University of Aberdeen to return stolen Benin bronze to Nigeria

Jesse Williams

By Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams

25 Mar 2021

The University of Aberdeen says it will return a controversial Benin bronze following calls from the Nigerian government calling for British museums to return colonial artefacts.

After a review found the item had been acquired in an “extremely immoral” manner, the university confirmed that it would send back the bronze, which depicts the Oba, or king of Benin “within weeks”.

Professor George Boyne, principal and vice-chancellor of the university, said the decision was in line with Aberdeen’s “values as an international, inclusive university”

The piece, part of thousands of items taken when British forces looted Benin city in southeastern Nigeria in 1897, has been with the University since 1957.

Neil Curtis, Aberdeen’s head of museums and special collections, said the Bronze, had been “blatantly looted.”

“It became clear we had to do something,” Curtis said.

Nigerian government officials have hailed the move as a step in the right direction, like Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, who said, “Other holders of Nigerian antiquity ought to emulate this to bring fairness to the burning issue of repatriation.”

The governor of Edo state, of which Benin City is the capital, plans to build a centre to store and study the returned artefacts by the end of 2021, and a permanent museum by 2025.