European Institutions Return Stolen Artifacts To West African Nations


Benin Bronzes

Photo: Getty Images

Don't shoot the messenger, but Erik Killmonger may have had a point in the iconic museum scene that kicked off Black Panther. For centuries, hundreds of artifacts belonging to African tribes have been distributed across different continents and placed in museums that are often off-limits to those from marginalized communities. Fortunately, several predominately white institutions are coming to terms with how they have come to obtain these priceless items.

NBC News reports that Jesus College, Quai Branly Museum and the University of Aberdeen have returned dozens of ancient statues, sculptures and artifacts that were looted from west African countries ventures ago. Leading the way, Jesus College returned a bronze sculpture to Nigeria on Wednesday and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland returned the bronze head of a king on Thursday. Not to be forgotten, Quai Branly Museum in Paris returned 26 artifacts to Benin, a former French colony that borders Nigeria.

“For the Benin Bronzes specifically, this moment will be looked back as the real dismantling of the argument that it couldn’t be done,” former Jesus College student Amatey Doku told NBC News.

While this is a good star, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of the Benin Bronzes that were taken from the former French colony that borders Nigeria are still in London. Furthermore, NBC News reports that the 26 artifacts that were returned by the Quai Branly Museum represent less than 0.1% of the stolen items that Benin officials have requested by the west African country. Still, Doku calls this moment in time a "huge turning point."

"The work is not done, it’s not finished. But I do think this is a really significant moment," Doku explained.

“This isn’t about these artifacts going back to their countries and never to be seen again, it’s about the ownership of these pieces being in the right place,”

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