“Those things that were removed were chapters of our history book,” says Prince Edun Akenzua, reacting to the British Museum on their reluctance to release Benin objects.
To have the British Museum return the 800 pieces of priceless artefacts would be fantastic – parts of the puzzles of the years gone by can be closer to being solved.
The BM is not in dispute about the true owner of the Benin bronzes, the display are in the open for all visitors from around the world to see at the British Museum however it seems there are issues within Nigeria itself about the return of these massive part of the history to the place they were
looted taken from.
Given Benin is now part of Nigeria, these are National Treasures that would require Nigeria government involvement before the release.
The British Museum is in no hurry to return the Benin objects as is obvious from the BBC article:
“The British Museum says it has not recently received any new official requests for the return of the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.”
So how realistic is Prince Edun Akenzua efforts to get the BM to listen and do the needful? An interesting point from the article states one of the obvious problems in todays’ Nigeria that the objects if returned to the country are likely to ‘crawl’ out and disappeared without a trace.
Also, there were issues of preservation the ‘right’ way.
The objects, when returned to Nigeria would mean being closer to the people whose stories were engraved in those ivories, bronzes, woods, stones etc.
Prince Edun Akenzua is a royal family, a brother to the sitting Oba – his hard work on this is enduring however, as a Nigerian, I’d love to see these National Treasures have adequate backings of Nigeria government whereby funding to preserve the objects can be guaranteed.
Nigeria government full support could also ensure that no one sitting Oba would claim ownership of the returned arts and it will mean Nigerians can have access to view and appreciate our past history even if we have to pay access fees.
Why is British Museum doubting Benin Oba’s ability to take proper care of the artefacts?
A lot has happened over the last one hundred years that has influenced the way Nigerians see the world around them today. Aftermaths of the British punitive expedition on Benin in 1897 did not just take the physical objects away from the people, it also made these amazing works foreign to us.
To many Nigerians today, these artefacts were seeing as idols rendering any appreciation for history in any form of arts ‘small god’ worshiping.
Prophet Chris Okafor, two years ago proclaimed Nigeria challenges including Boko Haram should be blamed on FECTAC 77 – this was Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, second of its kind that was hosted in Lagos for the purpose of coming together to appreciate Black culture. This was supposedly a big event that involved participants from 50 countries around the world.
How do we get people to the stage where we all understand that learning about the past is different from idol worshiping?
Perhaps this is the first task to tackle.