Smithsonian Museum of African Art removes Benin bronzes from display and plans to repatriate them

Written by Catherine Hickley

This article was initially revealed by The Art Newspaper, an editorial accomplice of CNN Style.
The Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC has eliminated its Benin bronzes from show and is planning to repatriate artifacts that have been looted by the British in an 1897 raid on the royal palace, in line with the museum’s director, Ngaire Blankenberg.

“I can confirm that we have taken down the Benin bronzes we had on display and we are fully committed to repatriation,” Blankenberg mentioned. “We cannot build for the future without making our best effort at healing the wounds of the past.”

The museum had 21 objects from the Kingdom of Benin on show earlier this yr. Its on-line database lists 38 objects from Benin within the assortment. Around half have been traced to the British punitive expedition to Benin in 1897, together with a number of plaques, commemorative heads and figures. Provenance analysis on different gadgets continues to be ongoing.

Benin objects are in the collections of more than 160 museums worldwide.

Benin objects are within the collections of greater than 160 museums worldwide. Credit: Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

After the 1897 looting, artifacts from Benin’s royal palace have been bought off and scattered world wide; Benin objects at the moment are held by greater than 160 worldwide museums, together with a number of within the US. The University of California’s Fowler Museum has also said it plans talks with the Nigerian authorities on the way forward for 18 objects in its assortment from the Kingdom of Benin.
Last week, two British universities returned looted artifacts to Nigeria: the University of Aberdeen handed over the bronze head of an “oba,” or king, and Jesus College Cambridge returned a bronze sculpture of a cockerel.
In mid-October, Germany and Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding setting out a timetable for the return of round 1,100 Benin sculptures from German museums, with the primary repatriations envisaged within the second quarter of 2022.
In June, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that will probably be sending three objects again to Nigeria. Two of the works, a pair of Sixteenth-century Benin Court brass plaques of a “Warrior Chief” and “Junior Court Official,” have been donated to the museum in 1991 by the Modern artwork supplier Klaus Perls and his spouse, Dolly, whereas the third, a 14th-century “Ife Head,” was not too long ago provided to the museum for buy by one other collector.
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