In February 1897, British armed forces invaded Benin City in what they called a "punitive expedition" which was no more than an ill disguised effort to seize control of southern Nigeria. Before this, British soldiers had been refused an audience with the Oba (King) of Benin due to a religious festival that was taking place throughout the city where guests where not permitted. The soldiers were told they would be granted permission after the festival and yet, with the gust of white superiority that was rampant at the time, the soldiers demanded the Oba must see them and ignored instructions not to advance towards the palace. The soldiers were warned multiple times by Benin forces that if they did not stop, security measures would be taken (as would in this day and age if armed intruders were ignoring warnings and attempting to gain access to the White House or any British palace). As a result, the soldiers were attacked and executed in the ensuing fight.
Britain, rather than acknowledge her fault in the tragedy, decided Benin city must be 'punished' and burnt down for defending itself. Hence the punitive expedition was launched which saw almost total destruction of the ancient and advanced city of Benin (the inventors of street lighting among other advancements considered revolutionary when first encountered by Europeans 400 years earlier). Men and women were killed by the hundreds, and thousands of the Great Benin Bronzes, the likes of which had never been seen before, were promptly snatched from the Oba's palace and taken to Britain. There they became the most expensive artifacts ever sold.
The crime which was never acknowledged is that the British didn't steal prized art, they stole the very library of the Bini people.
The Ancient Binis didn't use a typical alphabet. Much like their African counterparts, the ancient Eygptians, the people of Ancient Benin used an artistic method to record history and are in fact the only known civilisation in the world to sculpt hieroglyphs.
The Bronze hieroglyphs of Benin stood in the form of plaques which covered the walls of the Oba's palace, fully depicting the conquests of past Obas as well as various important events which took place during Oba dynasties and other depictions of palace life and general history.
The British Museum claims not to know "if or how these plaques were once arranged", despite the fact that unlike many other civilisations shown in their museum, Benin civilisation is not a dead one and is actually one of the oldest living civilisations in the world, with the oldest active guilds in the world. There are many Bini historical record keepers, not to mention the palace itself, capable of re-arranging the plaques to their original form, yet international museums which house these stolen materials refuse to return our library and fail to acknowledge them as such, because stolen 'artwork' is a lesser crime to be an accessory to.
This is why I am calling on not just the British Museum, but every Museum across the world which house our plaques, to officially recognise and reclassify them as what they are: the bronze hieroglyphs of Benin city.