The Horniman museum in London has officially commenced the process of returning 72 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. The formal transfer ceremony took place on Monday evening in front Nigerian royalty and dignitaries.
Nick Merriman, director of the Horniman Museum revealed that after much research, it was confirmed that the bronzes were stolen from Benin City in 1897. He told BBC that “there was no doubt they’d been looted – so there was a moral argument for their return.”
He continued, “I think we’re seeing a tipping point around not just restitution and repatriation, but museums acknowledging their colonial history – and that’s better history, I think.” “It would lead to fuller account of how collections have arrived in British museums”, he said.
Prof. Abba Tijani, the director-general of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), said there were 5,000 Benin artifacts presently “scattered” around the world, with London’s British Museum having 900 items from Benin.
BBC report says Prof Tijani said “I think the British Museum is watching, I believe they are now taking it deeply to see that they do something, because every museum across the world is saying it is not right for them to hang on to these objects.”
He said “seeing some of the objects in the British Museum would give him high blood pressure. He appealed to the museums to really consider returning artifacts, with the option to have them displayed on loan.
The report says Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) has issued formal repatriation requests to museum across the world. The commission approached the Horniman in January and after consultation, with endorsements of the charity commission, the Horniman’s trustee decided it was appropriate to return the Benin bronzes.
Six of the bronzes were handed over at the transfer ceremony while the remaining will stay in Britain on loan, following agreement between the federal government and the Horniman Museum.
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