Many of the museums of the West, when faced with restitution claims, have insisted that they would consider returning the artefacts – but they are unable to do so. Common reasons given include the security of the artefacts if they were returned, the lack of a suitable place to house them, or statutes that forbid deaccessioning. Are these institutions really speaking the truth though, ore merely trying to throw up more barriers to prevent any sort of serious discussion of the real issues involved.
Due to the length of this piece I am reproducing it here in two parts.
WOULD WESTERN MUSEUMS RETURN LOOTED OBJECTS IF NIGERIA AND OTHER AFRICAN STATES WERE RULED BY ANGELS? RESTITUTION AND CORRUPTION*
By Kwame Opoku, Dr.
Feature Article | 12 hours ago
Corruption, like tango, requires two partners.
A seminal study by Peju Layiwola, dealt with the question of the cultural memory of a people whose development has been brutally interrupted and their cultural objects seized by a foreign invader. (1) In the specific case of Benin, the British seized more than 3000 artefacts during their nefarious invasion in 1879. (2) This date and the invasion have remained memorable for the people of Benin, Nigeria and the continent of Africa.
Peju Layiwola whose mother, Princess Elisabeth Olowu, is a well-known artist, was born in the Palace of the Oba in Benin City during the reign of Oba Akenzua II, her maternal grandfather. Peju spent her childhood in Benin City, went to school there and did her first degree at the University of Benin. Her doctoral dissertation at the University of Ibadan dealt with contemporary Benin brass casting. Peju is therefore from family affiliation, from childhood experience and education linked to Benin and inevitably, since she was drawn to art in her infancy, to the arts of Benin and the tragic loss of the Benin bronzes through the British invasion. The important question then is not why Peju is concerned by the continued loss of the Benin Bronzes but rather why some people are less concerned or even indifferent to attempts to recover looted or stolen artefacts.
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