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Metropolitan Museum of Art Returns Looted Sculptures to Nigeria

Coercing other institutions to do the same.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced its plans to return two Benin bronze sculptures to Nigeria. The Met is reported to have roughly 160 looted objects from the Court of Benin including the aforementioned pieces which were plundered by British soldiers during a military campaign and then transported to England back in 1897.

The Benin bronze sculptures feature a warrior chief and a junior court official that date back to the 16th century. The sculptures were originally held by the British Museum which still owns hundreds of similar looted works. Max Hollein, the Met’s director, expressed in a statement: “The retention of these works within Nigeria’s National Collections is critical to the well-being of the museum community and to fostering ongoing cooperation and dialogue between The Met and our Nigerian counterparts.”

The Met’s plans to return the sculptures follows longstanding backlash from curators, historians, artist and activists for the repatriation of objects in Africa that were stolen by European countries during the colonial period. Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is now demanding museums to return their holdings of African artworks: “Nigeria enjoins other museums to take a cue from this. The art world can be a better place if every possessor of cultural artifacts considers the rights and feelings of the dispossessed.”

Earlier this year, Scotland’s University of Aberdeen promised that it would return its Benin bronze sculpture alongside Germany which also committed to send back hundreds of objects from its national holdings starting in 2022, as per Artnet.

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