Britain follows in France's footsteps by agreeing to return cultural artefacts to Africa

While France is returning the artworks permanently, the pieces from the British Museum will only be around for a short time.

France has agreed to return 26 pieces of art permanently while Britain is only loaning certain artefacts

121 years after several priceless artworks were stolen by British soldiers from Benin, the capital of Edo state in Nigeria, West Africa in 1897, CNN reports that they are finally coming home.

This is as a result of a deal struck in October 2018 by the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG). Thanks to this agreement,  "some of the most iconic pieces" including 3, 000–6, 000 bronze pieces are headed back to its rightful place.


However, this deal comes with strings attached. In order for this historic collection to be returned, a new standard Museum has to be built to house these highly delicate Benin works of art. This new Benin Royal Museum in Edo State will be adjacent to the Royal Palace that once housed many of the bronzes.

Unlike the French President, Emmanuel Macron who has agreed to return 26 cultural artefacts to Benin "without delay", the British Museum in London, as well as a consortium of European museums, are only 'loaning' these pieces on a temporary basis.

Sharing details of the deal, a spokesman for the British Museum said, "The key agenda item (at the October meeting) was how partners can work together to establish a museum in Benin City with a rotation of Benin works of art from a consortium of European museums.

"The museums in attendance have all agreed to lend artefacts to the Benin Royal Museum on a rotating basis, to provide advice as requested on building and exhibition design, and to cooperate with the Nigerian partners in developing training, funding, and a legal framework for the display in a new planned museum."


In spite of these conditions, this agreement remains a win for the BDG,  formed in 2007 to ensure the return of these pieces, which are considered come of the greatest African artworks ever made.

The group comprises of representatives of several European museums, the Royal Court of Benin, Edo State Government, and Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

It is hoped that this will be the first of many steps towards the permanent restitution of the bronzes.

"We are grateful these steps are being taken but we hope they are only the first steps," Crusoe Osagie, spokesman for the Governor of Edo, told CNN. "If you have stolen property, you have to give it back."

Details concerning the exact number and type of pieces to be returned will probably be discussed at the next BDG meeting in Benin City next year.


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