Thursday, October 4, 2007
Benin chief appeals for help in tracing missing artefacts
A Benin high chief has appealed to his Federal Government for assistance in tracking down a significant quantity of his country's missing cultural heritage.
But this is not the usual pleading to the British Museum and other Western museums whose Benin collections were formed largely as a result of the 1897 Punitive Expedition which stripped the country of the finest examples of its ancient sculpture (example show above left). This time, it seems, there is evidence that insiders might be responsible for the disappearance of the artefacts, valued at over $100 million. At any rate, that seems to be the subtext of high chief Chief Sunday Emokpae's recent appeal.
"The government must come in and assist in unearthing those that stole our artefacts in the Benin museum," said Chief Emokpae. "It must not be swept under the carpet."
If true, this is very bad news, not only for Benin, but for many other developing nations across Africa and beyond. Many previous attempts to win repatration of objects plundered during the colonial era have brought a return volley from Western museums who claim that these source nations are not capable of looking after their own treasures. The losses from within Benin itself, if they are as serious as Chief Emokpae claims they are, will merely harden Western intransigence over restitution.
Full story at one of Nigeria's leading newspapers, The Vanguard, here.