Artefacts lost from Benin in 1897 continue to be a source of controversy today. They were removed from the country during a massacre to suppress a local uprising, yet now they sit in museums around the world who refuse to fuly acknowledgej the original ownership of these pieces.
The Guardian, Nigeria
Friday, June 19, 2009
Peju Layiwola’s 1897.com: Refreshing spotlight on stolen Benin artifacts
By Mufu Onifade
THE university don/artist, Dr. (Mrs.) Peju Layiwola is angry. The pent up anger has built up for years. But she is now ready to pour out the venom. And the cause she is championing appears genuine. Every artistically enlightened Nigerian – nay African – should be agitated by the continued western pillage of artifacts from Africa. Peju is angry and the only medium of expression at her disposal is art. This, at least, is an undercurrent that runs through some of her recent works already earmarked for a solo effort entitled 1897.com. The show focuses on European imperialism in Africa, with particular reference to Benin at the turn of the 19th century. Apart from the books of history, Ola Rotimi captures the pitiable stories of helpless Benin in the hands of ruthless British soldiers in a tragic epic, Ovonramwen Nogbaisi. Although, many Benin indigenes did not agree with Rotimi’s version of the story, which flies on the wings of dramaturgy rather than historical accuracy, Ahmed Yerima was commissioned in 1997 to re-write a more appealing version, which he titled Oba Ovonramwen. At least, the two plays agree on the spate of tragedy and injustice unleashed on Benin.
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