A museum in London has announced that it will return to Nigeria artifacts looted in the 19th century, during the Benin Kingdom.
The Horniman Museum said ownership of the 72 objects would be transferred to the Nigerian government.
Items include 12 bronze plaques known as the Benin Bronze, a bronze rooster and a key to the king’s palace.
The decision followed a request from Nigeria’s National Commission on Museums and Antiquities (NCMM) in January.
The museum, located in southeast London, says it has consulted with community members, visitors, schoolchildren, academics, heritage professionals and artists based in Nigeria and the UK.
The museum explained that “all of its views on the future of the artifacts in Benin have been considered, along with the source of the artifacts.”
The museum chief said it was “moral and right” to bring them back.
In recent years, political pressure has increased on European governments and museums to return looted artifacts – including ivory carvings and metal sculptures known as the Benin Bronze.
The Horniman Hotel was recently named Museum of the Year 2022 – Photo: Handout / Andrew Lee
Germany is back too
“It is very clear that these pieces were obtained by force, and external consultations have reinforced our view that it is ethical and appropriate to return their property to Nigeria,” said Eve Salomon, head of the museum.
“The Hornimann Museum is pleased to be able to take this step and we look forward to working with NCMM to ensure long-term care for these precious artifacts.”
The items in Horniman’s collection are just some of the artifacts that were returned to Nigeria in recent months from museums in Western countries.
Last month, Jesus College in Cambridge (England) and the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) brought back a statue of Dick and another of the head of an Oba (king).
German authorities have also returned more than 1,100 artifacts to the West African country.
NCMM says that some of the priceless sculptures will be stored in the Benin National Museum once it is expanded and others will be stored in the Lagos Museum.
The British Museum houses the largest collection of Benin bronzes in the world. But it says it is prohibited from returning items permanently under the British Museum Act 1963 and the National Heritage Act 1983.
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