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25 March 2021

The University of Aberdeen is to return a Benin bronze - a sculpture looted by British soldiers in Nigeria in one of the most notorious examples of the pillaging of cultural treasures associated with 19th century European colonial expansion.

Thousands of metal and ivory sculptures and carvings were looted by British forces in 1897 during the destruction of Benin City in present-day Nigeria by a British military expedition.

Many of the soldiers and administrators involved sold Benin objects to museums or private collectors. Others were later given as gifts to museums or sold at auction or by art dealers.

Over the last 40 years there have been growing calls for the return of such items, which have become symbols of injustice.

A number of museums have been discussing the Benin bronzes in their collections and are supporting the creation of the Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City to display the returned items under agreements wrought by all parties.

The University of Aberdeen instigated a conversation through Professor Bankole Sodipo, Professor of Law in Babcock University, Nigeria with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria through its Legal Adviser, Babatunde Adebiyi, the Edo State Government through the then Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Yinka Omorogbe and the Royal Court of the Oba of Benin through Prince Professor Gregory Akenzua in 2020.

The Nigerian Federal Government gave its backing through the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and its Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

This conversation has now led to the University of Aberdeen becoming the first institution to agree to the full repatriation from a museum of a Benin bronze.

Copyright: University of Aberdeen

University to return Benin bronze | News | The University of Aberdeen (

University of Aberdeen to return one Benin Bronze: News
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