Edo mulls museum for stolen Benin artefacts

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Alexander Okere, Benin

As part of efforts to promote the Benin cultural heritage, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has said that his administration was working with the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, to construct a museum to preserve stolen artefacts being recovered by the Benin Kingdom.

The artefacts were said to have been stolen during the invasion of Benin by the British in 1897.

 Obaseki said that the project, which would be known as the Royal Museum, would be sited in the Oba’s palace in Benin to serve as a source of educational materials for the younger generations.

The governor spoke at a dinner held in honour of two experts in Benin history, Prof. Nicholas Thomas and Prof. Annie Coombes, from the Cambridge University and University of London, respectively, at the Government House.

 He also explained that the new museum would counter the arguments of some art collectors, that were still in possession of stolen Benin artefacts, who believed that the safety of the artefacts was not guaranteed if they were returned.

 Obaseki stated, “The decision to establish a world-class museum at the Oba’s palace, one of the safest places in the world, will encourage curators across Europe and in other parts of the world to be confident and support the advocacy for the safe return of stolen artefacts of the Benin Kingdom.

“We hope your experience in Benin will encourage you to sustain the advocacy for the return of our stolen artefacts. When the artefacts are returned, they will assist generations yet unborn to understand who they are, as a people, and how they have dominated this environment in the past.”

Responding, Thomas said that the advocacy for the return of the stolen artefacts would be sustained until the artworks were safely returned.

“True knowledge about artworks is not in university museums, but lies in the makers, creators and communities where these works are created,” he added.

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