Rabat – The University of Aberdeen, Scotland announced that it will return a Benin Bronze artifact, one of more than a thousand metal plaques and sculptures plundered by the British, to Nigeria within the coming weeks.
Reuters reports that the Scottish university will be one of the first British public institutions to do so, “more than a century after Britain looted the sculptures and auctioned them to Western museums and collectors.”
The discussion around artifacts plundered from Africa, which are now held by European museums is part of a bigger conversation about the consequence of Western colonialism in the Global South today.
According to the University of Aberdeen, the bronze sculpture of the ruler of the Kingdom of Benin, in what is now Nigeria, left the country in an “extremely immoral” fashion.
Professor Abba Isa Tijani, director-general of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, stressed the importance of displaying the sculpture inside the African country for the first time in more than 120 years.
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“It’s part of our identity, part of our heritage… which has been taken away from us for many years,” Tijani told Reuters.
The university’s announcement increased pressure on the British Museum to repatriate the hundreds of looted artifacts to Nigeria and other African countries.
In October 2020, France returned close to 25,500 rare archaeological artifacts and fossils to Morocco, which were intercepted by French customs authorities in Arles and Perpignan between November 2005 and November 2006.
“I can only rejoice at the return of this collection to Morocco, its country of origin, where it will find its natural place in the midst of a rich and precious heritage,” said Morocco’s Ambassador to France Chakib Benmoussa.
In May 2020, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) reported on how the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated museum inequality world-wide.
The study showed how uneven allocation of and access to resources and artifacts, impacts specific regions’ access to education, cultural exchange, and creative economy.