Glasgow to Return Its Benin Bronzes as Part of the Largest Repatriation in Scotland’s History

Politicians in Glasgow have voted to return 17 Benin Bronzes in the city’s holdings, joining a host of international organizations that have taken steps to give back related objects over the past year.

Last week, the Glasgow City Council elected to send the works back to Nigeria as part of a bulk repatriation of objects from Scottish museums. That repatriation, which also includes objects that will be returned to India and the Lakota people, is the largest one of its kind ever conducted in Scotland, the country’s Herald reports.

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The Benin Bronzes are a grouping of thousands of objects that were looted from the Kingdom in Benin by British troops in 1897. The objects, which include sculptures, an ivory mask, plaques, and more, were taken back to England, where they were subsequently sold off. Many now reside in the world’s biggest institutions, most notably the British Museum.

In the past year, ever since Germany declared that it would begin repatriating hundreds of Benin Bronzes in its national holdings, there has been increased momentum to return these objects as a recognition of museums’ role in colonialist conquests. The returned Benin Bronzes are expected to figure in the not-yet-built Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City, Nigeria.

David McDonald, who serves as the deputy chairman of Glasgow Life, a body that manages Scottish museums, reportedly said, “These items are part of the living culture of Benin and will again be used for their original purpose on their return as well as being displayed in museums.”

In addition to the Benin Bronzes, a ceremonial sword and fragments of a Hindu temple are to be given back to India, and moccasins, head dresses, waistcoats, and more will be returned to the Lakota.


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