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Benin Bronzes Repatriated to Edo State, Nigeria by Carlos Perona Calvete

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Benin Bronzes Repatriated to Edo State, Nigeria

Nineteenth-century Edo kingdom bronze plaques are finally finding their way back to Benin City. The characteristic bronzes were produced by royal commission of the Edo king, or Oba, and housed in the palace.

Together with wood and ivory pieces, they were originally removed from the Edo kingdom, or what is now southern Nigeria, when admiral Sir Harry Rawson led British soldiers into Benin City in 1897. 

Since then, the bronzes have found their way into private collections and museum exhibits throughout the world, with the largest concentration belonging to the British Museum. The latter, for its part, will be allowing these to be exhibited, at least temporarily, in Benin City. 

The Smithsonian Museum, German government, the National Museum of Ireland, the University of Aberdeen, and the Church of England (which received some bronzes as gifts) have all indicated that they are working to repatriate those pieces in their possession.

The return of these pieces is significant, not only for Edo State, which retains its monarchy as a sub-national administrative entity within Nigeria, but for the country as a whole. The Nigerian state has championed the cause of repatriations, which, even if laudable, may be viewed as a cynical move, given that the Edo State is majority Christian, and the nation’s government has been indulgent towards mounting ethnically and religiously based violence against of the country’s Christians.

Carlos Perona Calvete is a writer for The European Conservative. He has a background in International Relations and Organizational Behavior, has worked in the field of European project management, and is currently awaiting publication of a book in which he explores the metaphysics of political representation.