…German Govt reassures on return of all looted Benin artefacts
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said his government is repositioning the state to become Africa’s cultural hub with the proposed Edo Museum of West African Arts (EMOWAA), the Benin Cultural District and other projects in the arts, culture and tourism sector.
Obaseki said this during a luncheon in honour of the German Minister of State for Culture and Media, Claudia Roth and her entourage, at the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub, Benin City.
Hailing the German Government for its commitment to returning all looted artefacts in its custody, Obaseki noted that “the return of the artefacts to Edo marks the beginning of a new era where the history of Edo will be told by Edolites and not outsiders as they will help researchers answer questions bothering the history and identity of Edo people.”
He said, “Edo is poised to be the cultural capital of West Africa and we as a government will continue to support efforts to build and support the infrastructure required to develop culture in our land.
“To many in the West, the return of the Benin bronzes ends an era because you are returning these works back to those who create the works but that is not the objective. It actually begins a new era of a new relationship because with the return of the works to Nigeria and Edo State, the story begins a new chapter and the question to ask will be how will these objects benefit the people of Edo and Nigeria? What research and education projects can come out from these returned artifacts? Will it mark the beginning of us trying to understand what these objects meant and mean to us or will we continue to rely on interpretations from outside here?”
Obaseki further queried: "What job opportunities will be created as a result of these pieces coming back? How will they be viewed, researched and displayed not only in Edo but across Nigeria and the continent?
“These objects had been disconnected from us for close to five generations. Therefore, how will these objects and their return inspire young creatives and academics from Edo State and Nigeria?
“Will these objects give birth to a tourism industry in Nigeria and Edo State so that the world can come and look at these objects in the place where they were originally created?”
The governor continued: “These are questions and challenges that we must address and to do so will require significant investment in the culture and infrastructure, careful thoughts and diligent preparation.
“It is important that all of us, Nigerians, must now come together to take advantage of this golden opportunity so that we can reignite global interest in our arts and culture and the opportunity these artefacts present to us. The tourist opportunities must not be missed.”
Hailing the German Government, the governor stated, “Germany was not the country that invaded, burnt the Benin Kingdom and stole our artworks but was only a commercial beneficiary of stolen properties and in their conscience, they have decided that they must return stolen artefacts in their possession.
“We are not asking that all of these artefacts must be returned now. What we are saying is that these are our properties and they should be given back to us, the owners, and thereafter, we can have a conversation as to where they can be kept and viewed.”
“We will continue to support the efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria through the National Commission for Museum and Monuments to ensure that Nigerian artefacts all over the world are returned back to their rightful owners,” Obaseki reassured.
In his response, Claudia Rot said, “Today marks history for you and for us. In Berlin, I can recognize the injustice that those sculptures represent; what a loss it was for the culture and people of this country and the open wounds in the hearts of the people."
“Cultural heritage is passed from generation to generation, offers answers and serves as a guide through history and source of identity.”