London Museum Returns Ownership of 72 Benin City Artifacts to Nigerian Government

Britain’s Horniman Museum announced on Sunday that it will hand over ownership of 72 Benin City artifacts to the Nigerian government.

According to a museum in South London, the objects were “forced out of Benin City during the British invasion in February 1897.” This is the year the British Empire annexed the Kingdom of Benin, now part of southern Nigeria.

The collection includes twelve brass plaques, known as Benin bronzes, as well as brass rooster altarpieces, ivory and brass ceremonial objects, brass bells, keys from the “King’s Palace”, and household items such as fans and baskets. Consists of other objects, including

Ownership of the items will be transferred to the Nigerian government, but negotiations on loan agreements are expected to take place, and some items may remain on display at the Horniman Museum for some time.

Horniman said he consulted with community members, visitors, schoolchildren, academics, heritage experts and artists based in Nigeria and the UK to consider “the future of Benin objects” and their “origins”. .

Eve Salomon, Executive Director of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, said: “The evidence that these objects were acquired by force is very clear, and it would be morally right, through external consultations, to return ownership of them to Nigeria. It supported our view that it was reasonable and appropriate.”

Salomon said the museum is “delighted to take this step” and looks forward to “working with the NCMM to ensure the long-term care” of the artifact.

Horniman CEO Nick Merriman denied the decision would open the floodgates for repatriation from Western museums.

Horniman’s chief executive told The Sunday Times, “Agreement on the Benin bronze does not mean that all claims to all Victorian and Edwardian objects in the museum are agreed. There is none.

“These extreme looting and seizures of sacred items should never have been taken out of their context, but are likely to be agreed upon in return.”

Epoch Times photo
An undated photo of the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London. (Emli Bendixen/Arts Fund/PA Media)

Thousands of Benin City items can be found in museums around the world, including over 900 in the British Museum. The Benin bronze is he one of the museum’s most controversial items, second only to the Elgin marble, which the Greek government has been trying to restore for decades.

On October 27 last year, Jesus College Cambridge returned the world’s first Benin Bronze, and a week later the University of Aberdeen returned another.

Last month, the German government agreed to transfer ownership of 1,130 Benin bronzes to Nigeria.

The Horniman Museum’s decision to transfer ownership was approved by the Charity Commission, a government agency for charities that include the museum.

The committee will also consider whether to approve the return of 213 other Benin City artifacts by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge following the NCMM’s repatriation request in January. Both universities said they supported the allegations.

According to The Sunday Times, ministers appear to have softened their approach to the disputed colonial-era relics.

The newspaper quoted arts minister Sir Stephen Parkinson as saying that the government should not “tell museums about right and wrong decisions” and that any claims should be made “on a case-by-case, item-by-item basis”. said that

“There are at least two sides to any debate. The job of the historian or museum is to represent all these sides faithfully and let people make decisions. I am concerned about the rush to make moral judgments about,” Parkinson said.

“If a nation sweeps things under the carpet and forgets them, it is bad history. Creating new myths about past evils and sins is also bad history. have to learn,” he added.

It is also supplied as published by Arts Council England. new guidance On Friday’s return and repatriation, ask the museum to ‘relate to the objects in your collection, their history, origin, acquisition and, most importantly, their relationship to the people to whom they hold special meaning today. We advise you to (re)consider refund request.

The last guidance issued in 2000 advised against returning bronzes, and previously returned items were stolen from museums and found on the black market.

Lily Zhou


Lily Zhou is a freelance writer primarily covering British news for The Epoch Times.