By Oluwatosin Ajayi
The ancient Benin kingdom can now heave a sigh of relief after the British Museum agreed to return some of the bronze artefacts which were looted in 1897.
In a deal struck last month by the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG), a group which was formed in 2007, it was agreed that some of the most iconic pieces in the historic collection would be returned on a temporary basis to form an exhibition at the new Benin Royal Museum in Edo State for a duration of three years. The BDG comprises of representatives of several European museums, the Royal Court of Benin-city, Edo State Government, and Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
According to a spokesman of the British Museum, “the museums in attendance have all agreed to lend artifacts to the Benin Royal Museum on a rotating basis, to provide advice as requested on building and exhibition design, and to cooperate with the Nigerian partners in developing training, funding, and a legal framework for the display in a new planned museum.”
It is also interesting to note that over 1,000 of the bronzes are held at museums across Europe, with the most valuable collection at the British Museum in London and the Nigerian government has sought their return since the country gained independence in 1960.
However, the details of how many and which pieces will be returned are yet to be disclosed as dialogue is still ongoing.
The Benin bronzes art represent the richness of the culture of the old empire and indeed the whole of Africa. Bronze was the metal of choice for tools, weapons, and jewellery during the 18th century also known as the bronze age.
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