could. of course. What mattered now. of numerous art thefts in Britain. was how the British and Greeks could show the Marbles to the Chinese and Africans: “The real question is about how the Greek and British governments can work together so that the sculptures can be seen in China and Africa”. (18) With regard to this repeated argument about lack of secure facilities in Nigeria and elsewhere.Picton. a practice which occurs everywhere in the world. c) Those Nigerian artefacts that have not been looted by the British or stolen by those encouraged by the Western market. to my surprise again resorts to the worn out argument about the absence of secure facilities for the artefacts that are to be returned to Nigeria. b) Stealing from museums is. are well cared for as demonstrated in the recent Ife exhibition.” This is a mendacious argument in the arsenal of the retentionists of other people’s cultural artefacts and Picton should know that this is no argument against returning artefacts to their countries of origin. is that adequate facilities of international standard do not exist in Nigeria. France. They had been in our West African climate for ages before they were stolen by the British and now people wonder whether there is a right climate in Benin.
The persistent debate on restitution continues basically because of greed and the desire to control others. h) The questions of ownership must be strictly separated from any other question such as that of security which may be related but cannot be used to negate ownership rights.The issue of facilities is brought up as a supplementary argument to support the determination not to return the artefacts.d) All stolen/looted African and other artefacts end up in Western museums or private collections in the West. Paris. These are museums that never have enough of artefacts. Greed appears to be the driving motor of the so-called “universal museum” such as the British Museum. i) We have not heard a single Western State or museum declare that they are willing to return Benin objects if Nigeria/Benin had adequate facilities. Musée du Quai Branly. they still want more artefacts. Paris. The British Museum is reported by the BBC to have some 8 millions of artefacts. if not a duty. to purchase artefacts irrespective of their provenance. They do not want to return any of the looted artefacts. some in 9 . Vienna. London. Louvre. Ethnology Museum. e) The argument on security and facilities could be used to keep forever the looted artefacts of others. Is there a link here? Added to this is the preaching of false prophets who argue that the West has a right. Despite the fact that they are constantly complaining about lack of space and resources and have no possibility to display most of the objects in their depots. not on the basis of the facilities they have but simply by virtue of their rights of ownership which even the opponents of restitution do not deny. and Ethnology Museum. Berlin. j) No system of justice could function correctly by allowing wrongdoers to negate its fundamental principles and rights by virtue of their wrongdoing. Since when is it acceptable that those who have looted artefacts of others can set themselves up as judges and decide that the original owners are not worthy of the objects because they do not have adequate and secure facilities? f) Does the absence of security and adequate facilities mean then that Nigerians and others are not to continue their cultural development and practices since whatever they have created or create could be detained in the West with the security and facilities argument? g) When the people of Benin and elsewhere request the return of their looted artefacts. they do so.
other actions may be expected in future. without Western supervision can determine the use and future of their artefacts. Some even go so far as to ask for guaranties that looted artefacts returned will not find their way back on the open market which is managed by the West. including cultural artefacts. the Africans. even if they appear to be friends of Africa. We have seen in the recent case that the Nigerian government also lent its support and has promised to set up a body whose sole function would be to ensure the return of the looted/stolen objects. could change a lot of traditions with regard to dealing in looted African art objects. of Nigerian masterpieces is in Western museum. Prof. especially if supported by their governments. that not a single person asks the question. We should however recognize that this is a loss only to Western scholars who have access to museums and private collections where the bronzes are being held. It is clear that concerted actions by Africans. Westerners are so used to considering themselves entitled to participate in deciding the disposition of African resources. at the cost of insulting Nigeria and all other African States. They need to be in London or some other Western city to view the products of their forefathers and this assumes they have the financial means to pay their travel costs and other expenses. the Queen-Idia hip mask. Building on this experience. (19) Coupled with greed is the arrogance of the Western States and their museums acting in the belief that they have a right and duty to control the artefacts of others.depots spread across London but the venerable museum is not willing to return one artefact. Picton ends his article by saying that the recent withdrawal of a Queen-Mother Idia from auction because of protests has resulted in the loss of the mask to public view and concludes. if not more. Nigerian and African scholars have had no access to our stolen artefacts. What is regarded by the emeritus professor as loss needs not be accepted by all. Picton is fully aware of this and I assume he is also aware that about one fifth. to accept that Africans alone. (20) What is viewed as a loss could also be viewed as a gain in so far as we have seen for the first time that a group of Africans have been able to stop the auction of a looted artefact. assuming they receive a visa to visit a Western city. This belief which is an expression of cultural superiority and a manifestation of cultural imperialism makes it very difficult for Westerners. “This is surely an outcome to no-one’s advantage”. what is on public show amounts to just 1% of the institution's eight million artefacts. the government would also contact the British Authorities about the issue. especially. This feeling takes the form of worrying about what will happen to looted artefacts when returned to Nigeria. 10 . what right do we have to concern ourselves with what Africans will do with their artefacts and where they will house them. According to the BBC.
Germany. Berlin.One would expect Western scholars and intellectuals to support those who seek the return of their stolen/looted art objects. They should not be seen as supporting the oppressors or their successors in maintaining an obviously inequitable system that attributes to the West the best icons of African art. Arguments of retentionists sound hollow in the context of colonial oppression and robbery and contemporary scholars must abandon all colonialist ideas and assumptions if they are to make a useful contribution to the question of restitution. 2011. Kwame Opoku. This piece is not in the reserve collection of the museum. Nigeria.theartnewspaper. NOTES 1.com 11 . They should use their knowledge and influence to assist those who have been deprived of their cultural and human rights with violence and disdain. Alter group honouring Oba Akenzua I. Benin. http://www. 6 February. now in the Ethnology Museum.
und Kultur. British Museum Press.FATED EXPEDITION. The stated purpose of the visit was "to try and persuade the king to let white men come up to the City When ever they wanted to" (Boisrangon p.uk/. Soon after his arrival. pp. the Oba requested that the visit be delayed for two months. to enable him to get through the IGUE ritual during which time his 12 . “An unarmed diplomatic mission went to urge the oba to comply and was attacked by chiefs acting without royal authority”. Is a diplomatic mission supposed to be armed? There is no mention that the Oba had told this “diplomatic mission” that he could not receive them at the time proposed for the visit and that they should postpone the visit. p. “The event that was to lead to the overthrow of the Oba began when an acting consul . The visit was planned for early January 1897. He was a young naval Officer. in “The whole world in our hands “makes this statement in dealing with the British invasion of Benin: “A British delegation. Ekpo Eyo describes the Pre-emptive Strike Force and its back ground as follows: CONSUL PHILLIP ILL . 2010. It is interesting to see how some writers describe the Benin Pre-emptive Strike Force. 3. The Art of Benin. 41-65. http://arts. Prestel Verlag. 1995. It is remarkable that the writer mentions that they were unarmed. Frank Willett. Neil MacGregor. p. called Captain Phillips. In reply. Phillips followed up his advice to the Benin River chiefs with a letter dated November 1846 to Oba Overanwen proposing a visit to Benin city.General was appointed for the area in 1896. in Hans-Joachim Koloß (ed) Afrika:Kunst. though not on the orders of the Oba himself. British Museum Press. The king was "to allow whitemen to come up to the City whenever they wanted to". With this appointment events moved rather quickly. In retaliation. Nigel Barley writes in. the British mounted a punitive expedition against Benin.guardian.2. 58:”The British viewed Benin as the main obstacle to their expansion into the agricultural interior and when in 1897. 1999. consul Phillips began to advise the "Benin River Chiefs" not to comply with Oba Overanwen’s demand for additional tribute to the Oba of Benin for partially opening up the hinterland markets. 58) Such a letter could have done nothing less than increase the fear of the Bini. Here the military force of some 250 is reduced to an envoy. was killed. The Art of Benin. “Benin”. travelling to Benin at a sacred season of the year when such visits were forbidden. an envoy to Oba Ovonramwen was ambushed and killed. 15. Is this how diplomacy is conducted by entering the territory of a monarch who says he cannot receive the mission? Paula Girshick Ben-Amos writes in. the British sent out a Punitive Expedition against the kingdom”.co.
p. http://news. Igue ritual is the highest ritual among the Edo and is performed not only for the wellbeing of the king but of his entire subjects and the land.net See also. Richard Gott. Letter of the late Bernie Grant. 1897 and when it arrived at UGHOTON. Defiantly.co. the expedition set out as it proposed in January. January 4.Opoku. But Phillips showed no sympathy.”Reflections on the Abortive Queen-Mother Idia Mask Auction”. “Is the Absence of a Formal demand for Restitution a Ground for Non-Restitution? http://www. K.modernghana. http://www.bbc. And. The story of this ill-fated Expedition is set out in Boisragon’s book: The Benin Massacr” http://www.blogspot. Again Phillips regretted that he could not wait because he has so much work to do and that he would start early the next morning.84).Opoku. on the next morning.co.co.org 10.uk 4. He replied the king that he was in a hurry and could not wait because he has so much work to do elsewhere in the Protectorate. three royal Emmissaries met it with a request that it should tarry for two days so that they could "send up and let the King know in time for him to make his preparation for receiving us" (Boisrangon. The only white survivors were Boisragon and Locke.elginism. The Looting of Benin. By the afternoon of that day.arm.bbc. K. Nigeria demands treasures back http://news.museum-security.com 5.com” 7. http://www.com 9.uk BBC NEWS 24 January 2002.com 6. he set out for Benin City. What exactly does "sub-Sahara Africa" mean? http://re-thinkingafrica. K. http://www.uk 13 . Conclusions of Athens Conference on Restitution http://icom.museum 8.dawodu.modernghana.arc. Member of the British Parliament to Director of Glasgow Museum and the Reply thereto.body is scared and not allowed to come in contact with foreign elements. 1897 the inevitable happened: Seven out of nine white members of the Expedition includingPhillips himself were ambused and killed. Hebert Ekwe-Ekwe. “Formal Demand for the Return of Benin Bronzes: Will Western Museums now Return some of the Looted/Stolen Benin artefacts?” http://www. Opoku.
elginism. Return and Restitution of cultural Property. K. no 1.com. “In demand: the African art pillaged by Britain” http://www. K. UK.pdf 12. pp.guardian. at p.com 14. Opoku .co. Opoku.18-21.co. XXL. “Formal Demand for the Return of Benin Bronzes: Will Western Museums now Return some of the Looted/Stolen Benin artefacts?” http://www. BBC NEWS The 99% of the British Museum not on show http://news. Nigeria Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow Director-General of UNESCO.museum-security. See Annex below.indeppendent.uk The Independent.modernghana.publications. “Excellence and Erudition: Ekpo Eyo’s Masterpieces of Nigerian Art” http://www.edu 18.bbc. “British Museum sold precious bronzes Revelation adds pressure to return disputed treasures” http://www. “The Amazing Director of the British Museum: Gratuitous Insults as Currency of Cultural Diplomacy?” http://www.Guardian.uk/news 11.UK.modernghana.msu.parliament.uk 20. http://h-net. K.unesco.come 19. “Nefertiti in Absurdity: How often must Egyptians ask Germans for the Return of the Egyptian Queen?” www. K. http://tribune.org/culture/laws/pdf/PealforReturn_DG_1978.uk 13. Opoku. http://www.ng 16. Opoku.org ANNEX The Case of Benin 14 . Museum. Nigerian Tribune.co. 1979.org 17. APPENDIX 21 http://www. Vol. “Plea for the Return of an Irreplaceable Cultural Heritage to those who Created It” http://www.com 15.museum-security.21.
in all its implications. Captain H L Gallway. n’Oba n’Edo. requesting approval for his proposal to invade Benin and depose its King. some 3. HISTORY “On 26 March 1892 the Deputy Commissioner and Vice-Consul. on 21 February precisely. of Captain Philip. Four years later in 1896 the British Acting Consul in the Niger-Delta. 15 . for subsequently holding the Oba accountable for his future actions. the soldiers gathered all the bronzes. ivory-works. Oba (King) Erediauwa of Benin. the action which led to the removal of the cultural property. to take over Benin and its natural and cultural wealth for the British. Pitching their tent on the Palace grounds. A. in whose reign the cultural property was removed in 1897. Igbafe of the Department of History. I am also the Chairman of the Benin Centenary Committee established in 1996 to commemorate 100 years of Britain’s invasion of Benin. marked the beginning of the end of the independence of Benin not only on account of its theoretical claims. Lord Salisbury. brother of His Majesty. After a fierce battle. Thus. Benin District of the Oil River Protectorate. The bulk of it was taken from the burnt down Palace. at least. they captured the city.000 pieces of cultural artwork were taken away from Benin.” The text quoted above was taken from the paper presented at the Benin Centenary Lectures by Professor P. great grandson of His Majesty Omo n’Oba n’Edo. Oba Ovonramwen. Captain James R Philip wrote a letter to the British Foreign Secretary. carved tusks and oak chests that escaped the fire. which bordered on the fictitious.Memorandum submitted by Prince Edun Akenzua to the British Parliament I am Edun Akenzua Enogie (Duke) of Obazuwa-Iko. manoeuvred Obal Ovonramwen and his chiefs into agreeing to terms of a treaty with the British Government.” These two extracts sum up succinctly the intention of the British. University of Benin on 17 February 1997. on February 18. but also in providing the British with the pretext. British troops invaded Benin on 10 February1897. or. That treaty. As a post-script to the letter. Omo. Captain Philip wrote: “I would add that I have reason to hope that sufficient ivory would be found in the King’s house to pay the expenses incurred in removing the King from his stool. Three days later. they torched the city and burnt down practically every house. if not the legal basis.
At the time Europeans were keeping their records in long-hand and in hieroglyphics. were ornamental to adorn altars and places of worship. especially in London.NUMBER OF ITEMS REMOVED It is not possible for us to say exactly how many items were removed. Taking away those items is taking away our records. They are now scattered in museums and galleries all over the world. It is from their accounts and those of some European and American sources that we have come to know that the British carried away more than 3. (iii) As an alternative. based on the current market value. But Benin did not produce their works only for aesthetics or for galleries and museums. the British should pay monetary compensation. the following reliefs are sought on behalf of the Oba and people of Benin who have been impoverished. We are informed that the soldiers who looted the palace did the cataloguing. 16 . carved on ivory or wood. (i) The official record of the property removed from the Palace of Benin in 1897 be made available to the owner. A good number of them are in private hands. Scotland.000 pieces of Benin cultural property. the Oba of Benin. the Oba of Benin. To illustrate this. The Obas commissioned them when an important event took place which they wished to record. or our Soul. Fortunately a bronze-cast of a past Oba wearing the same regalia had escaped the eyes of the soldiers and so it is still with us. Reference was made to it and the matter was resolved. artifacts of African origin. They were not catalogued at inception. materially and psychologically. RELIEF SOUGHT``````````````````` In view of the fore-going. to the rightful owner. Europe and the United States. There was an argument as to where to place an item of the coronation paraphernalia. by the wanton looting of their historically and cultural property. WHAT THE WORKS MEAN TO THE PEOPLE OF BENIN The works have been referred to as primitive art. the Oba of Benin. (ii) All the cultural property belonging to the Oba of Benin illegally taken away by the British in 1897 should be returned to the rightful owner. to (ii) above. Some of them of course. the people of Benin cast theirs in bronze. But many of them were actually reference points. one may cite an event which took place during the coronation of Oba Erediauwa in 1979. the library or the archive. or simply.
uk) Many works were acquired when Britain was an imperial power The Nigerian parliament has called for the return of Nigerian works of art in the British Museum. including the so-called Benin Bronzes. should take full responsibility for retrieving the cultural property or the monetary compensation from all those to whom the British sold them.co.publications. Time magazine reported Omotoso Eluyemi. who helped collectors smuggle them out of the country. March 2000 http://www. was passed unanimously.uk ANNEX II Nigeria demands treasures back (Thursday.parliament.(iv) Britain. 24 January. 08:08 GMT http://news.and list their value. being the principal looters of the Benin Palace. The motion. The country's lower house of parliament has called on its president. It also ordered the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments to provide a list of all Nigerian artefacts at the British Museum . sponsored by 57 legislators. to request the repatriation of the artifacts.bbc. Unanimous Wednesday's motion urged the government to safeguard Nigerian museums from being "burgled" by hired agents. British forces seized a remarkable collection of sculptures from the city of Benin. now a highlight of the British Museum's collection in London. as saying: "These objects of art are the relics of our history . 2002. Other Nigerian artefacts have found their way to European museums through the connivance of corrupt officials.why must we lose them to Europe?" 17 . head of Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Olusegun Obasanjo. taken away during British colonial rule in the 19th Century.
British Museum director Robert Anderson refused renewed calls for the "Elgin marbles" from the Parthenon to be returned to Greece. half the things there are from Africa. Commemorative head of an Oba. Benin."If you go to the British Museum. It should be called the Museum of Africa. Mr Anderson called the Parthenon sculptures "one of the greatest treasures of the British Museum". now in Ethnology Museum." Recently. Writing in The Times. Austria. This head is not in the reserve collection of the museum 18 . Vienna. Nigeria.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.