Culture and Tourism

Restitution Of Nigeria's Artifacts Needs Deliberate Action - Balogun

A local tour operator and chief executive officer of Tours 2 Nigeria Limited, Mr. Michael Balogun, has reiterated the need for renewed call by the government in Nigeria and other parts of Africa to request for the restitution of looted artefacts from the continent. This is coming on the sidelines of a new market for African artefacts and art championed by Christie's, the British auction house that announced a curated "Arts of Africa, Oceania and North America sale in Paris which includes African art such as the newly discovered Akan terracotta head (Ghana), Benin Bronze, and an Urhobo figure (Nigeria). The artefacts from all around Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are valued from •30,000 to •900,000 euroes. Balogun, who in a chat with newsmen, said though the demand for the return of the stolen items had been on for several years, advocated that time has come to renew call for the return to their original owners. "This issue has been on for donkey years and while other African countries have fought to have these artefacts stolen from their countries restored, Nigeria had gone mute. "Some of them are still being displayed in the British Museum and other European galleries, he added. He expressed displeasure at the near emptiness of many of the national museums in states across the country, saying many cannot compete with theNigerian artefact museums or private galleries all over the world. "The resolution should have been set up a long time ago. This is part of our history and heritage stored away in foreign museums, galleries and hands of private collectors. "Truth be told I don't even think they have any interest or when was the last time any committee was set up to look into all this process. We have not taken issues like this serious in Nigeria, apart from individuals and private organisations making efforts to get the attention of the Government, he said. According to report, plenty of African arts are domiciled outside the continent, including statues and thrones, with hundreds of thousands of historical artefacts housed in Belgium, the UK, Austria and Germany. According to quartz Africa, a French report estimates the British Museum alone has a collection of around 69,000 works from Africa. "In 1897, British troops destroyed a large portion of Benin, a city in southern Nigeria, burning the palace to the ground and looting 4,000 works of art, including the famous Benin brass heads and bronzes. Today, the British Museum in London has about 700 Nigerian historical artefacts with around 100 of them displayed in an underground gallery. As the global clamour for repatriation of African artefacts, including Benin's, have come to the limelight, the British Museum has announced plans to "lend some of the artworks to a proposed new museum in Benin City billed to open in 2021. A part of the report stated that unless it could be proven that objects were obtained legitimately, they should be returned to Africa permanently, not on long-term loan. But one of the major criticisms of demands for the returns of artworks back to African countries especially Nigeria has been the general absence of museums and proper maintenance culture. Prince Yemisi Shyllon, a Nigerian art collector was quoted as saying the value ascribed to many artefacts taken from Africa exist because of their current location. Shyllon added, "There is a working industry and infrastructure to support the works of art. The moment those works come back to our control, they will lose value just like the ones that are here.

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