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Hopes rise for looted Nigerian mask

The director of the Centre for Black African Art and Civilization in Nigeria has written to the British Museum asking for the return of the a mask looted from Benin in 1897.

Vanguard (Nigeria) [1]

Hope rises for return of looted FESTAC mask: as CBAAC marks 30 years anniversary….
By Mcphilips Nwachukwu
Posted to the Web: Thursday, March 22, 2007

There is every indication to believe that the looted original FESTAC mask may be returned to the country in long time. This indication came, last week, when the Director of Centre for Black African Art and Civilization(CBAAC), Professor Tunde Babawale, unreeled plans for this month’s marking of 30 years anniversary of the 2nd black festival of Arts and Culture, which held in Nigeria in 1977.

Speaking to journalists, the parastatal director said that CBBAC has written to the British Museum, demanding a return of the original FESTAC mask, which has remained in their custody following the looting visited on the ancient Benin Kingdom in 1897.

“It is hoped that the British government and, indeed, Tony Blair’s led government would aced to our request for a return of this important cultural treasury.” He said.
Explaining why it became necessary to celebrate the 30th anniversary, Babawale, who until his appointment was professor of Political Science at the University of Lagos, told journalists that FESTAC 77 was, in a very unique way, a source of “African pride”

Africa, he said, had be accused of being a continent without history, culture or civilization, but Festac provided the continent a platform with which it told the world that Africa was not “one long night of darkness.” “It provided the platform to tell the whole world that there is a lot that the continent can offer to the world in terms of medicine, music and technology.”

Lined up for the anniversary, he said, include a launching of commemorative postal stamp in conjunction with Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST ) on the 29TH of March, a celebration of the existing monuments that are kept in the custody of CBAAC, including some of the works that were exhibited at that important cultural fiesta thirty years ego, an exhibition of art works and crafts from the National Gallery of Art (NGA), National Council for Art and Culture (NCAC), National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM) as well as a celebration of the African dance to be done by the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN).

The occasion, according to Babawale, will also be used to honour some important African sons and daughters who have made important contributions to African civilization. Already pencilled down for this all important award include; former United Nations Chief Scribe, Ghanian born Kofi Anan; renowned novelist and African legend, Chinua Achebe; Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; father of Nigerian Theater, late Hubert Ogunde, among others.

Slated to take place on 29th March, CBAAC head explained that for paucity of fund, that the anniversary will be marked in a low key, in what he termed ”a teaser style” preparatory to October when a more elaborate ceremony would be expected.

Also speaking on further programs of CBAAC, Babawale told journalists that plans have also be concluded for another intellectual brainstorming in the neigbouring country of Benin Republic. According to him, the scheduled trip to Ryday in Benin Republic for a talkshop on Spiritual Social Capital and Self Reliance is another effort of CBAAC at meeting it’s pan African mandate.

Established by Decree 69 of 1979, the Center for Black African Art and Civilization, a multi-dimensional institution, was empowered to serve as a custodian of all cultural materials from the 59 countries that participated in FESTAC 77 cultural show.

It would also be realized that since inception, that the activities of this intellectual power house of the Culture sub-sector have always revolved around Nigeria and not until last year, still under the leadership of Babwale, that CBAAC stepped out of Nigeria to hold an international conference in the beautiful Carribean country of Trinidad and Tobago.