British Museum, Return The Stolen Nigerian Art in Your Possession!

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On February 18, 1897, 1,200 armed British soldiers violently invaded and raided the Royal Court of the Kingdom of Benin, present-day Edo State, Nigeria. They stole 4,000 ancient Nigerian antiquities (a.k.a Benin Bronzes) at gunpoint—even killing our Black and Nigerian ancestors in the process, before trafficking the looted treasures to England, and other parts of Europe, with the impunity that can only be ascribed to white supremacy.

Today, 700 or so of the looted, sacred royal treasures are in the possession of the British Museum, which has vehemently refused to honour decades-long requests by the Nigerian government and the Royal Court of Benin to repatriate the cultural artifacts back to their place of origin in Nigeria.

Our Demand: Return Our Art

The British Museum, like their peers, must own up to their history of imperialism, robbery, art trafficking, and exploitation. 

They must commit to a full scale, permanent restitution of these treasures back to Nigeria. And if they worry about their safety and sustenance there, then they must commit to building a state of the art facility in Benin City, Nigeria, that can house them, and also invest in the human resources necessary to run it. 

No More Excuses

The Benin Bronzes are some of the greatest and most sophisticated antiquities out there. They speak of an innovative and artistic civilisation that predates colonialism, hence it’s enormous significance both to the looters and traffickers (a.k.a Britain and the British Museum) and the looted (Nigerians). 

The New York Times reports that “their importance was appreciated in Europe from the moment they were first seen in the 1890s.” Adding, “Curators at the British Museum compared them at that time with the best of Italian and Greek sculptures.”

And it is because of their unmatched value and historical significance that the British Museum has chosen to turn a deaf ear to all the legitimate, decades-long requests that have been made by the Nigerian government and the activist group Benin Dialogue Group. Meanwhile, the British Museum continues exploiting the plundered treasures for the revenue they generate as tourist attractions to the benefit of Britain—our colonizer—while young, Black Nigerian kids, a majority of whom cannot afford a plane ticket to London, grow up deprived of the privilege of witnessing the brilliant and innovative artistry of their ancestors. 

How YOU Can help

Restitution is possible because, in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron committed to the “definitive restitution of African cultural heritage back to Africa.” While the British Museum, in 2018, agreed to “LEND” Nigeria a handful of the treasures they stole from us for just three years. I mean, can you imagine the entitlement?

But that’s where you come in. The British Museum cannot “lend” what does not belong to them. They must return ALL the plundered Nigerian arts in their possession with NO strings attached. 

We need you to hold them accountable. We need everyone you know and everyone they know to hold the British Museum accountable. 

We need a legion of good-hearted and just-minded people, like yourself, to put an end to this modern-day imperialism, exploitation, and illicit possession of ill-gotten blood arts. 

We need you to sign this petition, donate to have it promoted, and/or share it with everyone you know. And keep at it until we dismantle this perverse, colonial system. 

March, protest, occupy, share, and donate until the British Museum repatriates to Nigeria all that is rightfully ours!

We must put an end to this modern-day imperialism!

#ReturnTheBeninLoot

(The picture above is of the interior of the Benin king’s palace in 1897 after the raid by British looters and it is courtesy CREATIVE COMMONS/REGINALD KERR GRANVILLE.)