Benin Dialogue Group

Europe and burden of looted African artefacts: Reparation or repatriation?

Title: Europe and burden of looted African artefacts: Reparation or repatriation?
Author: Gregory Austin Nwakunor
Media Outlet: The Guardian Arts
Publish Date: June 23, 2019

“Aside from Nigeria, Egypt has equally been consistent in their campaign to recover looted artefacts. Last week, Egypt began a process to halt the auction of a 3,000-year-old stone sculpture of the famed boy pharaoh Tutankhamun at Christie’s in London, while the auction house said its sale was legal.

The statue — a brown quartzite head depicting King Tut — is scheduled to be auctioned off in July, and could generate more than $5 million, according to Christie’s.”

Benin Dialogue Group Removes Restitution Of Benin Artefacts From Its Agenda

Title: Benin Dialogue Group Removes Restitution Of Benin Artefacts From Its Agenda
Author: Dr. Kwame Opoku
Media Outlet: Modern Ghana
Publish Date: April 2, 2019

“As for the ownership status of the works, who does not know that Benin is the true owner despite the semantics and legalese by the international community?

We have had enough of these meetings which only end as academic exercise.

Prince Edun Agharese, Enogie of Obazuwa . (1)

We received a copy of an article entitled Benin Dialogue Group: Benin Royal Museum: Three Steps Forward, Six Steps Back by Folarin Shyllon in Art, Antiquity and Law (2).”

Long in Exile, the Looted Benin Bronzes Tell the Story of a Mighty African Kingdom

Title: Long in Exile, the Looted Benin Bronzes Tell the Story of a Mighty African Kingdom
Author: Benjamin Sutton
Media Outlet: Artsy
Publish Date: February 21, 2019

“(…) At the time, the Benin bronzes were unlike any African artworks and artifacts that Europeans were familiar with—such as elaborate Yoruba headdresses, tunics, and other regalia—both aesthetically and as records of a powerful and advanced kingdom. Because they were made through elaborate processes and from rich materials, and because they depict a vibrant cultural life in a refined, naturalistic aesthetic tradition, the Benin bronzes fully met “the European definition of what art is,” Gunsch said. “That really changed the way people responded to them in the market. A lot of other African art objects had a longer road to being recognized as art.

The British auctions sparked a fever for Benin bronzes, and museums in the U.K., Germany, and Austria, in particular, sought them out, as did art dealers. (…) Other Benin works, including some of those in U.S. museums, come from the 1970s, when the collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in England was sold off.”

The return of Benin’s looted bronzes is about restoring a century’s worth of heritage—and pride

Title: The return of Benin’s looted bronzes is about restoring a century’s worth of heritage—and pride
Author: Yomi Kazeem
Media Outlet: Quartz Africa
Publish Date: November 30, 2018

“(…) Indeed, Igun Street in Benin, known for bronze sculpting, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (…) “The language that’s been used is patronizing. I don’t like the word ‘loan’,” says Ehikhamenor. “It really offends my sensibilities as a Nigerian or as someone from Edo. They [the artworks] belong to the kingdom and the Oba’s palace where they were taken.”

But Enotie Ogbebor, an Edo artist who’s been a party to some of the restitution talks suggests it’s a prudent stop-gap measure. (…) Returning the artworks hasn’t won unanimous support in Nigeria.

(…) For Edo-born artists like Ehikhamenor and Ogbebor, the restitution of the bronzes is also personal. While the artworks will showcase local artists’ cultural influences, crucially, they will also serve as a reference for a budding generation of artists and bridge the gap in Benin’s art heritage. ”Imagine if in the last 100 years, all the works of Picasso, Monet and Michelangelo were removed from society for 100 years?” Ogbebor posits. “That is what the British invasion did to Benin by removing those things.”

Returning the art, Ehikhamenor argues, is the first step to fixing that lost connection to indigenous art heritage which has also forced local artists to look abroad for more validation, appreciation and income. ”When I make an artwork, if a white man does not endorse it, I can not grow in the art world,” Ehikhamenor says. “The hole that the African artist has to climb out of was dug a long time ago and the ladder to climb out of that hole is held by the Western world.””

Return of African Artifacts Sets a Tricky Precedent for Europe’s Museums

Title: Return of African Artifacts Sets a Tricky Precedent for Europe’s Museums
Author: Farah Nayeri
Media Outlet: The New York Times
Publish Date: November 27, 2018

'“(…) In Europe, the restitution announcement drew tepid reactions from museum directors, as it sets a tricky precedent. Leaders of cultural institutions were quick to emphasize that Mr. Macron was speaking for France and France alone, but acknowledged that his actions and pronouncements on African heritage had energized and accelerated discussions on the subject elsewhere.

In Africa, the announcement was met with a mix of enthusiasm and caution.

(…) The ball is now in the court of France’s culture minister and foreign minister, who have been asked to bring together African and European museum managers and cultural professionals to ensure that works of art circulate not only among the major museums of the world (…)

Sindika Dokolo, a businessman from the Democratic Republic of Congo who runs an art foundation in Angola and who has bought back looted African art, said the French president’s restitution offer had “no precedent.” (…) At the same time, Mr. Dokolo urged African leaders to respond quickly, before a change of government or mood in France — to “put their foot in the door before it closes.”