The University of Aberdeen becomes the first institution in more than a century to agree to the full and unconditional repatriation of a Benin bronze.
Last week, the University of Aberdeen announced that it will be returning the statue of an Oba (king) to the Benin City in Nigeria. The decision was as a result of an internal review of the University’s collection, which deduced that the way the sculpture had been acquired was immoral.
The sculpture was taken from Nigeria amongst a thousand of other cultural treasures that were stolen by British soldiers in 1897. The looted items ended up being sold at auctions and art dealers, or given as gifts to British museums.
Neil Curtis, Head of Museums and Special Collections, said: “An ongoing review of the collections identified the head of an Oba as having been acquired in a way that we now consider to have been extremely immoral, so we took a proactive approach to identify the appropriate people to discuss what to do.”
Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, said: “I welcome the decision of the University of Aberdeen Court to support the return of the Benin bronze. This is in line with our values as an international, inclusive university and our foundational purpose of being open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others.”
There has been a growing number of calls for items that were looted during the colonial expansion to be returned back to their countries of origin. The return of the Benin bronze – almost 125 years after it was looted by British soldiers, is of immense importance.
Germany has also announced it will be returning hundreds of Benin bronzes back to Nigeria.
In a statement, Professor Abba Isa Tijani, director general of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, said: “This is about our identity, about our history and heritage which has been taken away from us for many years. And we now have the opportunity and every Nigerian will have the opportunity to see and appreciate our history and culture.”