BBRT: SNA, stakeholders call for repatriation of Benin Bronzes


By Palma Ileye

Society of Nigerian Artist, SNA, and stakeholders have called for the repatriation of Benin Bronzes and other artifacts that were taken from ancestral home during the Renaissance.

Speaking on the Topic: Safeguarding Culture and Creativity during the Roundtable event held in Abuja, one of the panelists, the President of Society of Nigerian Artists, SNA, Mr. Muhammad Sulaiman stated that the stolen works of arts have generated huge funds for the British Government, hence there was need to return the Benin Bronzes back to where they would have great significance.

Sulaiman said that the country, “has a goldmine that was just sitting right behind us. We have had this. And the international community has proven to us that what you have is so golden.”

He called for the establishment of institutions that would house the artifacts when they were finally brought to the country also saying that the Nigerian Government has a special role in the bringing back of these works of art and their maintenance.

In his words, “At what stage would you bring back this works? Are you coming to also show restitution by saying we’re coming over to believe we want to actually create a place where you can house them because we already say you can’t house this works that has been deliberative on the streets.
Now, these criminal acts, and we must treat them as criminal acts that actually did happen.”

Also, on the topic: Historical Legacy and future Benefits – Prof. Ken Okoli, an enthusiastic scholar, Professor of Sculpture and an art historian, said that the Benin Bronzes were of great significant to the Bini Kingdom than where they were being kept in foreign lands noting that, “This was emotional intelligence or spiritually demeaning.”

Okoli who also experimented with metal sculptures, solicited for the repatriation of these artifacts adding that measures should also be made to secure these artifacts at their return, so that they don’t end up returning to their former captors.

“Come on, imagine if the special stone that was used in the coronation of the British Monarch as witness in the coronation of King Charles was looted and kept in a glass cage in the museum. Can we imagine that?

“So it was not surprising that in 1897, when the British forces raided in Benin City, the over 3000, spiritual of this governor, there are many targets to the mental health of London. They were shared as trophies to the various soldiers, while a larger number was sold at auctions and rebooted to museums and private collections around the world, most especially in the United Kingdom, Germany, or the United States of America. To the people of Belize, the vision of the Benin Kingdom can only be likened to an invading army, attacking the Buckingham Palace and Westminster, abysmal and pillaging all the artifacts contained therein, and also taking of the British Monarch into exile. That was how the Bini People felt when this happened today,” he said, while comparing the significance of the Benin Bronzes.

Meanwhile, Heir apparent to the throne of the Ozoro Kingdom, Prince Akeni Prosper who gave an educational narrative on the topic: Heritage and Traditions -of the existence of the Kingdom stated that, “Our heritage was not separable from our traditions when it was related to the importance of the artworks” hence there was the need to put all hands on deck to promote the returning of the Benin Bronzes back to their ancestry.

The Abuja Conversation tagged, Benin Bronzes and Nigeria, had two sessions that examined; Benin Bronzes and Nigeria – Self Serving Cultural Diplomacy, or a Service to Nigeria? And
Benin Bronzes and Nigeria – A Part of History, or a Pathway to the Future which encouraged participants to freely
discuss the complexities relating to the history, reality and future of the Benin Bronzes following the return of some artefacts to Nigeria.