Reuters:- A new guild of artists from Nigeria’s Benin City has offered to donate artworks to the British Museum in London as a way to encourage it to return the priceless Benin Bronzes that were looted from the city’s royal court by British troops in 1897.
Created in the once mighty Kingdom of Benin from at least the 16th century onwards, the bronze and brass sculptures are among Africa’s finest and most culturally significant artefacts. European museums that house them have faced years of criticism because of their status as loot and symbols of colonial greed.
The Ahiamwen Guild of artists and bronze casters says it wants to change the terms of the debate by giving the British Museum contemporary artworks, untainted by any history of looting, that showcase Benin City’s modern-day culture.
“We never stopped making the bronzes even after those ones were stolen,” said Osarobo Zeickner-Okoro, a founding member of the new guild and the instigator of the proposed donation. “I think we make them even better now.”
“Part of the crime that’s been committed, it’s not just ok, these were looted, it’s the fact that you’ve portrayed our civilisation as a dead civilisation, you’ve put us among ancient Egypt or something,” he said.
The artworks on offer, unveiled in Benin City in a ceremony attended by a member of the royal court, include a 2-metre-by-2-metre bronze plaque with carvings representing historical events in Benin, and a life-size ram made entirely from spark plugs.
Photo: Edosonmwan William, bronze caster, is seen with one of his works inside is gallery at Igun street, Benin City, Nigeria August 24, 2021