Over the next four years, Nigeria plans to construct a new museum that would house stolen Benin bronzes now on display in European and American museums.
Many Benin bronzes — a collection of over a thousand valued metal plaques and sculptures stolen from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin in modern-day Nigeria in 1897 by British soldiers — are on display in the British Museum and the Berlin Ethnological Museum.The Benin Bronzes, some of Africa’s greatest treasures, were looted in 1897
Many people have wished for the artefacts to be restored to Benin City in Nigeria's southern Edo state and shown in the planned Edo Museum of West African Art.
David Adjaye, the award-winning architect behind the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, is designing the 10,000-square-foot (930-square-metre) museum.
The structure in Nigeria, according to the Ghanaian-British architect, would have "a position on the global stage."
The British Museum, which has 950 Benin Bronzes, has come under fire for refusing to return them, but it is just one of several institutions grappling with the validity of its holdings.
For decades, the Edo monarchs - the obas - fought in vain for the restoration of the Benin Bronzes.Few in the West, however, took African requests for reparations seriously. Western curators claimed that not only did Africa lack the means to care for its artefacts, but that Western museums also had no moral responsibility to restore any harm caused by decades of colonisation.That has now changed, and things have been moving behind the scenes.
Since 2017, the Benin Dialogue Group has been working on a compromise plan for the return of some Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, which includes the current oba, the Edo state governor, the Nigerian government, and museums in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (including the British Museum).
They have decided that a new Benin Royal Museum would be built in Benin City, the capital of Edo state.
A few hundred Benin bronzes will be loaned (but some may be donated) by European museums on a rotating basis.
According to the Oba's Palace, Benin City will have a "permanent collection in rotation."
The Edo people will be reconnected with a major portion of their cultural heritage at long last.