…as Obaseki-led govt intensifies campaign for return of heritage objects
The Edo State government has intensified call for the return of artefacts stolen from Benin Kingdom by the British colonialists in 1897, with an exhibition of photographs of the prized artworks and their locations in Europe and America.
Unveiling the photographs inside a gallery at the palace of the Benin Monarch, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, in Benin City, at the ongoing Edo Festival of Arts and Culture (EDOFEST), Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Osazee Osemwegie-Ero, said that the state government would continue to advocate for the return of the stolen artefacts.
He explained that the state government chose the Edo Festival for Arts and Culture (EDOFEST) event to scale up the campaign, in order to reach more people with the message, adding that “the artefacts represent part of the Benin history.”
He noted that the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration has made provision for N500 million in the 2019 budget of the state, for the establishment of a Benin Royal Museum in collaboration with the Oba Palace, where the artefacts would be kept on return.
Prof. Greg Akenzua commended the organisers of the photo exhibition, and disclosed that the palace of the Benin Monarch, was working with 13 museums to establish the Benin Royal Museum in the state.
He maintained that the call for the return of looted artefacts across the world was gaining traction, citing the French President, Emmanuel Macron, who has promised that his country would return some of the stolen artefacts to their original owners.
“We are working with 13 museums who have agreed to work with us in the establishment of the Royal Museum. We have set a timeline of three years to put the structures on ground,” Prof. Akensua added.
Dr. Lutz Mukke, a German journalist and academic, who took the photographs of the looted Benin artefacts, said the photographs were the result of his journalistic investigation into the looted Benin artefacts at different museums around the world.
He disclosed that up to 90 per cent of the important cultural artefacts were taken away from Africa, and suggested that a “new deal” between Africa and the Western world was needed to fast-track the return of the stolen artefacts.
He maintained the stolen Benin artefacts numbering 4,000 to 6,000 could be found in about 60 Western museums with the biggest collections in the British Museum in London, Ethnographical Collections in Berlin, Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York and Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
He also said that the German government has called on all public museums housing about 1000 looted Benin artefacts to return them.
“The photographs shown in the exhibition are from the museums in Boston and New York in the United States of America; Vienna in Austria; Stockholm in Sweden, Con Berlin, Dresden, Munich and Leipzig in Germany and London, United Kingdom.
“The artefacts are of course priceless as cultural heritage, but that does not mean we should forget their pure money value. The stolen Benin artefacts are estimated to be $1 billion” Mukke said.