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US returns 23 bronze medals stolen in Benin to Nigeria

US returns 23 stolen Benin bronzes to Nigeria

The United States has repatriated 23 Benin Bronzes stolen from Nigeria.

The development was part of ongoing efforts by the federal government and the country’s foreign partners to recover artefacts looted by the British during their invasion of the Kingdom of Benin in 1897.

Artifacts returned include 21 bronzes from the Smithsonian and one from the National Gallery of Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design.

The Federal Government launched a campaign for the return and restitution of looted/smuggled Nigerian artifacts worldwide in November 2019.

US returns 23 bronze medals stolen in Benin to Nigeria

Nigeria and Germany have also agreed on the repatriation of the looted objects.

During the repatriation ceremony in Washington, DC on Tuesday, October 11, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed congratulated the United States for the repatriation of the looted items.

The event was attended by the Director General of the National Commission of Museums and Monuments of Nigeria, Prof. Abba Tijani and the representative of the Oba of Benin, Prince Aghatise Erediauwa.

Others were the director of the United States National Museum of African Art (NMAfA), Ngaire Blankenberg, and the director of the United States National Gallery of Art, Kaywin Feldman.

Lai Mohammed said, “Allow me, on behalf of the government and people of Nigeria, to express our sincere thanks to the United States and its key cultural heritage institutions for the return of these much-loved Benin Bronzes to Nigeria – which is why we are here today,” he said.

“These artifacts are intrinsic to the culture that produced them. The people should not be deprived of the works of their ancestors. It is in the light of this that we welcome today’s repatriation of the Benin Bronzes.

He thanked the boards of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the National Gallery of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design for engaging in discussions with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria on the repatriation of objects.

The minister said Nigeria would soon launch an international traveling exhibition with the repatriation of the objects “in a way that would win more friends and foster greater goodwill for Nigeria and the ethnic groups that produced the objects.”

“We have also received or are in the process of receiving repatriated artefacts from the Netherlands, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Mexico, the University of Cambridge in the UK and Germany, among others” added the Minister.

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