Boston Museum of fine arts to open gallery with looted Benin Artefacts

Members of the notorious British Punitive Expedition of 1897 against Benin, posing proudly with looted Benin ivories and bronze objects.

13.09.2013 | 18:10 | Kwame Opoku

Nigerians must at this juncture be able to say,” Enough is enough”. We should underline our protests with consistent conduct and acts. We cannot be seen to be protesting at looting and at the same time be celebrating with the beneficiaries of the looting.

We have just received information that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will be opening a so-called Benin Gallery in the museum in October 2013.(1) This event, starting on 25 September, 2013 would, in all probability, involve inviting members of the Benin Royal Family and other Nigerians, including officials to participate.

Readers will recall that when the museum acquired looted Benin artefacts, there was a huge outcry against a leading American museum accepting Benin cultural objects looted in 1897 by an invading violent British army. Various writers protested, the Benin Royal Family requested the return of the objects and the Nigerian National Commission demanded the immediate return of the artefacts. (2) 

This was just a few months ago and now the museum is said to be opening a gallery displaying the same looted objects. Given the background of the violent manner in which these objects were looted by the British, the fact that all attempts to secure the return of some of objects have failed, that the holders have not even shown sympathy to the Benin owners of the artefacts and indeed, some of them are even denying ever hearing of a demand for restitution and taking into account the protest made by the Benin Royal Family, the Nigerian Commission on Museums and Monuments and others, the question arises: Should members of the Royal Family, the NCMM, Nigerians and other Africans, participate in activities based on the looted objects? We have no doubt in our mind that self-respect, honour, and the long-term interest of Nigerians and Africans would answer with a resounding no.

Nigerians must at this juncture be able to say,” Enough is enough”. We should underline our protests with consistent conduct and acts. We cannot be seen to be protesting at looting and at the same time be celebrating with the beneficiaries of the looting.

We have been dispossessed of our cultural artefacts by a violent and perfidious army with superior force, but should we also lose our honour and dignity by rejoicing with the holders of the looted artefacts?

NOTES

1. K. Opoku, “Will Boston Museum of Fine Arts Return Looted Benin Bronzes”, http://www.modernghana.com

2. Statement of the national commission on monuments and museums (pdf)

 


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