BENIN CITY, NIGERIA — More than a century ago, as European powers competed for Africa’s resources, ancient art treasures from an ancient kingdom were stolen.
What was once the ancient Kingdom of Benin is now the heart of the Nigerian art world, with statues adorning the streets and an art museum in the Benin City town square. But locals say the displayed art is only part of Benin’s collection. They say British colonials stole nearly 4,000 pieces more than a century ago.
“Originally these objects belonged to the Benin people, and the Benin people want them back,” stated Umogbai Theophilus, curator for Nigeria’s National Museum in Benin City. “So I am using this opportunity to send that message across that the objects taken away in 1897 through raw aggression by the Europeans should come back to their rightful owners, the Benins.”
Theophilus says after decades of negotiations, some Benin art has been sent back to Nigeria. “In the past we have had successes, but they were very modest compared to what was taken away,” he said.
The art was taken at the end of the 19th century when the British launched a “punitive expedition” in retaliation for what they said was Benin aggression, sacking the city and deposing the king or “Oba.”
Local artist Williams Edosowan says art in Benin is more than just decoration. It is how they record their history. “They stole many of our art-craft from the palace. During those days any event that happened, we used to create art work to [remember] the event,” he recalled.
Collectors argue that the history of Benin Kingdom is kept alive by the art as it travels the world. Critics also say repatriating the art requires more commitment from Nigerian officials. Artists in Benin City say every piece lost is a lost piece of their history.
Local artist Williams Edosowan says art in Benin is more than just decoration. It is how they record their history.
Collectors argue that the history of Benin Kingdom is kept alive by the art as it travels the world. Critics also say repatriating the art requires more commitment from Nigerian officials.
This is the greed, selfishness and ignorance of white people. Refusing to give a sovereign nation her artifacts cos you believe they are better of with you? what gives you the right to decide the fate of their objects? were you in anyway instrumental in their creation? or does it hold any cultural significance to you?
Fucking white self centeredness and greed.
By Christopher Okonkwo
His unassuming mien endeared him to many. His ‘I had no shoes’ speech resonated with millions of Nigerians who shared similar backgrounds to his poverty-stricken past. Convinced his meteoric rise to national prominence had more to do with the fulfillment of the destiny conveyed in his name (Goodluck), and less to do with the devious manipulations of his political party, his approval rating soared. Voting for him as president was an unlikely entente cordiale, given his affiliation with a political party so often maligned for being responsible for many of the ills bedeviling the country.
He’s the most incompetent leader Nigeria has ever had.