There is a scene in Black Panther that resonates with me deeply and that this scene where we first meet Killmonger.
The anti-hero of one of the biggest movies of 2018 is in a British museum listening to a female guide telling him about historical art pieces from Ghana, Nigeria and Wakanda.
This scene plays more or less like an inside joke, a white person schooling an African man about artifacts looted or stolen from the continent. I bet the irony was not lost on the audience too. The female guide mistakenly attributed an ancient ask to Benin. Killmonger corrected her by stating it was from Wakanda.
One of the artifacts shown in the Marvel movie was the popular Queen Idia mask. Just like in the movie, the Queen Idia ivory mask is still locked in the British museum while another one is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. They are symbols of the British Empire plundering conquered territories and stealing precious historical and cultural artifacts as spoils of war.
The artifacts along with hundreds of bronze pieces were gotten from Nigeria during the Benin Expedition of 1897. It is believed that British soldiers took 3,000-6,000 bronze pieces when they sacked the city of Benin. Since then these items have been in the custody of museums, individuals and art collectors abroad. Imagine, our cultural heritage on display in foreign lands, exhibited to millions of people yearly as part of a display of colonialism.
There have been strong calls for these stolen items to be returned to their country of origin. The Nigerian government on several occasions have demanded for them to be brought back. They haven't been successful. One of the brazen examples of the British government not wanting to part ways with its blood stained loot happened in the 70s.
In 1977, the Nigerian government offered to pay Britain £2m to loan us the Queen Idia ivory mask for the second pan-African Festival of Black & African Arts & Culture (FESTAC). The plea fell on deaf ears. The pride of the Benin people couldn't make it back home for one of the largest celebration black arts and culture.
There have been renewed attempts to get our treasures back. The Federal Government wants all the bronze artworks that were looted over a century ago from Benin back in the country.
According to Al Jazeera, Britain is ready to part away with the treasures they stole during the colonial era. It has however offered a deal to the Nigerian government to loan some pieces that were stolen. The effontery. The audacity.
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It is remarkable to think the British are not willing to let go of priceless bronze pieces that were looted and stolen from the ancient Benin Empire years ago. The audacity to offer a loan agreement to the country that these items were stolen reeks of a colonial-master mindset despite Nigeria gaining independence from Britain in 1960.
Britain still holding on to stolen artifacts not only from Nigeria but other countries that were colonized during the glory days of its empire, its a desperate attempt to prove relevancy. The Queen's country is clutching these artworks to remind everyone that at one point in world history it was the greatest nation in the world.
It is sad to know that treasures from the ancient kingdom of Egypt are on display in Britain and not in their rightful homes in the lands of the pyramids. Colonialism might be outdated but Britain still acts as bullies, reminding nations it conquered who the master once was.
It is 2018, and no country should be holding on to a history that involves murder, bloodshed and pillage. In those days, Britain used brutal force to turn independent and proud nations into their colonies. These colonies were more or less companies or trading units used to expand its commercial interests.
What Nigeria should demand is an unconditional return of all stolen artifacts that were stolen from the country. Anything less will be an insult to Nigeria.
The days of the sun never setting on the British Empire are over. We are in a new world era. There is no master and slave dynamic. Give us back what you stole from us. Anything less is neo-imperialism and colonialism. These artifacts celebrate the culture and heritage of a proud people. They shouldn't be locked up in a foreign country that imposed its will on a proud nation.
All stolen artifacts should be returned to Nigeria and they should be placed not in museums but in palaces where people can admire them in their true homes.