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That they’re right doesn’t mean they’ll win

The New York-based Restitution Study Group, which runs legal campaigns to secure reparations for the descendants of slaves, has written to the Charity Commission to request that it keeps the Benin Bronzes in UK museums.

The letter states: “We ask that you reject any request to transfer them to Nigeria.

“The Kingdom of Benin, through Nigeria, would be unjustly enriched by repatriation of these relics.

“Black people do not support slave trader heirs just because they are black. Nigeria and the Kingdom of Benin have never apologised for enslaving our ancestors.

“We ask that you not approve the transfer of these relics.”

The Kingdom of Benin grew wealthy by capturing men, women and children and selling them as slaves to European and American buyers. Many of the thousands of Benin Bronzes – artworks which decorated the kingdom’s royal palace – were made from melted-down currency earned from the trade in African slaves.

They are right too but it still doesn’t mean they’ll win.

8 thoughts on “That they’re right doesn’t mean they’ll win”

  1. The Benin bronzes are 600 years old, so date before the transatlantic slave trade.
    They were made with the profits of the slave trade though. There was an awful lot of it, especially in further west Africa.

  2. That…. Philip.. And I can’t imagine the Kingdom of Benin ignoring the traditional Markets in the Middle-East and East..

    But we’re not supposed to point that out, innit?

  3. I understand there’s a ‘senior Cabinet minister’ in Nigeria, who has promised that the artefacts, if sent back, will be sold to wealthy collectors, after which, the Charity Commission will receive a large percentage of the money received. All he needs is the Commission’s bank account and sort code details. Sounds like a good deal to me.

  4. The sort of (usually white) middle class liberals who decide such things are normally pretty racist – we’re giving them back to black people, how could anyone complain about that? All black people are the same, right?

  5. I have seen the Benin bronzes in the British Museum. Overrated. Definitely. There, I said it. I suppose I am going to be cancelled now and the police are going to know on my door saying that they need to check my thinking and offer me a re-education course.

  6. Theophrastus (2066)


    Some are 12thC; but the best aren’t.

    The finest Benin metal work dates from the reigns of Esigie (fl. 1550) and of Eresoyen (1735–1750), when most of Benin’s wealth was a product of its participation in the Transatlantic slave trade.

    Of course, the Bronzes were not “looted”, but removed legally (under international law as it then was) to defray the costs of the punitive expedition.

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