• Sunday, August 14, 2022

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Church of England to return Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

Both the Benin Bronzes were given as gifts to then Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie almost 40 years ago. (Image: Lambeth Palace)

By: Sattwik Biswal

THE Church of England has said it would return two Benin Bronzes to Nigeria as debate over returning artefacts from Africa grows.

Both the Bronzes were given as gifts to then Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie almost 40 years ago.

Lambeth Palace said it is currently in discussions to returns the works, which are likely to be placed at the planned Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA), which is being built in Benin City (now in present day Nigeria) to showcase the treasures of the African kingdom.

In 1897, Benin was attacked by British troops with around 5,000 works of art pillaged and spread around the globe, which are now tracked by an online project.

A Lambeth Palace spokeswoman said: “We have recently been contacted by the Digital Benin project at the MARKK (Hamburg) who enquired about our collection of gifts at Lambeth Palace and if we had received any Benin kingdom objects as gifts over the years.

“In response, we have confirmed to the Digital Benin project that we have two bronze busts, given to us by the Benin kingdom in 1982. These were gifted to Archbishop Robert Runcie by His Excellency Chief (Prof.) Ambrose F. Alli and the University of Nigeria, Nuskka.

“We have offered for the two busts to be included in the Digital Benin project and eventually, returned to our friends in Edo, Nigeria where they may remain. We are currently in discussions with the EMOWAA, via the Legacy Restoration Trust, to arrange this.”

There is a growing demand and pressure on institutions, specially London’s major museums to return works to their original countries.

Last month, the University of Aberdeen became the first public institution to return a Benin bronze sculpture to Nigeria, which was pillaged by British soldiers in 1897.

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