The stolen bronze from Benin still remains in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery


A bronze from Benin belonging to Nigeria is still in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, despite an agreement to return the sculpture 18 months ago.

It comes as the museum returned a caribou skin coat to an indigenous community in Quebec, Canada, last week.

The bronze was one of hundreds stolen during the British invasion of Benin City in 1897.

A dispute between Nigerian leaders over where to place the sculptures is believed to have slowed the repatriation.

Last week, a hand-painted caribou skin hunting coat from the Cree First Nation of northern Canada was returned to what is now known as Quebec, after being part of the Cultures Collection of the Bristol world since the years 1830-40.

Bristol City Council, which manages the museum, received a letter from the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute (ACCI) in 2019 formally requesting the transfer of the mantle under their tutelage.

Bristol Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney said: “The mantle is of particular significance to indigenous communities as they attempt to rebuild their ties to their ancestors and traditional ways of life. “

He added that museum staff were “committed to building relationships and collaborating with the communities of origin.”

A council spokesperson said the museum would return the bronzes as well, but they were the subject of a national conversation between the UK and Nigeria.

“Like many other places across the country, we await further information on the next steps from the Nigerian authorities and national organizations involved in these discussions,” the spokesperson said.

“As soon as we have more details, we can move forward with a plan of action to determine a mutually agreed future for this controversial subject.”

Several British museums have announced this year their desire to return the Benin bronzes.

Last year, Prince Edun Akenzua, of the Royal Court of Benin, pleaded for the restitution of the bronzes, telling BBC Inside Out West: “They were not originally made as museum objects”.

But in July, the BBC reported that the King, or Oba, of Benin and the Governor of Edo State were arguing over the location of the sculptures upon their return.


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