Benin bronze: Looted Nigerian sculpture back in ancestral home

A sculpture which was handed back to Nigeria by the University of Aberdeen after its “immoral” acquisition is finally back in its ancestral home.

The bronze was looted by British soldiers when they occupied Benin City in 1897.

Depicting a king of Benin, it was acquired by the university in 1957 at an auction and handed back in October.

Its return to the Oba of Benin palace was marked at a ceremony at the weekend.

Thousands of sculptures and carvings were removed during the destruction of Benin City in present-day Nigeria.

Many ended up being sold to private collections and museums.

A delegation travelled to Aberdeen to officially receive the sculpture last year after its return was approved.

Neil Curtis, head of museums and special collections for the university, said a review of the collections identified the Head of an Oba as having been acquired in a way now consider to have been “extremely immoral”.


Battle for the Benin Bronzes:

A Benin Bronze plaque depicting warriors of the oba on display at the British Museum
  • A collection of intricately made brass and bronze sculptures and plaques from the palace of Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi
  • Created by specialist guilds working for the royal court
  • The plaques provide a historical record of the Kingdom of Benin, including the first contact with Portuguese emissaries
  • Many of the pieces were made for ancestral altars of past kings and queen mothers
  • The term “Benin Bronzes” is also used to refer to artefacts made from ivory, leather, coral and wood
  • In February 1897, the British launched a punitive expedition against the kingdom after seven British officials and traders were killed
  • Benin City was overrun; British forces looted the Royal Palace, which was burnt down. The oba, or king, was sent into exile
  • Museums in Europe have agreed to lend on rotation some of their bronzes to a new museum to be built in Benin City more than six decades after Nigeria’s independence

Source: bbc

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