October 31, 2021

LOOTED ARTEFACTS: Oba Ewuare speaks, as Benin awaits return of the ‘cockerel’

Christians at Easter

FILE: Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, dancing at a press briefing on Friday, to the songs his grand father, Oba Akenzua II sang and danced to in 1938. This was joy over the return of the first set of artefacts said to have been worn by Oba Ovonranmwen Nogbaisi when he went on exile.

By Ozioruva Aliu

EXPECTATIONS are high for the return of a rare artefact identified as Okukor, a cockerel which was part of the about one thousand of such works taken away from the palace of the Oba of Benin in 1897.

The works were looted during the British invasion of the kingdom in retaliation for an attack on its men who were said to be on expedition but tried to force their way into the city despite warnings that the Oba could not receive visitors into the kingdom at the time of the year.

Although there was no official communication on the return, Sunday Vanguard reliably gathered that it was due to the fact that the delegation that had gone to Jesus College of Cambridge University in the United Kingdom was expected to also visit Aberdeen in Scotland to take possession of another artifact.

Sources said the ceremony would be held as soon as the delegation arrives in Benin-City.

It would be recalled that two artifacts were returned in 2014 by the great grandson of Captain Philips, Mark Walker.

The two items he returned were a bird traditionally called Ahianmwen-oro and a traditional monarch’s bell called Egogo.

According to reports, the bronze cockerel was given to Jesus College in 1905 by the father of a student.

Cambridge University handed over the statue of the cockerel to a delegation, led by Professor Abba Issa Tijani, from the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) in a ceremony that took place at Jesus College.

The NCMM received the Benin bronze from Jesus College on behalf of the Federal Government and the Royal Court of Benin.

A decision for the return was said to have been made in 2019 after students campaigned, following which the statue was removed from display at the college in 2016.

The Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II alluded to this development when he hosted the Chairman of DAAR Communication Ltd, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who visited him (the Oba) as part of activities toý mark his 70th birthday.

The Oba expressed excitement on the development just as he said there was no doubt about the ownership of the works and praised Cambridge University which, he said, his father, Oba Erediuawa, attended for being the first institution to return the artifacts.

He explained that the artifacts would be domiciled in a museum planned to be built opposite the palace just as he commended the Federal Government and the Director General, NCMM for the support.

“The issue of the artifacts is very clear. I always say that there is no mincing of words about it, there is no debating the issue; it is not a controversial issue.

“Those Benin artifacts were all taken from the palace of the Oba of Benin.”

Going memory lane, the Oba said, “When I was doing my master’s in New York, one of our family friends came to inform me that Benin arts and artifacts were being exhibited in New York at the Metropolitan Museum; it was very interesting that the professors at the New York University were exhibiting works of arts of African people that were extinct.

“Let the international community not be misled, not be confused by some claiming these were not taken from the palace or taken from elsewhere and therefore don’t need to come to the palace of the Oba of Benin. It is all wrong.”

Reacting to the issue of where the works would be kept, Oba Ewuare II said, “I want to use this opportunity again to clarify what I read somewhere; there will be no restriction to access the works; there is no museum that is going to be built inside the palace restricting people.

“There is nothing like that. We expect only one museum to be built right outside the palace and it will be open to the public, to Edo people, to researchers.”

Vanguard News Nigeria