GOVERNOR Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has met with German foreign ministry officials to demand the return of precious artefacts looted during the 1897 Massacre of Benin revealing that he intends to house them in his proposed Edo Museum of West African Art.
During the British colonisation of Nigeria, Benin suffered from the worst atrocities when troops invaded the city in 1897, massacring thousands and carting away many priceless artefacts. This historic items made of wood, ivory and bronze, have since found their way into public museums and private collections across Europe.
Hoping to restore some of the lost glory of the old Benin Kingdom and build a vibrant tourist trade around it, Governor Obaseki plans to open an Edo Museum of West African Art where all these artworks will be displayed. Earlier this week, the governor met with top diplomats from the German foreign office at Government House, Benin City, where he advocated the establishment of a trust fund to guarantee the completion of the project.
Governor Obaseki said: “As a government, we are preparing to launch an independent trust, which will constitute the royal family, Edo State government, the federal government and international stakeholders. Thus trust shall be transparently structured and properly resourced to take a whole series of actions relating to those works and other activities consequent there from.
“I am glad that we’ve been on it and we’ve set up the legacy restoration trust. We want to also thank some of our donors who are committed to have a few more excavations under the aegis of the trust.
“As you know, culture is a living thing and the artefacts that we are dealing with today are a repetition of our culture at a certain point in time. We believe that our collaboration should transcend to not only returning the works but also understanding the significant and meaning of those works from our history.
“There are many things that we share in common. Yes, the objects are from Benin but today, they are global, so, the idea of having a universal display is something that we cannot run away from.”
Dr Andreas Gorgen, the director-general of culture and communication to the German government, hailed the governor for setting up a trust that was independent and open to international partners. He pledged to collaborate with the state government to organise joint skills programmes, explore archaeological sites and ensure the retrieval of objects.