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Their return is a milestone in the long-standing struggle of African countries to reclaim looted works.
Two Benin bronze figures have been returned to a palace in the southern Nigerian city of Benin after being seized by British troops during the colonial era, Reuters and AFP reported.
This gives hope that thousands more artifacts may finally return to their native places.
The returned bronze rooster and bust of the king were welcomed with a lavish ceremony at the palace of King Uku Akpolokpolor Evoare II in the city of Benin.
“They are not just works of art, but objects that emphasize the importance of our spirituality,” said a palace spokesman on the sidelines of the ceremony, which was attended by prominent local guests and traditional leaders.
The two bronze artifacts were handed over to Nigerian high-ranking officials in October last year. from the British universities of Aberdeen and Cambridge.
Exhibits, mostly in Europe, were stolen by explorers and colonizers from the once mighty Kingdom of Benin, which was in present-day southwestern Nigeria. They are among the most significant sites of African heritage, and according to experts from the British Museum were created after the 16th century.
Thousands of Benin bronze artifacts from the 16th to 18th centuries have been looted from the palace of the former kingdom of Benin and then found in museums in the United States and Europe.
The University of Cambridge returned the rooster sculpture to Nigeria in late October.
It is the first British institution to do so. The University of Aberdeen then handed over a royal bronze head purchased at auction in 1957.
Their return is a milestone in the long-running struggle of African countries to reclaim looted works, and many European institutions are struggling with the cultural heritage of colonialism.
It is estimated that about 90 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is in Europe, according to French art historians.
The Ke Branley Museum in Paris has about 70,000 African objects, and tens of thousands more are in the British Museum in London, Reuters notes.
In a panel, Benin showed for the first time the 26 works of art returned from France
The exhibits, some of which are considered sacred in the African country, are on display in an area of 2,000 square meters in the presidential palace in the capital Cotonou. Benin is showing for the first time 26 works of art and treasures of the Kingdom of Dahomey, which France returned almost 130 years after their looting, AFP reported.
The exhibits, some of which are considered sacred in the African country, are on display in an area of 2,000 square meters in the presidential palace in the capital Cotonou. The exhibition is entitled “The Art of Benin Yesterday and Today” and opens its doors to visitors tomorrow. It can be seen until May 22.
France returned the 26 exhibits to Benin in November last year. after two years of negotiations. This came amid growing calls from Africa for Western nations to hand over works looted by colonial powers stored in museums and private collections.
The United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have already received similar requests from African countries.
France handed over the artwork to Benin in November. They were looted from the Dahomey Palace by French colonial forces in 1892.
Until they were handed over to the representatives of Benin, the treasures were stored in the Que Branley Museum in Paris. Among them are totems from the former kingdom of Dahomey, as well as the throne of King Behanzin.
According to experts, between 85 and 90 percent of Africa’s heritage is outside the continent. Since 2019, in addition to Benin, six countries – Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Chad, Mali and Madagascar – have also applied for illegal works of art.
The return of African-looted works of art is one of the main points in French President Emmanuel Macron‘s plan to establish new relations with the continent.
Photo: Master of Jesus College Sonita Alleyne (left) with His Royal Highness Prince Aghatise Erediauwa during a ceremony at Jesus College in Cambridge, where the looted Benin bronze known as the Okukur will be returned to Nigeria. The Legacy of Slavery Working Party concluded that the statue, which was looted by British colonial forces in 1897 and given to Jesus College in 1905 by the father of a student, “belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin”. Picture date: Wednesday October 27, 2021. (Photo by Joe Giddens / PA Images via Getty Images)