Paintings for Sale | AntheaMissy
A Benin plaque from the mid-16th to 17th centuries. Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art.

In Complete Turnaround, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art Takes Benin Bronzes Off View and Plans to Return Them to Nigeria

In a sign of changing priorities, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art (NMAFA) in Washington, D.C., has removed all of its Benin bronzes from public view as it looks into returning the objects to Nigeria. 

According to the , which first reported the news, the NMAFA plans to return more than a dozen bronzes in its collection—including sculptures, plaques, and commemorative heads—that it confirmed were taken by British soldiers in an infamous raid of Benin’s royal palace in 1897. “We are fully committed to repatriation,” the museum’s director, Ngaire Blankenberg, told the . “We cannot build for the future without making our best effort at healing the wounds of the past.”

A Benin plaque from the mid-16th to 17th centuries. Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art.

A Benin plaque from the mid-16th to 17th centuries. Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art.

A spokesperson for the museum, however, told Artnet News that the process has only just begun. “To deaccession or remove an artifact from a Smithsonian collection, we first thoroughly research the history or provenance of the object; have the works appraised by outside experts to determine their value; discuss the return of objects with the organization involved, in this case, the Kingdom of Benin,” the museum explain in a statement.

“These Benin Bronzes are high-value objects and deaccessioning them will require approval from the Smithsonian Secretary and the Smithsonian’s board of regents,” the museum added. “When the process is complete, the Smithsonian will consider returning artifacts to their original home if requested.”

The push for repatriation voiced by Blankenberg, who was named director of the NMAFA in July, is a marked shift from the institution’s previous stance on the topic. This May, following Germany’s landmark announcement that it would begin to restitute Benin bronzes as soon as 2022, Artnet reported that the NMAFA had no plans to return its collection of works from Benin. 

“The museum has had a strong relationship with Oba and members of the royal court of Benin over the years,” NMAFA deputy director Christine Kreamer said at the time. “They are aware of the objects in our collection and appreciate that we continue to tell the story about how the kingdom’s treasures were looted from the palace in 1897.” A representative added that the museum had “not received a request for repatriation of objects.” 

A Benin plaque from the mid-16th to 17th
centuries. Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art.

In recent years, the Benin bronzes have emerged as a central symbol in the larger debate about the restitution of cultural heritage obtained during periods of colonization. An estimated 3,000 bronzes taken from Benin are currently dispersed among more than 160 museums around the world. 

But those numbers are slowly starting to decrease as various institutions and governing bodies have either returned objects to Africa or pledged to do so soon.

Last month, for instance, the University of Aberdeen and Jesus College at the University of Cambridge became the first two U.K. institutions to officially restitute bronzes, while in June, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced its own plans to return a pair of  Benin plaques.


Source link

admin

Street Art Artist

Add comment

Your Header Sidebar area is currently empty. Hurry up and add some widgets.