Nigeria celebrates return of two bronze treasures from Benin City

The traditional ruler of the city of Benin City, in southern Nigeria, on Monday, December 13, organized a day of celebrations for the return of two bronze treasures stolen in colonial times by the British.

Dancers and musicians performed in the palace of King Uku Akpolokpolor Ewuare II adorned with banners depicting these objects: a bronze rooster and a king’s bust.

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“Today marks a turning point in our efforts to find the bronzes, ivories and other works of art that have been removed from this palace”said theboth, or King of Benin, whose ancestors ruled the region when it was sacked by British soldiers in 1897.

Royal guests and traditional rulers witnessed the King’s signing of the official document transferring full ownership of the works of art returned by the universities of Aberdeen, Scotland, and Cambridge, England. “At the appropriate time, the bronzes (…) will be delivered to us here at the palace”, added the king, without further details.

Thousands of works

Thousands of bronzes from Benin – metal plaques and sculptures dating from the XVIe in the XVIIIe centuries – were looted from the palace of the ancient kingdom of Benin and ended up in American and European museums.

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Cambridge University handed Nigeria a bronze rooster sculpture looted a century ago on October 27, becoming the first British institution to return an object stolen during colonization.

The restitution procedure began after a campaign by students against symbols recalling the colonial past.

This fine sculpture was one of hundreds of sculptures, engravings and bronzes looted by British forces in 1897 during the destruction of Benin City, then the capital of the Kingdom of Benin located in present-day Nigeria.

In the process, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, returned to Nigeria a bronze representing a both acquired at auction in 1957.

The British Museum in London, which has the largest collection of these bronzes, has so far refused to be returned, pleading for “returns” in the form of loans.

In November, Benin, a country neighboring Nigeria, hosted the return of nearly 30 royal treasures looted by the French colonial power over 130 years ago.

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The World with AFP

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Nigeria celebrates return of two bronze treasures from Benin City

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