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Nigeria: The wait for the return of looted art

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Anadolu - Africanews


Benin bronzes, a historical and cultural value of Nigeria smuggled during the colonial period, are on display in various museums, universities and churches in the United States and European countries. 

More than 900 artifacts, mostly made of brass and bronze, are plates and sculptures from the Benin Kingdom of the time, at the British Museum, the most famous museum in England. However, the museum, which holds the vast majority of Benin's bronzes, does not look kindly on the idea of returning these artifacts. Nigeria, on the other hand, continues to insist on the return of historical artifacts smuggled during the colonial period to their country of origin.

Germany and France have announced that they will return some of the works. The University of Aberdeen in England announced last year that it would return the bronze statue of the Oba (king) from the Benin era to Nigeria. The Church of Canterbury announced that it would return the two bronze statues to Nigeria. AA correspondents spoke with experts about the history of the Benin bronzes, which are the subject of debate between countries, the looting process and the steps involved in returning them to Nigeria. -

"Something that belongs to you, who else can be more beautiful than you?" The national president of the Society of Nigerian Artists, Mohammed Suleiman, said the colonialists who came to Nigeria were aware of the value of historical artifacts such as the Benin bronzes and therefore missed the works. 

Suleiman said it was time to return the Benin bronzes from Nigeria, which were looted and removed by the British colonialists 125 years ago, to their homeland. Stressing that the issue of returning the smuggled artifacts to England is indisputable, Süleyman said, "The British have made the excuse that we have no safe place to put them so that we do not return these artifacts. The truth is that what belongs to you is yours and no one has the right to take it from you. It belongs to you. something, who else could be more beautiful than you?" used the expressions.

Pointing out that the British gained a lot from these artifacts, Süleyman demanded that England use some of the money they earned from these artifacts to build museums in Nigeria, if they thought that Nigeria could not preserve these artifacts. - "These artifacts are not looting, they are stolen." Explaining that the British committed great crimes during the colonial period, Süleyman said, "You went somewhere, killed people and forcibly stole their property, and you call it loot. In fact, it is not booty, it is what we call a stolen artifact," he said.

Stating that the kidnapped artifacts are on display in the British museum today, Süleyman said, "We all know that these artifacts are in the British museum. They have been making money from these artifacts for years, but they don't give anything to Nigeria, the real owner of the artifacts." mentioned. Süleyman stressed that what the British did in Nigeria was "unacceptable" and that they should be held accountable on behalf of those who lost their lives at that time. -

"The British government does not like the idea of returning looted property" Barnaby Phillips, who works in the field of African politics and economics, and author of the book "Loot-Britain and Benin Bronzes," also explains the history of the return of these historical artifacts from Nigeria to England and the process of return. explained the latest situation. Phillips said that the British soldiers who participated in the Benin expedition considered the historical artifacts they looted as "souvenirs of their victory" and that some of them sold these artifacts at auction in London for financial gain.

Phillips, who has been a reporter in Nigeria, Mozambique, Angola and South Africa for 25 years, noted that the exact number of artifacts smuggled from the Kingdom of Benin is not known, reflecting the nature of this chaotic process. " made his assessment. Phillips said that some universities and museums in England, such as Aberdeen and Cambridge, have announced that they will return the Benin bronzes to Nigeria, but that the British Museum, which has the most Benin bronzes on display, has not welcomed this process because it is restricted by law from returning the works. Barnaby Phillips continued his remarks as follows:

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