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13.10.2008 Feature Article

More Demands For The Restitution Of Stolen/looted Benin Artefacts

Photograph by the Ibani Ijo photographer J A Green. Oba Ovonramwen with guards on board ship on his way to exile in Calabar in 1897.Photograph by the Ibani Ijo photographer J A Green. Oba Ovonramwen with guards on board ship on his way to exile in Calabar in 1897.

Hardly a day passes by without some call for the return of the stolen cultural objects of Benin. In the whole of Africa people are incensed when they hear about the unjustified invasion of Benin by the British in 1897 and above all, the looting and burning of Benin City. Most Africans cannot believe that the Europeans who preached Christian morality could at the same time have been involved in stealing cultural objects of Africans, who according to European propaganda had an inferior culture. Many an African is even more infuriated to realize that the so-called primitive objects are on show in respectable museums in the United States, Great Britain, Germany and France that refuse to contemplate the return of these objects. One starts wondering about the relations between the museums and the plunderers.

There are growing signs that people in the ruling classes are beginning to feel the pressures of the demands of the masses and will, sooner or later, have to give serious consideration to these frequent demands. Above all, they will have to convince their own people that they are not collaborating with the Europeans and Americans in depriving the people of their urgently needed cultural and spiritual objects. The article below, published in the Nigerian Tribune, reports on the demand by the Governor of Edo State, from Benin City where the memories of the British atrocities against that city and the Benin Kingdom are alive. It is significant that the call was made at the launching of a book on Oba Ovonramwen, the valiant king whose resistance to British imperialism led to his exile, the looting of his capital and the destruction of the Benin kingdom that had been in existence since the 13th century.

Praise Songs to Oba Ovonramwen

If you saw the King they captured
He is like the python of the water.
But if you saw the white man who captured
Ovonramwen
He is skinny like a twig.

The day finally came;
The inevitable happened.
Aigubasmwin-nogie,
The eldest son of Ovonramwen,
Prepared to go to Calabar.

When he arrived,
He called on the white people.
He said, “I come to plead with you
That you give me my father's corpse
That I can take it to Benin to inter”.

The white people refused.
They said, ”We can't allow this.
We can't allow this.
Today makes three days
Since the lump of chalk was buried.”
Ovonramwen the mirror, the
fair-complexioned one!
(Extracts from “Praise Songs to Oba Ovonramwen”, African Arts, summer 1997, pp42-43)

Kwame Opoku

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

Osunbor calls for repatriation of stolen Benin artifacts

Uchechukwu Olisah, Benin City - 13.10.2008.

Edo State governor, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, has called for the repatriation of the stolen Benin artifacts in the various museums in Europe and America.

He suggested that “if these artifacts cannot be repatriated for whatever reasons, the British government can consider putting something back in their place by assisting our development efforts, especially in the arts, culture and tourism.”

The governor made call during the launch of a book entitled: “Oba Ovonramwen N'Ogbaisi in Calabar 1897-1914: The Untold Story,” held at the Oba Akenzua 11 Cultural Complex, Benin City.
The Benin National Congress (BNC) had been at the fore front of the struggle for the repatriation of the missing artifacts and had presented the matter before the House of Representatives through the member representing Oredo Federal Constituency in the state, Mr. Patrick Obahiagbon.
Besides, Osunbor challenged indigenes of the state to document the historical and cultural experiences of their clans and communities.

He expressed regrets that the “unjustified British invasion disrupted not only the administrative system of Benin Kingdom that was in place, our treasured and valuable art works were also carted away to Britain.”

Kwame Opoku, Dr.
Kwame Opoku, Dr., © 2008

The author has 253 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameOpoku

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