A Briton has returned artefacts taken from the Benin Kingdom, the capital city of Edo State in Nigeria’s south-south.
The custodian of the looted Benin Artefact, Dr Adrain Mark-Walker, told Channels Television that the artefacts returned on Friday, were taken by his grand-father, Captain Walker who was a young captain when he came to Benin, as part of the 1897 “so called punitive expedition”.
“The punitive expedition, as most people know, destroyed Benin that year and they found in the city, very many bronzes and ivory artefacts and most of them were taken by the admiralty to defray the cost of the expedition and so, that is how they have found their way to the museums all over the world. Some were allowed to be kept by the officers and I remember seeing some objects in my grand-mother’s house and I was told they were from Benin,” he said.
He said that his ground father had kept a diary describing every day of the actions from the day he left Liverpool to the day he returned.
“I was expecting to find evidence of casual racism that was wide spread in England at that time. But I was very proud to find that my grand-father appeared to be ahead of his time.
“He was born and brought up in India and living among a multi-cultural society already. So, he had no difficulty in regarding the enemy in the sense of human being than enemy in the other sense. He recorded that he saved the lives of two people that were non-combats that were about to be killed by the Marine,” he said.
Dr Mark-Walkere said he decided to return the artefact to the where they would be properly looked after, which is Nigeria.
The Enogie of Obazuwa, Benin Kingdom, Prince Edun Akenzua said bringing the artefact back to Benin was a good decision and expressed joy that items used as record materials for the Benin Kingdom were beginning to return.
“I am happy that they are coming back. The two that have come now came from the private owners. We have some in British museum, Germany, America and all over the world. After the 1897 fight, they did not just stumble on those items. They were given out to the British as a payment to depose of the then Oba of Benin.
“After the fight they deliberately looked for those things and took them away. They catalogued them all as loot and took them away. There was a second photograph of another one and they wrote more loot.
“We were quite excited that the descendants of that captain without any prompting decided to bring those things back. Unfortunately what they have in Britain is not as much as what they have elsewhere,” he said.
Prince Aknzua pointed out that the artefacts were created in Benin as the kingdoms own diary to document history, giving an instance of a time that such artefact had assisted in properly dressing the king.
“We could not write then and we used that to document our history. When they were taken away, they British took away some of our history.
“During the present Oba’s coronation in 1979 there was one particular item that escaped the British looters. He has finished dressing and they did not know where to put that particular item they looked at one of the bronze cast and saw where that very item was place in the regalia and fixed it in the right place,” he said.
The Benin Prince further stressed the need for other persons in possession of the other Benin artefacts to return them to the Kingdom as they bear the history of the Benin kingdom.
Dr Walker said that he was on a campaign to get other persons identified to be in possession of some Benin Bronze to repatriate the artefacts, stressing that the enthusiasm expressed by the Benin people over the returned bronze was beyond his expectation.