Can you rent what was stolen? This is the question the world is asking after an insert shared by Aljazeera (English) explained that the British Museum offered to rent the bronze statues collection stolen from the great Benin Kingdom over a century ago.
The Benin Bronze statues dating as far back as the 1500s were hauled by the British Imperialists in 1879. The Nigerian government has been on a campaign to collect the valuable artifacts that originally belongs to them since gaining independence from the British empire. Reports claim that the British government is currently in the process of negotiating an agreement to loan the treasured artifacts back to Nigeria. These claims do not sit well with the general public but the Nigerian government seems to be open to negotiating terms.
Recovering stolen art by Western Governments is a major agenda of a wider campaign seeking reparations for countries who have endured brutalities of slavery and colonization which benefitted the opulence of the West and caused the impoverishment of colonized societies.
“Whatever terms we can agree to have them back so that we can relate to our experience, relate to these works that are at the essence of who we are, we would be open to such conversations,” Godwin Obaseki, the Governor of Edo state, home to the great Benin Kingdom told Reuters.
A British museum spokesperson, Hannah Bolton expressed that, "It is absolutely not the case that everything in the museum's African collection was plundered or looted or whatever phrase you want to use. But obviously, there are certain circumstances or certain events that happened and certain examples like the Benin Bronzes where that material wouldn't have come into the collection the same way today,"
It seems to be the belief of the Nigerian government that the only way the western museums will be willing to release the valuable art pieces is to accept them on loan. There also fears that should the artifacts be released permanently, they will be exposed to poor maintenance by African museums.
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