Nigeria—With colonialism gaining entry into Africa, several African kingdoms and rulers were quashed because of inferior locally generated weapons among other reasons.
A British army of about 1200 men invaded Benin city, the city of the most powerful Kingdom Benin. An attack that saw one of the most established kingdoms in Africa grumble.
In the event, thousands of prized artefacts and great works of Art from the Oba of Benin’s palace famously known as Benin Bronzes today were looted.
Illegal business, auctions, and thuggery saw the bronzes find their way to national universities or private museums in European, America and other western countries. The British Museum in London is said to posses not less than 900 items, while the Humboldt Forum, a museum of non-European art in Berlin, holds 530 looted items.
Artnet News a leading news website records that Benin bronzes are held in about 160 institutions globally. Among them are: Private Collections by the Lehman, Rockefeller, Ford and Rothschild families among others.
The Nigerian government and its people have been calling for the return of their stolen artifacts since 1970s. And the story of the imminent return of Benin bronzes from Germany has been a remarkable move.
In 2004, unidentified Nigerian man from Angebode, the headquarters of Estako-East local government area of Edo State, gave a notification to two British officers reading, “please help return Benin Bronzes.”
Upon reaching Britain the officers decided to take a mission to support the Nigerian man’s request. They started by using social media campaigns, events, media appearances and fundraising.
Their campaign was then joined with influential decolonization movements in Europe and American institutions leading to Germany’s official announcement this year that it will begin restitution of Benin’s bronzes in Nigeria in 2022 and support build the Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City.