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16.04.2021 Feature Article

Horniman Museum Preparing To Restitute Looted Benin Artefacts?

Warrior with sword and shield, Benin, Nigeria, now in Horniman Museum, London, United KingdomWarrior with sword and shield, Benin, Nigeria, now in Horniman Museum, London, United Kingdom
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’African art, like any great art, some would say, in any case more than any other, and for a long time if not always, is first of all in man, in the emotion of man transmitted to objects by man and his society.

This is the reason why one cannot separate the problem of the fate of African art from the fate of the African man, that is to say the fate of Africa itself.”

Aimé Césaire, Lecture on African art, Dakar, Sénégal, 1966.

I was delighted to read that the Horniman Museum was preparing to follow the current trend in Western museums of ‘preparing to restitute’ looted Benin artefacts that have been in the West for more than hundred years. (1) Readers may recall that I have written on a few occasions about this museum in South-East London which is not as well-known as the British Museum in Central London but has nevertheless some impressive Benin artefacts, from the notorious British invasion of the Kingdom of Benin in 1897. (2) Press reports on the new rules on procedures for restitution were enthusiastic and encouraging. (3)

I was somewhat surprised by this good news allegedly coming from the Horniman Museum because the last time that I dealt with the museum I did not have the impression that they would be willing to consider the issue of restitution of looted the Benin artefacts. (4) I decided to secure a copy of the new rules that will be ushering a new era for restitution in the Horniman Museum. (5)

It appears from para. 6.1 of the Restitution and Repatriation policy document issued by Horniman Public Museum and Public Trust on March 2021that the institution is, in principle, not against restitution of looted artefacts. After referring to various international and British legal instruments including

UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property (1970) •

Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017

Return of Cultural Objects Regulations 1994 Section,

paragraph 6.1 states that’ the trustees of the Horniman recognise that occasions will arise when it will be appropriate to enter into discussions with stakeholders about the potential restitution or repatriation of cultural objects and human remains which are in its collection and were acquired by force or other forms of duress, by theft, or were communal property which was acquired from a person not authorised to give it. Each discussion will be held on a case by case basis, in recognition of the unique stories and circumstances of each object’.

The document then provides a procedure for making demands for restitution and states what other documents may be required and provides addresses for where postal requests should be sent. In the following paragraph 7.3 entitled

‘Responding to a request’, the document states ‘ We may also need advice about whether we have the legal right to return the cultural artefact( for example we need to be able to demonstrate that we own it and it is not on loan from another owner). In many cases the advice of the Charity Commission will need to be sought.’

If the doubt expressed here relates to occasional doubt that one may have relating to the legal right to dispose of an object, we have no objection. But if the doubt relates generally to the right of the Horniman Museum to dispose of objects, such as the Benin artefacts in its collections, we suggest the museum should have that abundantly clarified before issuing rules relating to the procedure for requesting restitution. From newspaper comment of the director of the museum, we had the impression that this doubt was more general. (6)

The right to dispose of an object subject to restitution is fundamental to the whole subject and all doubts about this ownership right must be resolved before talking about the subject. Or is this doubt being presented here as a built-in escape clause for future use? A future revision of these provisions should eliminate such doubts.

The Horniman Museum seems to have discovered communities of the diaspora. Communities are mentioned several times in these provisions –

1.3 the Horniman is committed to engaging with its many communities, local and across the globe, in discussions about the future of its collections in terms of care, exhibition and ultimate destination. As part of this, we are committed to working with our communities to develop greater transparency about the histories of the collections and to sharing these stories widely

2.1’ We recognise that the collections in the Horniman have been acquired at different times and under a range of circumstances, some of which would not be appropriate today, such as through force or other forms of duress. We understand that for some communities – whether in countries of origin or in the diaspora -- the retention of some specific objects, natural specimens or human remains is experienced as an ongoing hurt or injustice. In recognition of this, the Horniman trustees wish to set out transparent policies and procedures by which communities can enter into discussion with them about the future of this material, including its possible return.’

Horniman should refrain from making excuses for those who oppressed and killed our people in the past by referring to standards of that period and our present-day standards. It was never acceptable to oppress and kill Africans in order to seize their property, including cultural artefacts. Those making a distinction between then and now are saying that in those days of colonialism it was acceptable. Imperialism was never acceptable that is why such merciless inhuman methods were used to subjugate the peoples of Africa and Asia. Other provisions relating to communities are in 6.1 and 7.1.

We should bear in mind that at present most of the demands for restitution of looted property come from sovereign States, acting on their own behalf or on behalf of some of the nations in their multinational States. Thus, Nigeria may demand restitution on behalf of the Benin Kingdom. Ghana may ask for restitution of Asante gold on behalf of the Asante nation. A fixation on communities seems to indicate that one is still entrapped in the ethnologist’s vision that Africans live in small communities and not in States. Nigeria has more than 200 million citizens and is not a community.

Under the heading Terminology[from Charity Commission guidance] we are given in 2.3 statements relating to ‘restitution’ and ‘reparation:

Restitution’ refers to the return of an object from a museum collection to a party found to have a prior and continuing relationship with the object, which is seen to override the claims of the holding museum.

Repatriation’ refers to the return of an object of cultural patrimony from a museum collection, to a party found to be the true owner or traditional guardian, or their heirs and descendants.

Frankly, I do not see the need for these statements. I observe that under restitution, the party making a claim must establish’ a prior and continuing relationship with the object, which is seen to override the claims of the holding museum. Does this mean that an African people cannot establish a relationship with the artefact which arose after the object was looted and brought to the Horniman? Think about the relationships that have been developed with such objects as the hip-mask of the Queen-mother Idia since the British looting in 1897. Are such relationships of no validity? And what gives peoples in a British museum such as Horniman to make such an evaluation? Simply because they have illegally kept the looted artefact for more than a hundred years?

And what does’ continuing relationship with the object mean’? Is it a requirement that the claiming people should not have abandoned or modified their attitude to such an object or their use? How many European artefacts would remain in Europe if such a test were applied? Evolution and development of customs and habits are excluded by this requirement, but Western holders do not need to establish that they have developed any relationship with the particular object they have kept for more hundred years.

A future revision of the rules should eliminate the statements on restitution and reparation or offer more explanations with examples. If it is necessary at all for a claimant people or community to have such explanations at all.

Horniman conducted in 2020’ equitable conversations’ with Nigerians in London about the Benin artefacts and found out that the majority was in favour of restitution. (7)

Horniman intends again to consult Nigerians in the African diaspora in London about the same Benin artefacts. Is it the intention of the museum to consult Nigerian communities on the same or similar issue until they respond that the artefacts should be kept in the UK or propose a solution that will, at least, offer a delay of restitution? The temptation to play the Diaspora against the home country should be resisted. The old imperialist game of divide and rule is no longer effective. James Cuno and Neil McGregor, high priests of the universal museum, came close to this temptation but avoided succumbing to its dangerous effects and methods.

Whatever the intention of the Horniman may be as regards consultation with the Nigerian diaspora, the museum should know that the African diaspora, whether in the USA or in Europe has always been in favour of the liberation of the African peoples and their imprisoned artefacts. The African Diaspora has, historically, always been the avant-garde of liberation and restitution. This was so in the period preceding the liberation of the Continent as well as in the present discussions concerning the restitution of looted African artefacts, including Benin objects in Western museums. Most readers would have heard of W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Henry Sylvester Williams, George Padmore, Aimé Césaire, Franz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and others fighting for the African cause. Bernie Grant would be specifically remembered for his long and relentless struggle in the 1990s for the return of Benin artefacts in British institutions to Nigeria. (8)

That most of the present discussions on restitution have started and continued in the African Diaspora was underlined by a conference organized by Prof. Wazi Apoh at the University of Ghana, Legon,13-14 December,2018. (9)

One aspect of the new Horniman rules which should be considered seriously is that, like most rules enacted by Western museums and institutions holding looted African artefacts, the Horniman rules refer an appeal to their decision whether to restitute an artefact or not to the same institution that decided in the first place:

7.9 Appeals relating to a decision may only be made on grounds of procedural irregularity or new evidence. In the event that a community group is not satisfied with the process or the outcome, they may make an appeal in writing, setting out why they feel that the decision is flawed and providing any additional evidence or arguments. This will be reviewed by the full trustee board.

What is the real value of such an appeal procedure? Should the appeal not be decided by a different body than the one that took the decision initially? Indeed, what concept of justice are we dealing with when in a dispute about ownership of looted African artefacts, one party, the Western museum holding the artefact illegally is judge and defendant in his own case? Does the natural justice principle Nemo judex in causa sua, no one should be the judge in his own case, not apply here? We have often heard that’ Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. Must we assume that all these Western institutions that decide questions relating to their looted African artefacts will do justice?

It would be preferable to have the UNESCO Inter-governmental Body set up panels of artefacts arbitrators that could decide such cases completely or at least at the appeals level. The present system of appealing to the museums clearly does not correspond to any system or theory of justice. The wonder is that those who are always proclaiming human rights do not seem to be worried by such a situation. Or can we always trust Western museum officials and related persons to do justice to African demands? What does a hundred years’ experience teach us?

Horniman like many respectable British institutions issued statements of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement but did not think about or realize fully what such statements of solidarity implied:

‘We condemn racism in all its forms, which continues to be played out daily in the UK, the USA and around the world.

As an organisation we recognise our colonial and racist past, and our mission is now to help shape a positive future for the world we all share.

This has never been more vital than it is now’.

Statement by Horniman Museum on Black Lives Matter.

https://www.horniman.ac.uk/story/black-lives-matter/

If the management of the museum that issued this statement understood what they were supporting, they would have realized and understood certain facts of life in Britain and Britain’s relationship with its former colonies. It would have become clear to all that slavery, colonialism, racism and looting of African artefacts are fundamentally linked. It is evident that it was the oppressive colonialist system that enabled Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, and Holland to amass thousands of African artefacts that are lying around in European museums and their basements, most of them not being displayed for lack of space but the Europeans are most unwilling even to return a few objects to the deprived owners who have been begging for more than a century. And now, when a museum such as the Horniman comes to consider restitution , it establishes a rule which would require explanations of ’the reasons why a return to the community of origin is considered appropriate’(7.2) The owners must explain why they want their artefacts back! Only deep racism can explain such a requirement. There is also provision in 7.2 that:

It would also be helpful to have an indication of what it is planned will happen to the material when it is returned. This might include, for example, reburial, exhibition in a museum, retention in a community facility or re-engagement in spiritual/cultural activity’.

Here we have restated the old firm belief of Westerners that they have a God-given duty or right to supervise Africans in the use of their resources, including cultural artefacts. This assumed residual right of supervision or control goes as far as wanting to know what the original owners intend to do with their artefacts when they receive them after hundred years of detention by Europeans. This demand is the last and enduring tactic of the strategy of so-called ‘universal museums’ to retain some control over artefacts of former colonies.

The slightest sympathy with Black Lives Matter would have saved the museum from including such racist requirement.

Solidarity with Black Lives Matter would have prevented the Horniman Museum from alleging that no demand for restitution has been submitted to the museum. This old excuse for avoiding restitution should not, with all due respect, be advanced any longer by respectable museums. The Director of the Horniman is reported by Artnet.com as follows:

Nick Merriman, the chief executive of the Horniman Museum, told the Art Newspaper that the institution has not received any formal requests since releasing its new guidelines last month. It remains to be seen whether the recent spate of publicity surrounding the document will inspire claimants to come forward. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/london-museum-might-repatriate-benin-bronzes-1957559

The previous Oba of Benin, the late Oba Erediawu sent his brother(and uncle of the present Oba Ewuare II) to present Benin’s case for restitution before the British Parliament, which is published in the official reports of parliament, Hansard. The Benin plea in the report is known as Appendix 21. Is Horniman Museum not subject to the British Parliament? Have the people at Horniman never heard of Bernie Grant? Why does Horniman talk to the Nigerian Diaspora if there has been no request for restitution? UNESCO/United Nations have passed since 1972 resolutions urging Member States and their museums holding artefacts of former colonies to return them to their countries of origin. ICOM Code of Ethics provides that those museums holding looted artefacts of others should take initiative to discuss the issue.

Why does Horniman participate in the meetings of the Benin Dialogue Group, even as an observer, if not to find solutions to looted Benin artefacts in Western Museums ? After the Savoy-Sarr report and all that has been written over the issue, it should not be possible for a respectable museum to present such a pre-Ouagadougou argument. (And where is Ouagadougou, please?) Does the Director of Horniman expect the Oba of Benin to renew his demand for restitution anytime the museum issues new rules on restitution?

A genuine sympathy and solidarity with Black Lives Matter would lead to immediate recognition for the need to implement policies reflecting diversity of British societies through bringing into the management and curatorial levels of the museum members of the African, African American, African European communities in the United Kingdom.

A genuine sympathy for Black Lives Matters should lead to an understanding of the motivations and frustrations of young activists such as Mwazulu Diyabanza who are resorting to measures of the forceful rescue of African artefacts illegally detained in Western museums. Let us be clear. We cannot approve of the methods of young activists which remind us painfully of the colonialists methods. However, they are driven to such desperate methods by the reluctance of Western museums to return these artefacts. Nowhere in the museum’s new rules do we get the impression they are interested or working for quick restitution of artefacts. On the contrary, they seem keen to enact rules that can ensure or provide grounds for delays in restitution of looted African artefacts.

Those who sympathize with Black Lives Matter should speak to young Africans or African Europeans about their experience on their first visit to museums and could benefit from their views. They would realize how strong their emotions are regarding looted African artefacts. Some would breathe fire on their necks. The violent reactions that we must control when we see our looted objects in Western museum cannot be understood by most Westerners; they have never been in a situation where a foreign power has violently stolen their cultural artefacts and kept them in museums, displaying them as if they were the owners. The shame that should accompany displaying stolen goods has completely departed from Western societies, thanks to colonialism and Ethnology.

"We recognise that the collections in the Horniman have been acquired at different times and under a range of circumstances, some of which would not be appropriate today, such as through force or other forms of duress.

Many more European museums have recently declared themselves ‘preparing to consider’ requests for restitution of looted African artefacts. An innocent person might believe the issue had just arisen, not knowing that our artefacts have been in these museums for more than a hundred years. How long are these museums going to be ‘preparing to consider’? Knowing that these are looted items and knowing who the owners are, what else do they have to consider before doing the right and simple thing of returning the objects to the owners? Not a single report indicates that the museums are really about to return the looted artefacts. They still speak in the potential mood. In any case, they still have not revealed to the world how many looted African artefacts they hold, and their homepages do not show images of the objects. How can we ask for the return of objects they stole hundred years ago when we do not have an idea of what they are hiding?

Whatever rules Western museums may develop, nothing much will change unless there is a genuine desire to do justice to the original owners by restituting their looted artefacts. Anything short of genuine restitution can only be an attempt to gain time through delays by seeking failures on the part of owners in a system geared to the benefit of the museum.

As far as concerns restitution of Benin artefacts and Horniman we have come a long way from the time when museum officials seem to believe they had developed a solution or partial solution to the issue of restitution. Anthony Alan Shelton, then Director, Horniman Museum, declared:

If the original acquisition was not contentious at the time, the ensuing history of European and American rights over the legal ownership of Benin artefacts has been a continuous source of friction with Nigeria, which we felt an ethical incumbency to confront. The partial and more equitable resolution we devised involved returning the voice of interpretation, if not the disputed objects, to the Bini people themselves. The response of Joseph [Eboreime] and the team he put together with the co-operation of the National Commission on Museums and Monuments was, to say the least, gracious and immensely rewarding. For over two years Joseph tirelessly directed research on the iconography and history of the bronzes in our collection, using written, archival, and most important, oral sources from within the Royal Palace itself. Furthermore, by recording royal ceremonies he was able to relate historically situated events to their contemporary ritual re-enactments.” (10)

Kwame Opoku.

NOTES.

1. London's Horniman Museum—home to 15 Benin bronzes ...https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/horniman-museum-policy-on-restitution

New Restitution Guidelines-regional museums navigate a way forward https://www.returningheritage.com/uk-regional-museums-create-a-proactive-and-respectful-environmen t-for-restitution-claims

Benin Bronzes: Horniman Museum to consider returning looted artefacts https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-56652357

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/london-museum-might-repatriate-benin-bronzes-1957559

2. K. Opoku, ‘Unlimited Inventiveness: Horniman Museum to Discuss Benin Artefacts with Nigerian and British Artists in London’ https://www.modernghana.com/news/982718/unlimited-inventiveness-horniman-museum-to-discus.html

K Opoku,’ Looted Nigerian Benin Bronzes in Horniman Museum, London’ https://www.modernghana.com/news/347411/looted-nigerian-benin-bronzes-in-horniman-museum.html

3. The London Telegraph announced that Horniman Museum makes Benin Bronzes repatriation pledge to end 'injustice' https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/04/07/horniman-museum-makes-benin-bronzes-repatriation-pledge-end/ Okayafrica declared that London's Horniman Museum May Return Nigeria's Looted Benin Bronzes Th https://www.okayafrica.com/londons-horniman-museum-art-repatriation/ The Art newspaper stated that ‘London’s Horniman Museum-home to 15 Benin bronzes-announces new ‘transparent procedures’ for looted object requests’. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/horniman-museum-policy-on-restitution

Artnet.com declared: A London Museum Has Put Forth a Plan That Could Make It the Next Institution to Repatriate Benin Bronzes https://news.artnet.com/art-world/london-museum-might-repatriate-benin-bronzes-1957559 National news.com announced that London's Horniman Museum to consider returning Benin Bronzes and other artefacts to countries of origin https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-culture/art/london-s-horniman-museum-to-consider-returning-benin-bronzes-and-other-artefacts-to-countries

4. K. Opoku, Looted Nigerian Benin Bronzes in Horniman Museum, London (modernghana.com)

5. See Annex below.

6. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/horniman-museum-policy-on-restitution

7. Horniman Museum to consult Nigerian Londoners on return of looted Benin bronzes | London Evening Standard | Evening Standard

8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-Africanism

https://www.modernghana.com/news/775991/will-western-museums-tell-the-true-histories-of.html

https://alchetron.com/Bernie-Grant-744944-W

https://youtu.be/d4a74NC6aQA

9.https://www.ug.edu.gh/sites/default/files/images/Statement%20of%20restitution%20workshop%20participants%20final.pdf

Wazi Apoh and Andreas Mehler,,Restitution of Art Objects: Bringing in African Perspectives https://trafo.hypotheses.org/17811

K. Opoku, Discussions on Restitution of Looted African Artefacts at the University of Ghana, Legon.

https://www.modernghana.com/news/905666/discussions-on-restitution-of-looted-african-artef.html

AFFORD (The African Foundation for Development)report, Return of the Icons (2020)found out that’ Diaspora respondents were overwhelmingly (approximately 80% of all respondents) in favour of the return of stolen African artefacts and human remains to their countries and communities of origin.’ p.3. https://www.afford-uk.org/afford-publishes-guiding-documents-in-return-of-the-icons-campaign/

10. Anthony Alan Shelton, “Preface” in Karel Arnaut (Ed), Re-visions: New Perspectives on the African Collections of the Horniman Museum, 2000, The Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, Museu Antropologico da Universidade de Coimbra, p.10.

ANNEX

Restitution and Repatriation Policy

Name of governing body: Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust Date on which this policy was approved by governing body: March 2021

Date of which this policy is due for review: March 2023.

Introduction

1.1 The Horniman Museum and Gardens holds a collection of objects and specimens relating to global cultures and natural environments, falling into the broad disciplines of anthropology, ethno-musicology and natural history. The founding collection was amassed by Frederick Horniman between c 1850 and his death in 1906. It was given ‘for the people of London’, along with purpose-built buildings and gardens, in 1901. The collection has been added to since then, with the bulk of the holdings made before 1945.

The mission of the Horniman Museum and Gardens is:

The Horniman connects us all with global cultures and the natural environment, encouraging us to shape a positive future for the world we all share’.

1.2 As a response to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, we developed a Re-set Agenda which is designed to accelerate the future economic, social and environmental sustainability of the organisation. The key goals in this agenda are:

1. Consult people and work in partnership

2. Address the history and legacy of the Horniman business and institutional collecting

3. Engage wider audiences through programming and communications

4. Enhance our digital capabilities

5. Diversify staff and volunteers

6. Make the Horniman greenhouse gas neutral and more biodiverse

7. Maximise income generation

1.3 In the light of this, the Horniman is committed to engaging with its many communities, local and across the globe, in discussions about the future of its collections in terms of care, exhibition and ultimate destination. As part of this, we are committed to working with our communities to develop greater transparency about the histories of the collections and to sharing these stories widely.

2. Restitution and repatriation

2.1 We recognise that the collections in the Horniman have been acquired at different times and under a range of circumstances, some of which would not be appropriate today, such as through force or other forms of duress. We understand that for some communities – whether in countries of origin or in the diaspora -- the retention of some specific objects, natural specimens or human remains is experienced as an ongoing hurt or injustice. In recognition of this, the Horniman trustees wish to set out transparent policies and procedures by which communities can enter into discussion with them about the future of this material, including its possible return.

2.2 The current document relates to cultural material and human remains. There is a Human Remains Policy (endorsed March 2021) covering care, access, display and restitution, and a more general Collections Development Policy.

2.3 Terminology [from Charity Commission guidance]

‘Restitution’ refers to the return of an object from a museum collection to a party found to have a prior and continuing relationship with the object, which is seen to override the claims of the holding museum.

Repatriation’ refers to the return of an object of cultural patrimony from a museum collection, to a party found to be the true owner or traditional guardian, or their heirs and descendants.

3. The role of the Board

3.1 The Horniman Museum and Gardens is a charitable company limited by guarantee, with a Board of up to twelve trustees. It is also a Non-Departmental Public Body of the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which provides it with the majority of its funding. This means that, although four of the trustees (including the Chair) are appointed by government, as a group they are at ‘arms-length’ (or independent) from government. Trustees meet four times a year.

3.2 Trustees are there to ensure that the objectives of the charity are met over the long term, and they discharge this trust on behalf of the public. The Charity Commission is the official regulator, and advises that Trustees have six main duties:

1. Ensure the charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit

2. Comply with the charity’s governing document and the law

3. Act in the charity’s best interests

4. Manage the charity’s resources responsibly

5. Act with reasonable care and skill

6. Ensure the charity is accountable

[from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/charity-trustee-whats-involved#trustees-6-mainduties]

3.3 As a result of these duties, trustees must exercise caution about selling or giving away the charity’s assets, which include the collections. Nevertheless, it is possible to do this under agreed circumstances where a case can be made on ethical or legal grounds. Specific Charity Commission guidance on restitution can be found in the Disposals Toolkit alongside general guidance on disposals from museum collections:

https://www.artscouncil.org

rg.uk/sites/default/files/download-file/Disposal_Toolkit.pdf

4. Legal Framework

4.1 This policy exists within a national and international legal framework which includes charitable law, and certain instruments which specifically deal with issues of restitution and repatriation. These include:

UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the

Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property (1970)

Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017

Return of Cultural Objects Regulations 1994

5. Existing Guidance

In addition to the Disposals Toolkit above, further guidance is given within the Arts Council’s document on Restitution of Cultural Property [to come.

Policy

6.1 Taking all of the above into account, the trustees of the Horniman recognise that occasions will arise when it will be appropriate to enter into discussions with stakeholders about the potential restitution or repatriation of cultural objects and human remains which are in its collection and were acquired by force or other forms of duress, by theft, or were communal property which was acquired from a person not authorised to give it. Each discussion will be held on a case by case basis, in recognition of the unique stories and circumstances of each object.

7. Procedure

When an individual or group representing a particular community wishes to discuss the return of material or human remains, the following procedures will apply.

Developing a relationship

7.1 We strongly encourage initial informal enquiries from a community to explore the holdings of the Horniman, the circumstances of acquisition, and the possibility of a return. Our experience is that the development of a relationship of mutual respect and understanding is fundamental to the exploration of issues of future management of collections, including return. The Horniman will do its best to facilitate such informal discussions, including supporting community members to navigate the collections online, and following up with any other collections data we have, as requested. We will also do our best to provide photographs and video tours of the collection where community members are unable to travel and to share information 3 about any known archives relating to the items and the way in which the items are currently being used and cared for.

Horniman Collections Online can be found here: https://www.horniman.ac.uk/explore-the-collections/

Informal enquiries should be sent to [email protected] where they will be forwarded to the relevant department.

Information about the member of staff who may receive your enquiry can be found here: https://www.horniman.ac.uk/about-the-horniman/people/

Making a request

7.2 Following this initial exploratory phase, communities may feel that they wish to make a formal request for a return of cultural material or human remains. This request, made in writing and posted or emailed to the Chief Executive of the Horniman, should include the following detail to ensure that Trustees have all the information they need to exercise their responsibilities:

• An introduction to the community representatives and their relationship to the community making the request

• Details of the cultural material or human remains which is the subject of the request for return. Horniman staff will help provide these details.

• The reasons why a return to the community of origin is considered appropriate

• It would also be helpful to have an indication of what it is planned will happen to the material when it is returned. This might include, for example, reburial, exhibition in a museum, retention in a community facility or re-engagement in spiritual/cultural activity.

• Community representatives making the request are welcome to provide any additional information they feel the museum needs in order to make the decision. This might include:

Letters of support from the community, partner organisations, or national bodies

Information about any other requests that are planned or in process.

Advice on any archives, publications, organisations, or individuals whom it would be useful to consult.

A formal emailed request should be sent to: [email protected]

A postal request should be sent to:

Chief Executive

Horniman Museum and Gardens

100 Road London

London

SE23 3PQ

United Kingdom

Responding to a request

7.3 When the request is received, the Horniman will send an acknowledgement of receipt within one week, and will provide within 20 working days a timetable for response to the request. This timetable will vary on a case by case basis, depending on the number of objects involved, the archival or accompanying documentation, the complexity of the issues and the timing of trustee meetings. Sometimes discussions may need to be held with other stakeholders such as diaspora communities in the UK, or opinions of specialists with more detailed knowledge sought, including communities of origin. We may also need advice about whether we have the legal right to return the cultural artefact (for example we need to be able to demonstrate that we own it and it is not on loan from another owner). In many cases the advice of the Charity Commission will need to be sought.

7.4 The Horniman staff will take the request and work on a report which sets out the history of the cultural material or human remains including its circumstances of acquisition and the case made for return. In some cases Horniman staff will contact community representatives to gather more information to support the report.

7.5 This report will then be taken to a sub-committee with delegated responsibility to make a recommendation on Restitution and Repatriation issues. The subcommittee will review this report to judge to the best of their ability whether the cultural material or human remains may have been acquired:

• illegally from the nation of origin

• through or following physical force

• from people who were not the legitimate owners

• in circumstances where owners were compelled to sell or give them

They will also consider additional factors such as whether the secret and/or sacred nature of the objects makes access to them through exhibition or research unethical, or where the spiritual and/or cultural significance of an object and the impact of its loss is central to a request.

7.6 Following these discussions, the subcommittee will make a recommendation to the full board. This is likely to be to:

• Agree to the request for return

o In this case, discussions will be held on the nature of the return to the community group and arrangements put in place (see below); or

• Decline the request for return

In this case, clear reasons will be set out for the decision and communicated to the community group; or

• Request further clarification

Here, trustees will feel unable to make a decision without further information. This might be from Horniman staff, from the community group, or from other stakeholders. In this case, the community group will be informed and a revised timetable produced.

Return

7.7 When a return is agreed, discussions will be held over the nature of the return. Whilst in most cases this will involve physical return of the cultural material or human remains, in some instances hybrid arrangements might be made. For example, whilst transfer of ownership will take place in all cases, from time to time the Horniman might wish to request a loan back of some of the cultural material for education and display purposes. Agreement or otherwise to the loan would be determined by the community group. In other cases, a request might be made to make replicas of some of the cultural material for similar reasons. Again agreement or otherwise would be determined by the community group.

7.8 Physical return of the items or human remains would then be discussed and agreed with both parties. Costs of return would be mutually discussed and a solution found which is acceptable to both parties. Formal documentation of the transfer of title and the removal of the items or remains from the Horniman’s collections would complete the process.

Appeals and dispute resolution

7.9 Appeals relating to a decision may only be made on grounds of procedural irregularity or new evidence. In the event that a community group is not satisfied with the process or the outcome, they may make an appeal in writing, setting out why they feel that the decision is flawed and providing any additional evidence or arguments. This will be reviewed by the full trustee board.

Review of policy 7.10 This policy and procedure will be reviewed by trustees at least every two years. March 2021

Warrior with sword and shield, Benin, Nigeria, now in Horniman Museum, London, United Kingdom

Drummer and hornblower, Benin, Nigerian now in Horniman Museum, London, United Kingdom.

Priest Doctor of the Royal Army and Benin War Chief, Benin, Nigeria, now in Horniman Museum, London, United Kingdom

Head of an Oba, Benin, Nigeria, now in Bristol Museum, Bristol, United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Head of an Oba, Benin, Nigeria, now at University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom

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