A British Museum accepted Nigeria’s bronze plaque gift as a first possible step towards the museum’s return of the priceless Benin Bronzes that were looted by British troops in 1897.
The museum however said an exchange of new artworks for looted artworks was impossible.
The culturally significant artefacts created from brass and bronze in the Kingdom of Benin from at least the 16th century onwards, has been housed by European museums that have faced years of criticism because of their status as loot and symbols of colonial greed.
Osarobo Zeickner-Okoro, a founding member of Ahiamwen, a new guild of Benin City bronze casters and artists, had offered his creation to encourage the museum to give back the sculptures but also to demand acknowledgment of the city’s modern-day culture.
“Part of the crime that’s being committed is that Benin has been portrayed as this dead civilisation,” said Zeickner-Okoro. “The reparation is not just returning the Bronzes. It’s also acknowledging us, that we’re a living civilisation.”
He said the acceptance of his plaque and proposed acquisition of other works is historic and really significant. “I think it’s definitely going to open the door for the return of the loot,” he said.
Germany has said it wants to return Benin Bronzes from its museums to Nigeria. But British Museum, which holds the largest and most significant collection of the items, has made no clear commitment despite demands from Benin’s monarch.