Numbers may under specific circumstances be very important but I believe the real question now is what are we doing about the known artefacts that are in museums and other places we know about?
What serious and genuine efforts have been made to recover the looted/stolen artefacts?
We may never know the exact number of Nigerian artefacts that are abroad and are decorating foreign public institutions and private residences. Do we really need to know exactly how many bronzes are in the British Museum, especially as the venerable museum refuses to tell us but has been known to sell some of these looted objects? Besides we are not asking that all the Nigerian objects be returned immediately.
This would please some of the mischievous museum directors who pretend that some of us want to empty their museums. Nobody is asking the British Museum, Louvre, Ethnology Museum Berlin, Ethnology Museum, Vienna (now World Museum) to return all the looted, stolen artefacts or objects acquired under doubtful circumstances.
What we have been demanding is that they enter into arrangements with the owners that would permit Nigeria to recover a considerable number of its stolen national treasures We have suggested, for example, that the Ethnology Museum, Berlin, that admittedly holds 507 Benin artefacts (we believe they should be more, at least 580.) should in agreement with Nigerian authorities return some 307 to Nigeria and arrangements be made for returning temporally the rest if Nigeria so requests, But instead of entering into such arrangements, the Germans have denied that Nigerian authorities have ever asked for the return of the objects. And what has been the official Nigerian response to this arrogant assertion by the Germans?
Looted: Queen-Mother Idia, hip mask, Benin, Nigeria, Quartz stool from shrine at Oluorogbo, Ife, Nigeria, both now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom
We have had the so called Benin Plan of Action for restitution in which the European museums holding Benin artefacts have declared they have no intention of returning our artefacts. What has been the reaction of the Nigerian authorities?
It is clear that for any serious movement in questions of restitution, both the owners and the holders have to make efforts at reaching acceptable arrangements. But if one side does not act vigorously?
External LinksNigeria: Centenary - Where Are NigeriaRetrospective: British Museum and Africas stolen artefacts
(L) Members of the notorious British Punitive Expedition of 1897 against Benin (R) Oba Ovonramwen, during whose reign the British looted the Benin Bronzes with guards on his way to exile in Calabar in 1897. The gown he is wearing hides his shackles.
Opinion: Africa must raise restitution with UNESCO
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