The United States has returned to Nigeria 23 plundered artefacts. These are a part of thousands of artworks known as the Benin Bronzes that were stolen from the Benin Kingdom in modern-day Nigeria by British colonialists in 1897. The pieces were then distributed to museums and organisations in Europe and the United States.
Why the return
The return is part of a bilateral cultural property agreement to prohibit the unlawful importation of certain kinds of Nigerian artefacts into the United States. The Smithsonian Institution’s secretary, Lonnie G. Bunch III, stated that the decision was “Based on ethical considerations”
The Benin Bronzes were presented to a Nigerian delegation during a ceremony in Washington on Tuesday.
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, who received the artefacts, praised the United States and its institutions for returning the “highly-cherished” cultural artworks while noting the cultural importance of the artefacts to the societies that created them.
According to the information ministry, the artefacts “comprising 21 from the Smithsonian and one each from the National Gallery of Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design” were returned.
More such artefacts are on their way to Nigeria from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
The Minister says Nigeria would soon open an international travelling exhibition with the artefacts “to earn more friends and generate greater goodwill for Nigeria and the ethnic communities that made [them].”