TWO BENIN bronzes have finally been returned to Nigeria, more than a century after they were looted by British troops.
The priceless historical artefacts were returned to a traditional palace of the Oba or King, in Benin City, on Saturday.
The bronzes were accompanied by the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Sarafa Tunji Ishola and other officials from the UK.
The artefacts were stolen by colonisers and explorers, from the Court of Benin, in 1897.
The two items were handed over to the Nigerian High Commission in October by Cambridge University’s Jesus College and the University of Aberdeen, but had yet to return to west Africa.
In a vibrant ceremony to celebrate the return of a cockerel sculpture known as ‘Okpa’ and a head of an Oba or king known as ‘Ilahor’, spokesperson Charles Edosonmwan for the Oba palace in Benin City said that some of the bronzes were kept as far away as the United States, New Zealand and Japan.
“They are not just art but they are things that underline the significance of our spirituality,” Edosonmwan said in an interview on the sidelines of a ceremony attended by traditional leaders.
Last year, the University of Aberdeen announced they were to return a Benin bronze after a review found it was taken from its country of origin in an “extremely immoral” manner.
The move has raised hopes that thousands more historical items could be returned from the British Museum – which holds the largest collection of Benin bronzes.
According to Reuters, Musee du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris alone holds about 70,000 African objects and London’s British Museum tens of thousands more.
Last year, a group of Nigerian artists offered a contemporary bronze artwork in exchange for the priceless Benin bronzes which are held at the British Museum.
The presence of African treasures and artefacts in UK institutions, has come under increased criticism in recent years.
French art historians estimate that some 90 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is in Europe.
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