The University of Aberdeen, Scotland, has handed over another Benin Bronze to Nigeria.
This comes days after Cambridge University’s Jesus College handed over the first of the artefacts looted by the British in 1897.
In his reaction, His Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin, Ewuare II thanked the university for returning the artefact while urging other institutions around the world who have the bronzes as part of their collection to reconsider their position by returning the stolen pieces to their rightful owner.
He said, “Much has been said about the significance of heritage art and, in spite of the occasional attempts in some quarters to downplay their cultural and religious relevance, these works are often imbued with the spirit of the people from whom they were taken.
“Regardless of the resistance in some quarters, the return of stolen art is the right thing to do. Some say that they acquired their own collections. This is like saying, ‘well, I know this item was originally stolen but because I bought it somewhere, then I’m okay. That notion is completely wrong and unfortunate.
“In any event, we thank the University of Aberdeen for this noble act of returning our bronze work. We hope that other institutions worldwide will see the injustice when they insist on holding on to items which in fact should be a reminder to them of the great injustice that was inflicted on a people so far away and so long ago”.
The ceremony, which was held on Thursday in Scotland, had the Oba of Benin represented by his younger brother, Prince Aghatise Erediauwa; the Obasuyi of Benin, Chief Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan; Director of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Professor Abba Isa Tijani; the Legal Adviser of the NCMM, Babatunde Adebiyi, and the Director, Museums, NCMM, Abdul Mohammed Gimba, present to take possession of the artefact.
The sculpture, which depicts the head of an Oba, is one of the thousands scattered across the globe and only the second to make a return to Nigeria in over 100 years.
The University of Aberdeen had purchased the bronze piece at an auction in 1957.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, Professor George Boyne, noted the symbolism the artefact portrayed stating that returning the bronze work was only the right and just thing to do.
He said, “Over the last 40 years the Benin Bronzes have become important symbols of injustice.
“It would not have been right to have retained an item of such great cultural significance that was acquired in such reprehensible circumstances.
“The University took a proactive approach to identify the appropriate people to discuss what to do and we are extremely grateful for the collective approach taken by the partners in Nigeria, which has facilitated this return.”
Also present at the handing over ceremony were a Prince of the Kano Emirates, Prince Isa Bayero; Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria in the UK, His Excellency, Suleiman Sani; and a retired Director of the National Museum, Lagos Mrs Edith Ekunke.