British university to return Benin sculpture stolen over 100 years ago

The institution agreed to a full repatriation of the sculpture after months of engagement.

Head of an Oba bronze sculpture to be returned to Nigeria [University of Aberdeen]

The bronze sculpture depicting an Oba of Benin was acquired by the university in 1957, decades after it was looted in 1897 by a British military expedition.

The university said in a statement on Thursday, March 25, 2021 that the theft of the sculpture was one of the most notorious examples of the pillaging of cultural treasures associated with 19th century European colonial expansion.

The institution agreed to a full repatriation of the bronze after months of engagement with the Federal Government, the Edo State Government, and the Royal Court of the Oba of Benin.

"It would not have been right to have retained an item of such great cultural importance that was acquired in such reprehensible circumstances," Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, Professor George Boyne, said.

Nigeria's Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, welcomed the university's action and encouraged others holding arts looted from Nigeria to do the same.

A celebratory event to mark the return of the bronze mask is being organised.

There have been calls over recent years to have African artifacts transported abroad via colonial exploitation or illegal looting returned to the continent, but success has been rare.

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