The Benin Bronzes: Getting them back home after a Century

Benin Bronze heads at Berlin's Ethnologisches Museum. Photo by Lolade Adewuyi

In 1897, the Kingdom of Benin in today’s Southern Nigeria was attacked by a British punitive expedition that left it in ruins and ended the glorious reign of its king, Ovonramwen.

The sacking of the kingdom led to the plundering of its traditional ritual items that were sent to Europe. Many collectors jumped on the items and they became popular museum pieces in Britain, Germany, the United States and many other countries.

However, the German government, which holds the second-largest collection of these artefacts, has now made plans to return them to Nigeria, its original owners.

In June, a Nigerian government delegation visited Berlin to hold discussions with the German Minister of Culture and other officials on the repatriation of over 130 items.

I was opportune to be in the room at some of those discussions and reported for The African Courier. Below I share a video interview I held with one of the members of the Nigerian delegation, Mr Babatunde Adebiyi, the Legal Adviser of the Nigeria Commission for Museums and Monuments.

He talks about the legal ramifications of the return as well as some of the issues facing the museum and how they are working to ensure that Nigerian artefacts are no longer lost to the West and religious conversions.

It is a very interesting interview.

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