LONDON (AP) – A London museum agreed on Sunday to return a collection of Benin Bronzes looted in the late 19th Century from what is now Nigeria as cultural institutions throughout Britain come under pressure to repatriate artefacts acquired during the colonial era.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens in southeast London said that it would transfer a collection of 72 items to the Nigerian government. The decision comes after Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) formally asked for the artefacts to be returned earlier this year and following a consultation with community members, artists and schoolchildren in Nigeria and the United Kingdom (UK), the museum said.
“The evidence is very clear that these objects were acquired through force, and external consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria,’’ chair of the museum’s board of trustees Eve Salomon said in a statement. “The Horniman is pleased to be able to take this step, and we look forward to working with the NCMM to secure longer term care for these precious artefacts.’’
The Horniman’s collection is a small part of the 3,000 to 5,000 artefacts taken from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 when British soldiers attacked and occupied Benin City as Britain expanded its political and commercial influence in West Africa. The British Museum alone holds more than 900 objects from Benin, and National Museums Scotland has another 74.
Others were distributed to museums around the world.