Horniman Museum and Gardens in South East London has agreed to return 72 Benin Bronzes looted from the former British colony now known as Nigeria.
This comes amid pressure on European institutions to return artefacts stolen during the colonial era.
Also, Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments had, earlier this year, asked for the looted items to be returned.
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“Ownership of 72 objects, which were forcibly removed from Benin City during the British military incursion in February 1897, will be transferred to the Nigerian government, following a decision by the Horniman’s Board of Trustees,” a statement on the museum’s read.
Part of the items included 12 brass plaques, known as Benin Bronzes, a brass cockerel altarpiece, ivory and brass ceremonial objects, brass bells, and a key to the king’s palace.
According to a statement by the Chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, Eve Salomon, returning the items is both moral and appropriate.
“The Horniman is pleased to be able to take this step, and we look forward to working with the NCMM to secure longer term care for these precious artefacts,” Salomon said.
“The evidence is very clear that these objects were acquired through force, and external consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria,” he added.
The decision was welcomed by the NCMM Director-General, Prof Abba Tijani.
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“We very much welcome this decision by the Trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens. Following the endorsement by the Charity Commission, we look forward to a productive discussion on loan agreements and collaborations between the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and the Horniman.”