October 4, 2022

Glasgow became the latest international organization to return its illegally looted Benin bronzes to Nigeria with the announcement that it would cede all seventeen of the objects currently held in its collection to the country as part of a mass repatriation that will see the country’s museums and institutions return items to India and to the Lakota people of North America. The Glasgow city council voted on the matter last week after receiving requests from the descendants of the items’ rightful owners: the return is the largest repatriation of its kind ever performed in Scotland, according to national newspaper The Herald. 

The Benin bronzes are likely of the trove of some 90,000 brass, bronze, and ivory objects stolen from the Kingdom of Benin, as Nigeria was then known, in 1897 by British troops and dispersed across the Continent and then to parts west. A number of them are held in the collections of the world’s most prominent arts institutions, though rising pressure has in recent years spurred the return of various of the items. The Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC, just last month revealed that it would return the thirty-nine Benin bronzes in its possession, the greatest number repatriated to date. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dublin’s National Museum of Ireland, and museums across Germany have also announced the returns of their own Benin Bronzes. At least some of the objects will likely find a home at the yet-to-be built Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City, Nigeria.

Noted David McDonald, deputy chairman of Glasgow Life, the entity in charge of Scottish museums, “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.”

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