UK museum mulls returning looted artefact to Nigeria

UK museum mulls returning looted artefact to Nigeria

A museum in Limerick, Ireland is considering returning a looted sculpture to Nigeria.

The move comes as Nigeria intensifies efforts at restitution of its stolen artefacts looted from the ancient Benin kingdom.

1st News reports that the museum – the Hunt Museum is based in Limerick, a city in County Limerick, Ireland. According to Wikipedia, the city is located in the Mid-West Region and is also part of the province of Munster and with a population of 94,192 at the 2016 census.

The looted artefact currently in the possession of the Hunt museum is an ivory and lead leopard’s head; widely regarded as an Edo ceremonial costume attachment. The artefact was among many looted from the Benin kingdom in present-day Edo State by the British in 1897.

Jill Cousins, CEO and director of the Hunt Museum, revealed that the museum is in the process of establishing the steps to take for the restitution of the artefact.

However, the Irish Examiner reports that situation is made more complex because the object is not owned by the Hunt; but rather on loan to it from a third party, who the museum was unable to name.

“I think the moral imperative for this one is particularly important. It’s become heavier under the Black Lives Matter movement. I really think it’s part of the colonial history that needs redressing in some way.

“We’ve had conversations in the museum itself and we believe in particular, for this item; we should certainly be looking into it and see what is feasible to do. When you obtain something in this way and the catastrophic loss of life that went with it; it does seem a particularly nasty consequence of it,” she added.

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Nevertheless, Cousins revealed that the artefact was bought legally, at an art auction in the 1970s. She also added that the owner, prior to the auction, is not entirely known. Further, she held that the historical significance of the object, as well as the death toll; lend themselves to the argument for returning it to Nigeria.

The Limerick museum is already working with Digital Benin, a project started by the Museum am Rothenbaumin Hamburg to digitally network the globally dispersed works of art from the former Kingdom of Benin.

Meanwhile, reports in the UK media indicate that calls to return artworks looted from Nigeria are stronger than ever; especially with Benin city, the capital of Edo state, expected to host a new Benin Royal Museum. Work on the new state-of-the-art museum is expected to commence soon.

Dan Hicks, a professor of contemporary archaeology at the University of Oxford is an advocate for the restitution of such objects.

“This is about returning stolen goods when asked. In my view, there’s no place for stolen objects in a European museum.

“No matter how it was acquired by the museum. Whether it was bought entirely legally at an auction; that doesn’t mean that object is no longer a looted object that should it be subject to return,” he said.

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