Listen to this article here
After 125 years, the museums of Europe and the United States which housed and exhibited Fly artifacts of the Kingdom of Beninin what is now southwestern Nigeria, during a violent raid by British colonial forces, take action to return the coins.
Smithsonian has created an “ethical return policy” in its role of artifacts
According to Jacquelyne Germain of the Smithsonian, the sculptures, plaques, ceremonial objects, altars and other artifacts that British soldiers stole in 1897 in this act of colonial violence are collectively known as the “Benin Bronzes”.
In a joint ceremony on Tuesday, the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) has collectively transferred ownership of 30 Benin bronzes, 29 of which are from the Smithsonian, to the people of Nigeria. Of the 29 items, 20 will be returned to Nigeria National Commission for Museums and Monuments(NCMM) and nine will remain, loaned to NMAFA for later display.
Some of the works of art dating back to Nigeria include a ceremonial sword in copper, iron, alloy and wood as well as a sculpture in copper, alloy and iron which represents the head of a oba (king), with emphasis on the sovereign’s intricately detailed beaded collar.
The official transfer of ownership comes after the April founding of the Smithsonian’s ethical return policywhich allows artifacts that have been stolen, coercively taken, or unethically obtained, to be revenue to their appropriate community or individual.
“In our museum, we are embarking on African museology projects,” explains Ngaire Blankenberg, director of the National Museum of African Art. “What does it mean to amplify African voices, African artists, African creatives, but also African knowledge systems, African languages? What does it mean to shift the power of definition within our museum? I think restitution, repairs are part of the equation, but it’s really kind of a major existential shift in how we operate as a museum and how we’re prepared to operate in the future.
Museums around the world are restoring what was never theirs.
A bronze sculpture of a West African king that had been in the collection of a Rhode Island museum for more than 70 years was among 31 culturally valuable objects that were also returned to the Nigerian government on Tuesday.
Earlier in August, the British Horniman Museum and Gardens also agreed to hand over 72 artifacts, including several Beninese bronzes, after receiving a request for artifacts from the Nigerian government, according to ABC News.
The Haida Gwaii Museum of British Columbia received numerous repatriationsincluding from the Museum of Vancouver and other private collectors.
Jisgang/Nika Collison, Executive Director and Curator of the Haida Gwaii Museum, said, “This has nothing to do with UK law. It is humanity.
The Rosetta Stone belongs to Africa
Thousands of Egyptians are now demanding the repatriation of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum to its country of origin.
The iconic artefact, which finally helped scientists decode Egyptian hieroglyphics almost exactly 200 years ago, has been in English hands since Napoleon abandoned it – along with 16 other artefacts – as part of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801.
The latest campaign to recover the Rosetta Stone has garnered over 2,500 signatures in a online petition launched by a group of eminent archaeologists.