Benin Royal Museum Is Rightful Place For Return Of Stolen Artefacts – Oba of Benin

The Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II speaks during a press conference at his palace in Benin City on July 9, 2021.

 

The Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty Ewuare II, has said repatriated Benin Bronzes should be returned to the Benin Royal Museum to be cited within the precincts of his palace.

At a press briefing in his palace on Friday, the Oba called on the Federal Government to take custody of the artefacts when repatriated until the royal museum is ready.

The Oba’s intervention and comments follow the controversy over where the artefacts, looted by British soldiers during the invasion of the Benin Kingdom, ought to be kept when returned.

 

According to him, individuals or institutions dealing with the private company, Legacy Restoration Trust, regarding the return of the looted artefacts does so at their own risk and against the will of the Benin people.

READ ALSO: Germany To Return 1,130 Looted Nigerian Artefacts In 2022

He advised Governor Godwin Obaseki to review the use of a private company to pursue the return of the artefacts, adding that the items should be returned where they were taken from.

 

On May 18, Germany, through its Director-General of Culture and Communication, Dr Andreas Gorgen, said his country was on a restitution mission to Nigeria to return all artefacts taken from the Benin Empire.

The announcement had led to questions over where the stolen artefacts – bronze, wooden, brass, metal and ivory tusks; collectively known as the Benin bronzes – would be returned to.

FG, Obaseki Firm Up Agreement

Meanwhile, the Federal Government, Edo State Government and the Benin royal family have concluded a meeting in Germany towards the return of stolen artefacts to Edo State.

The meeting in Berlin was attended by the German Minister of State for Culture, Prof. Monika Grutters, and Foreign Minister, Mr. Heiko Maas, while the Nigerian delegation includes the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.

 

The Benin Royal Palace was represented by the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, Prince Ezelekhae Ewuare.

At the meeting, Lai Mohammed insisted on a full and unconditional return of the 1,130 Benin artefacts domiciled in German museums, adding that the return should be whole rather than substantial. He said this in the wake of remarks by Grutters that the European nation was ready to make a ‘substantial return’ of the 1,130 looted artefacts.

Mohammed said the issue of provenance, which has to do with the place of origin of the artefacts, should not be allowed to unduly delay the repatriation of the art works, noting, “That they are known as Benin Bronzes, which is already a confirmation of their source of origin (which is Benin).”

At a separate meeting with Maas, Mohammed also reiterated that no condition should be attached to the return of the artefacts.

He stressed the need for the parties to commit to definite timelines for the return of the Benin Bronzes in addition to concluding all necessary negotiations in a very short term.

He added that the discussions between Nigeria and Germany on the return of the artworks was not the end of an era, but rather the beginning of a new vista of stronger relations, pivoted by cultural diplomacy between both countries.

The Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II speaks during a press conference at his palace in Benin City on July 9, 2021.

 

The Minister thanked Germany for taking the lead in the global efforts to repatriate all artefacts that were looted from Nigeria and the African continent, adding “We see Germany as a leader in the efforts to take practical steps to repatriate our stolen artefacts, and we hope Germany will sustain that lead.”

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who was also on the Nigerian delegation, said a “transformational” museum is to be built in Benin City, to house the artefacts upon their return, as part of a new cultural district in the city.

The governor said he was attending the talks to demonstrate the strong partnership involving the Federal Government of Nigeria, the (Benin) Royal family and the people of Edo State.

Earlier, the German Minister of State for Culture, Prof. Grutters, said “the way we deal with the issue of Benin Bronzes is important to addressing our colonial past,” describing the issues as “an important personal concern.”

She assured the 1,130 artefacts would be returned to Nigeria from the beginning of 2022, noting that Germany had twice sent delegations to Nigeria for talks over the planned repatriation. She said such a move indicated that both sides had moved beyond mere talks, saying all the Museums in Germany stockpiling Benin Bronzes have agreed to cooperate.

Other people on the Nigerian delegation were the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Mr. Yusuf Tuggar and Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monument (NCMM), Prof. Abba Tijani.

They were later taken on a guided tour of the Humboldt-Forum, a royal palace turned museum in the heart of Berlin that houses artworks from around the world.

See more photos from the press conference below:

Egypt Says Retrieves 5,000 Artefacts From US

Egypt announced that it had retrieved some 5,000 ancient items from the US, after years of negotiations to return what it said were fraudulently acquired items. The items, totalling nearly 5,000, mainly consisted of manuscripts, but also included funeral masks, parts of coffins and the heads of stone statues, said an official statement. (Photo by – / Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities / AFP) 

 

Egypt announced Wednesday that it had retrieved some 5,000 ancient items from the United States, after years of negotiations to return what it said were fraudulently acquired items.

In a statement, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities confirmed the “arrival at Cairo airport of a large number of ancient Egyptian items which had been in the possession of the Museum of the Bible in Washington”.

The items, totalling nearly 5,000, mainly consisted of manuscripts, but also included funeral masks, parts of coffins and the heads of stone statues, said Chaabane Abdeljawad, an official quoted in the statement.

The items, which left Egypt in a fraudulent manner, would be placed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, the statement added.

It was not clear how the items left Egypt illegally or ended up at the museum in Washington, but Egyptian authorities negotiated their return over several years.

Many treasured items were damaged, destroyed or illegally whisked out of the country during the popular uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

 

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on January 27, 2021 shows a collage of Demotic text snippets and scrolls that were returned to Egypt as part of a collection of artifacts formerly under the possession of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC.  (Photo by – / Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities / AFP) 

France MPs Back Return Of Looted African Treasures

 

French lawmakers on Thursday approved the return of prized artefacts looted during colonial times to Benin and Senegal, completing the legislative process needed to give back the objects.

The trove includes a royal throne taken during a war in Benin and a sword once wielded by a 19th century sheikh in what is now Senegal.

Former colonial powers across Europe are facing intensifying demands to return stolen objects, with Britain often in the eye of the storm for the plundered artefacts that stuff its museum shelves.

Critics also rounded on Germany on Wednesday as it opened a refurbished museum in Berlin awash with items from Africa and Asia.

French President Emmanuel Macron is among several European leaders to have pledged to restore ownership of looted treasures — the country’s museums are home to tens of thousands of objects, mostly from Africa.

Thursday’s agreement flowed from Macron’s desire to “renew and deepen the partnership between France and the African continent”, said Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot.

Benin will receive 26 pieces of the Treasure of Behanzin that was looted in 1892, including the throne of King Glele — a centrepiece of some 70,000 African objects held at the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris.

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Senegal will recover full ownership of a sword and scabbard that possibly belonged to 19th century military and religious figure Omar Saidou Tall.

The National Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour, endorsing the move on behalf of parliament after the Senate refused to agree.

Following an earlier parliamentary vote in October, Benin’s museums chief Alain Godonou said he expected the 26 items to be back in his country “within a year”.

An expert report commissioned by Macron in 2018 counted some 90,000 African works in French museums, most of them at the Quai Branly.

AFP

5,000-Year-Old Great Pyramid Artefact Found In Scotland

A handout picture released by the University of Aberdeen on December 16, 2020. (Photo by UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN / AFP)

 

One of only three artefacts ever recovered from inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid has been found in a misplaced cigar tin in a Scottish university collection, academics revealed on Wednesday.

The fragment of cedar wood, which has been found to date back 5,000 years to the building of the pyramid at Giza, was first discovered in the late 19th century but had been missing for more than 70 years.

A record discovered in 2001 appeared to show the fragment — found alongside a ball and a bronze hook thought to be used for construction — had been donated to the University of Aberdeen.

But the trail ran cold and the ancient artefact disappeared almost without a trace until the end of last year when an assistant curator at the university, Abeer Eladany, originally from Egypt, made a chance discovery in its Asia collection.

Knowing that a small cigar tin she found there bearing an old Egyptian flag did not belong with the other pieces, she cross-referenced it with other records.

“It has been like finding a needle in a haystack,” Eladany said after discovering the fragment of wood among hundreds of thousands of items.

“I’m an archaeologist and have worked on digs in Egypt but I never imagined it would be here in northeast Scotland that I’d find something so important to the heritage of my own country.”

The fragment — initially measuring five inches or around 13 centimetres but now in several pieces — was first discovered in the Great Pyramid’s Queen’s Chamber in 1872 by engineer Waynman Dixon.

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It made its way to the Scottish city because of a link between Dixon and a medical doctor named James Grant who studied in Aberdeen and went to Egypt to treat cholera in the mid-1860s.

More evidence that the lost piece of wood, as well as the other items known as the “Dixon relics”, could have been used in the construction of the Great Pyramid has come to light following modern tests on the artefact.

Carbon dating results, delayed by coronavirus restrictions, placed the wood at somewhere between 3341 and 3094 BC, long before the construction of the pyramid.

This supports the theory the items were left behind by builders rather than by later explorers.

Neil Curtis, head of museums and special collections at the University of Aberdeen, called results from the carbon dating a “revelation”.

“This discovery will certainly reignite interest in the Dixon relics and how they can shed light on the Great Pyramid,” he added.

FG Asks European Nations to Return Stolen Artefacts

The Federal Government has called on European nations in possession of over 3000 artworks believed to have been stolen by British expedition’s personnel during the Benin invasion to return them particularly as the nation prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary.

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Edem Duke, made the call at a meeting of Nigerian officials and European museum representatives over the Benin bronzes in European museums.

Countries like Germany, Denmark, Italy, and the United States of America had at various times returned artefacts to their original owners and expressed optimism that Britain would also do same to Nigeria.

FG Calls On Europe To Return Benin’s Stolen Artefacts

In preparation for the country’s centennial anniversary celebration, the Federal Government has embarked on a search for some of the nation’s lost treasures.

The Federal Government has called on European Nations in possession of over 3000 artworks believed to have been stolen by British expedition personnel during the Benin invasion to return them particularly as the nation prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary.

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Mr. Edem Duke, made the call on Tuesday at a meeting of Nigerian officials and European Museum Representatives over the Benin Bronzes in European museums.

Duke said countries like Germany, Denmark, Italy, and the United States of America had at various times returned artefacts to their original owners and expressed optimism that Britain would also do same to Nigeria.