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.
"Aya (tiger nut) for making a sweet tasting drink thought to be good for both men and women to improve fertility. Dabino (dates), reke (sugarcane), watermelon, onions and grapes are also useful. Zogale (Moringa seeds), Gari Tarmu a powdered formulation which tightens. Gardelli is gotten from a plant that looks like small white onions, it increases the urge. Tsimi, a herbal drink/brew is said to be very effective in lubricating a woman and so is useful for women that are naturally dry or take a long time to get wet. Sabuzu kama, red powder drank with yoghurt “it drives a man crazy with desire” according to a mid-life interviewee."
Germany is Nigeria’s 37th state. And it is, all told, the only (Nigerian) state that really works. All that remains is for our lawmakers to review the Nigerian constitution and make it official. They should get cracking.
‘Healthcare in Nigeria’ is about the scariest three worded phrase you can mention.
I feel weird when people congratulate me for understanding, speaking and writing Yoruba. It’s like congratulating my parents for being ‘decent human beings’* and me for learning how to speak their language.
I’m from a kind of one-language family. The both of my parents are from the same state, and while their dialects differ and I do kind of understand both, it was relatively easy for me to pick up the language as they both speak the standardised Yoruba.
That said, I never made any real attempt to polish my understanding and speaking of the language till I was about 14 years old - my fifth year in secondary school when my dad completely refused to communicate with us in English. If we needed anything, we’d have to go to mom first to ask what to say and how to say it, go to dad, parrot what was said back to him, watch him smile, correct our inflections and pronunciations and tell us exactly what we were saying before he’d give what was needed. My spending two months in Ibadan after I graduated from secondary school and finding myself surrounded by people that also chose to speak only Yoruba to me most times also forced me to learn.
Don’t get me wrong, these situations made me want to learn, and also taught me some words, but I did good by joining websites, and speaking to everyone I knew could understand the language regularly.
All of this bearing in mind the immense opportunities I had growing up - my parents spoke the language to me and I was surrounded by people that did as well. I have friends back home that will forever call me an egun** and they could be right, but when I meet people and they express shock at my ability to speak and use me as a yardstick to measure other people’s ‘Yoruba-ness’, it makes me feel very small.
Growing up, many of us didn’t think it was cool to either understand and/or speak our languages, we’d even English-ify words just so people could think we were beyond any help. Others simply had no one interested in teaching them their language. We all have different backgrounds and when parents and peers (it’s almost always parents here and peers back home) congratulate me or express shock at my abilities, they’re acting like they’re not aware of the types of people highlighted and enforcing the ideas that if you can’t speak or understand your language, you’re less than a human being and should be treated as such.
*The idea that only good parents teach their children their languages is very common in Nigeria. I understand that a language is the first point of a person’s identity, and the colonial masters used depriving people of speaking and understanding their languages as means of breaking tribal loyalties and relationships; but it also blames parents that either couldn’t teach as they didn’t know the languages themselves or didn’t think it was ‘cool’ to teach them as implicitly bad people.
**The eguns are the tribe of those originally from Lagos state - Badagry to be precise. Their language sounds like Yoruba but isn’t at all, and because of their proximity to so many Yoruba speaking people, it’s now a joke to call someone that thinks they can either speak Yoruba but really can’t or someone whose pronunciations and inflections are so off, they’re hardly speaking any Yoruba egun.
as a Nigerian, there’s one sound I will never ever forget. it’s the sound of disappointment. in what you ask? in whom you say? read on, dearest compatriot.
it’s the sound of a ceiling fan coming to a slow and painful halt, its blades losing their ferocity as they whip the air slightly more timidly with each turn. laying on your bed, look up to whence this sound doth come and your sights confirm your worst fear: NEPA has taken light.
That, followed by the sounds of a thousand and one generator sets coughing to life around you.